What The Body Has To Say

Tuesday 30 July, 2019

Before I come to the event which tipped this whole sequence over the edge, there are a number of loose ends to tie up. They relate to points 3, 7 and 9 from the first post in this series. There’s a Qi Gong workshop, the briefest of conversations, and an acupuncture session. Although decidedly different experiences, they all contribute by confirming and deepening the focus on the body.

The Qi Gong workshop was given by a passionate German guy called Torsten, whose presence and enthusiasm for his subject mirror my own. The theme for the afternoon was letting go, which happened to fit into my yearly commitment to let go and be empty. (Oh, how long ago that seems now!) I felt at home, and was able to focus fully on his words. Everything he said made sense. But instead of letting go of thoughts, feelings, habits or patterns, we let go of the body, We were encouraged to seek the balance inherent in the body, and also to surrender to gravity and Mother Earth.

For decades I have seen gravity as an adversary; its influence on my spine uncomfortable, slowly eroding my strength and spirit. By half time in the workshop, gravity had become my friend. I let go of my shoulders, my elbows, my spine, and allowed my weight to be taken down through my feet, into Mother Earth where it could be grounded, held, and supported. It felt liberating.

It turns out that letting go of the body in this way is not as straightforward as one might think. It requires attention, focus and awareness. And practice. But when you apply those qualities to the body, it takes you out of your mind. A win-win situation, because by seeking to relax your body, your mind relaxes too. Relaxation of the body is vital because we are so used to holding ourselves in tension in so many ways: physically, mentally and emotionally – all of which find expression in the body.

Fast forward two months to a family reunion and a fleeting exchange regarding a self-penned play about family trauma. I was immediately reminded of the blog post, Generational Progress, and the documentary it describes. I recommended both to her, and she immediately suggested I read The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van der Kolk. With that, the dialogue was over.

I was struck by two things in a conversation which felt like it only lasted a minute. The first was her use of the word trauma. The second was the book recommendation. Both stuck out, sharp-edged, demanding my attention while everything else – the scene, the dialogue, the context – melted away. Even so, the first didn’t seem particularly relevant to me, and the second had an air of polite reciprocation: one recommendation for another. As it turned out, both would become key elements in a significant shift of focus.

Finally, another few weeks later, two days after the tragic news I refer to in the next post, there was the acupuncture appointment. My lower back, the source of so much of my pain and anguish, became the focus again. This time, however, thanks to the bodywork session with my friend, I was able to talk with greater scope about how my back felt. I described it as ‘overly protective and cautious, withdrawn, numb, not wanting to connect, defensive, even almost dead’. As I spoke, it dawned on me that those characteristics relate to me too. ‘That’s me!’, I added, with a combination of surprise and certainty.

There was also a feeling that things will never be the same. As if five decades of silent absorption was finally becoming tangible, and there was no way I could ignore what I was hearing. ‘Listen to me’, my body was whispering patiently. ‘I have much to tell you, and we have much to gain from what I have to say.’

Other posts in this series: The Pendulum Swings | Always Know That You Always Know | A Visceral Body Experience

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