Tag Archives: somatics

what if your body is precious?

graffiti of tiger; photo taken so that the tiger looks like it's behind iron barsAll the things from the writing ourselves whole workshop office are now landed around my home — the pen cup is on the desk, the small timing clock is in my bag, the candle is on the home altar, the purple hanging that reads “Your body is precious / It is your vehicle for awakening / Treat it with care” lives inside the front door, across from the altar.

It is late and there is never enough time — tomorrow there will be more.

So I’m doing this work to be more present in my body, to inhabit what has felt uninhabitable, what has felt untrustworthy, what has felt unworthy of living (in) — working with a somatic therapist, paying attention (with as much curiosity as I can muster) to the triggers I still live in and shape myself around and asking about their wisdom, what stories they have to offer … paying attention to what I put into my body and then how I feel after. Another part of the work/joy, then, too, doing the things that this body likes to do: dancing, walking, singing, writing, reading-while-walking.

I have just finished Peter Levine’s book, Waking the Tiger, which describes his Somatic Experiencing method of dealing with trauma: allowing the body to finish what it started when the trauma first occurred, letting release happen on a physiological, somatic level.

This practice sounds so powerful — and, too, completely terrifying, because it’s not conscious. Not word-based, not linguistic. Just the body doing its own work.

For some writing today: What happens if we let our tigers out of their cages, if we become aware that they/we have never been caged, at some deep core place? What happens if we believe (or pretend to believe, or our characters pretend to believe) in that phrase above: Your body is precious — what’s possible then, if that is true?

Thank you for the ways you hold all the precious parts, even the difficult, spiny, slimy, devastating stuff. Thank you for your words.

listening to the body’s stories

graffiti: black wingsThis isn’t like that — this is like something else. (That’s how it begins.)

Last night, I went to one of Vanissar Tarakali‘s workshops, Do It Yourself Trauma: Healing principles and practices to support your personal healing process. I want to follow my own instincts, these desires to let others both help and witness me into my body, to do the incredibly simple but also simultaneously (sometimes) devastating work of just noticing what’s going on in my body and letting it be. Last night Vanissar talked about emotional first aid (she talks about it on her blog here), and then we practiced some of what she described: grounding into the body, physical practices to meet and/or engage with particular feelings, appreciating the body for doing all that it does to take care of us (and this includes our trigger responses, the stuff we do that we don’t want to do anymore because it doesn’t serve us but it did serve us once upon a time), lots more. The three hours flew by! Here’s a great thing she said: if you beat yourself up for the ways that your body responds when it thinks it’s threatened, that’s going to seem like a threat! Whew.

What do I want to say about this? This morning I am both more achy and less — the armor around my shoulders (which last night I began envisioning like a pair of shoulder pads, the kind that footballers wear) feels softened. Not gone, just malleable; not penetrable, but able to shift some.

Here’s some of what is coming up for me in several different arenas these days, as I am interacting more with somatics/generative somatics work: it’s ok to appreciate how my body has kept me safe, the instincts that my psyche developed to protect us. Getting angry at and ashamed with myself for freezing or walling up or “going away” or getting defensive or… (fill in your own — this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list for me!) only reinforces that I’m in a difficult or dangerous situation; it’s like beating a puppy for doing something you wish she wouldn’t do.

This is some powerful unlearning: what happens if I’m curious and appreciative about the triggered-response? What if I can just meet it with gratitude for its wisdom? Vanissar talked about how the body wants to tell us its stories — and we can allow it to, if we can meet ourselves in this way, if we can notice with gratitude and curiosity, instead of (or, sometimes, alongside the) shame and anger and frustration. What if I practice other ways of being in my body? Slowly, the instinctual responses become options, one of many different possible responses to a triggery or dangerous situation. This morning I notice the stiffness in my neck and back, and a kind of swollen energy around that part of my body — I’m about to go meet it with some hot water in the shower, be a little tender to the places I’ve often been frustrated with.

I want to write more clearly about all this right now, and, too, I am softened and sleepy and rushed.

It reminds me of what happens in the workshops, how there’s no wrong way to respond, how so much of what I appreciate about our workshop method is the invitation to notice just exactly how our writing wants to go, and when we follow that, when we teach our writing voices that we trust them, that our stories are trustworthy exactly the way that they want to come out, other stories begin to emerge, our writing shifts and stretches and expands: not because we’ve forced it to do so, but because we’ve met it with curiosity and appreciation and trust.

So what happens if I meet my body with those same principles? Interesting (!) how that feels so new and foreign, in spite of the fact that I’ve got that method for engaging with creative process embedded in my cells! Trauma recovery is creative process, of course, because humans are creative process.

Want to write about this some today? Are there ways that you or your characters respond in triggery situations that aren’t working for you/them anymore? What are those responses? Can you write into them with this energy of curiosity, noticing, witness? Can you let them tell their stories? This isn’t necessarily about writing what could be different, but exactly what’s happening now. Let that response/reaction feel the breadth of your attention, be all the way known.

Thank you for your brilliant, gorgeous, wise self, for all of the articulated and unarticulated ways that your psyche/body have worked to keep you safe and alive and here. Thank you for your endless and constant creativity, for your good words.

what if I don’t feel like I deserve it?

street art -- hands opening beneath a red butterfly, all in front of a pale yellow circle...Good morning! How is this morning meeting you so far? I need a refill on my dandelion-nettle-tulsi-green tea, and the room is still warming up around me. Whew, I feel like I’m living with my ancestors in the dugout — I need some hot potatoes to keep in my pockets and at the foot of my bed.

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Yesterday I had a second meeting with my somatic therapist — it’s interesting to have my therapy feel so focused around a particular topic and goal: getting more comfortable and safer in this body. She invites me to come into the room, and come into myself, to notice what I’m bringing with me in my body on this day. I try to describe, with precision, the tension in my shoulders — like a knotting up, maybe, I say, and she says, like it’s pulling on everything else around it? No, that’s not right — so I reconsider: more like a radiating, then, a core of tension that radiates out and ends up with tingles in my arms and neck. There’s a focus required, to be able to describe it clearly.

We talk about when I feel good in my body, and I say there aren’t that many times, but I notice that the times I mention (when I’m dancing, when I’m walking, when I’m cooking) are times that I’m being active. I talk about how I was such an active kid, even into sports, but how all that stopped when I was a teenager (that’s a euphemism for when my stepfather became the stepfather). Interesting to notice that I’m more comfortable in motion than at rest. Interesting to notice, too, that I didn’t talk about feeling good in my body when I’m writing — it’s not that I’m not ok in my body when I’m writing, but that the tension doesn’t necessarily dissipate. Sometimes it does, when I can get into a flow, when I’m lost in the words, in the story — but is that about being ok in my body, or about being disconnected from  body and only connected to words?

A couple of nights ago, we watched What the Bleep Do We Know? again — I think I fell asleep the first time we saw it (no disrespect to the film!) so this was the first time I’d seen it all the way through, and I was surprised by the amount of attention the film pays to the body — really getting into our structure, how our thoughts invest/condition/create us, physically and otherwise — and what else? There’s the piece about addictions to emotions, how we become accustomed to particular emotional responses in different situations, and that it can be uncomfortable to break those addictions, but when we do, we find that there are so many different possibilities in every moment — different responses, different actions available to us.

And then there’s the piece about water: they tell the story of some research that Dr. Masaru Enoto did with water molecules, describing the effects that thoughts appear to have on water molecules — the film asks us to consider, given the fact that our bodies are up to 65% water, what effect our thoughts (and the thoughts around us) might have on these vessels we live within and are. I thought about how I attend to my body (or don’t), how I dress, what messages I’m sending, over and over to this self.

And then after the session yesterday, I thought, What if I don’t feel like I deserve to be comfortable in my body?

Yes, something snapped. Yes. You don’t deserve to be ok in your skin, after what you did.

So, that’s what I’m tangling with this morning — that old, old feeling that lives in my very cells: Who do you think you are to be ok in your skin? To be comfortable and relaxed and released?

Yes, there’s the fear, the hyper-alertness, the place that feels like, You have to be ready when he gets out of jail, when he comes for you. (How to release that fear?) And then there’s this other layer: who do you think you are to be comfortable in your body?

What seems necessary is a gentle conversation with that place of vigilance in me — with those nerves and layerings. A gentle, physical conversation. A tenderness with self and/in body anyway. A tenderness with this body anyway.

Are there ways that old beliefs and messages are holding hostage your comfort in yourself? How have you met those thoughts? How have you transformed or danced with them?

Those could be some places to begin writing today —

Thank you for your layers of self-protection and, too, your patience with the vigilant places within you. Thank you for your patience with yourself and others as they transform their relationship with your/their own traumatized bodies. Thank you for your words.

Yes: Hello, light!

Graffiti on long wall, of big round yellow sun, a white bird with wings spread wide, and the word 'peace'Good morning! Some places, today, it’s Xmas eve. Other places, for other people, it isn’t. However you are with whatever day it is, I hope you’re being easy with yourself this morning.

For me, for the people I come from, it’s Xmas Eve today. I’m not with them, but I’m remembering. I’m remembering how excited I used to get about what presents I’d be receiving the next morning (after having gone through the huge Sears catalog and cut out the pictures of the toys I wanted; my sister and I would create enormous lists for Santa on pages and pages of printer paper that my dad brought home from work (remember when the paper was all connected in perforated section? Yeah, that paper.), about preparing the plate for Santa (with carrots for the reindeer and cutout sugar cookies that we’d frosted and decorated for Santa himself — Santa always left us a note thanking us for our generosity, telling us how tasty the cookies were and how much the reindeer appreciated the treat; I learned the truth, I think, when I began to recognize my dad’s handwriting), about getting to go see whichever cousins we’d see that year, on my mom’s side or my dad’s side. There was something in this time of year (for awhile, at least) that made room for being excited about being excited, getting to live in anticipation (however painful!). I miss that big anticipation sometimes.

Now, though, I get excited about being in my home, about baking for others, about getting to share something new with someone who will appreciate it, about getting to reflect on the accomplishments and struggles of the last year, about connecting with cousins again (even just through xmas cards, it’s still a big deal).

Much doesn’t change at this time of year the way that I thought it did when I was very small: everyone doesn’t start loving each other. Wars are still waging. People are still killing one another. Many families, many many kids, will not be safe tonight, or tomorrow, on the big holy day, even in the supposed holy places (and I mean in the world, and on their bodies). Unbridled consumption isn’t saving our country or our communities.

Bring it to the page, if you can: all that loss and celebration, all of our complexity, our beauty and our horror, your feelings about it all.

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As a part of this project I’ve taken on, to be more fully in my body, I went yesterday for a first appointment with a somatic therapist (let’s call it a project and not just self care — these are the ways that I trick myself into being kind to myself). All I know about somatic therapy I learned from Staci Hanes’ Healing Sex, so I was kind of surprised not to find a table in the room, where I would lay myself during the session, so that the therapist could put her hands on me while I spoke to bring awareness to places in my body where I was holding emotion. No, it was a regular therapy room: peaceful, calming, muted colors.

The difference, though, was that as I shared my story, the bits that can be shared during a first meeting, she asked me to be aware of my body — what’s happening in my body, how am I holding my body, where is there energy? It was a powerful shift. When she asked about my nervous system, whether it knew that I/we’re safe now, I turned some attention to that rage of energy running (through) me, and I burst almost instantly into tears: no build up, very much like I think/remember a kid would. Scared kinds of tears, electric. Wow — I guess it had something to tell me. Maybe we don’t know that, here all these years and all this work later.

Somatic work feels important now, powerful and terrifying, too, because it’s unconscious, the body, or sort of of a different conscious than the verbal-linguistic one I’m so comfortable with. I talk about it here not out of a place of exhibitionism but because I know I’m not the only one who feels outside of her skin and yet, too, like she didn’t dissociate, didn’t leave her body, because she never had the experience of being up in a corner of the room, watching myself act (or be acted upon) from far away — because I never lost time (except in alcoholic blackouts). But there are so many ways to leave the body, aren’t there? And there are many ways to come back. One of the ways I come back, invite myself back, is through writing — and now, maybe, through mindfulness, paying attention to how this body is feeling and then taking action (responding) based on that attention, based on the information my body holds and shares.  Just imagine.

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Be easy with you, as best you can, over these days of this holidaytime, this holiday that has its roots in an ancient tradition of welcoming not the Son but the Sun: yes, hello, light. Welcome back. Thank you.