Microscopic Truth

My yoga teacher sometimes says “Feel the hum in your body,” when we are near the close of class.

Do you, ever? Feel that hum? Your energy body. It’s quietly there with you.

Someone told me recently that I have a sort of “presence” that seems to come from being fully in my body. I was honored, and told her that for many years I was NOT in my body. I wouldn’t even have known what that meant.

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Disembodied

These days I don’t always stay there 100 percent of the time, but I know what it is to feel into my body, to honor its communications. After years of dealing with chronic pain and fatigue, drifting along untethered, I have come home. It’s been a long road, but I now feel like I can trust my body.

Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk says, in this podcast:

“…if people are in a constant state of heartbreak and gut-wrench, they do everything to shut down those feelings to their body… And so a very large number of traumatized people…have very cut off relationships to their bodies. They may not feel what’s happening in their bodies… We needed to help people for them to feel safe feeling the sensations in their bodies, to start having a relationship with the life of their organism, as I like to call it.”

As I deepen that relationship, I’ve found myself tuning in closer and finer than ever. Exploring the microscopic truth expressed by my body. I’m noticing, sometimes in the wee hours when I wake up from an intense dream, what it feels like to resist whatever’s coming up. I don’t want to feel the old ball of dread descend on me, or the worry, or the anger, or the grief, and I can feel myself wanting to reject it. Here’s a tightening of my scalp, there’s a clench in my neck, a rigidity about the shoulders.

I’m not resisting even the resistance, but allowing it all in. Instead of shutting down with “No, no, no,” I’m reaching for the “Yes.”

The other night I actually mentally said, “Come in, come in, welcome welcome,” as I acknowledged each layer of sensation and emotion. And just in the acknowledgement, they seemed to melt away.

After all, as my mindfulness teacher used to tell me, “It is already here.” And as the poet Rumi says, “This being human is a guest house.”

I’ve lived long enough to laugh at my habitual patterns now and then. Oh yeah, that ball of dread again, there it is! Oh those worry states, stealing my sleep again! There’s that fear of something that may or may not ever happen… There’s despair, I can hold that one extra gently. There’s that contraction that could easily lead to a headache if I don’t breathe into it now.

Finding compassion for all of it—saying yes to all of it—broadens my capacity for kindness to others and to life itself. And as van der Kolk would say, I own myself fully, which makes me more resilient.

It Can Be Shifted

I heard a Robert Bly poem on The Writer’s Almanac a few months ago that seemed to speak to our times. Called “Keeping Quiet,” it speaks of childhood “whoppings in the woodshed” living into the present. Bly declares that “every war is some violence in childhood coming closer” and that “it doesn’t change.”

What happened to us that we can never speak about, the poem says, leads us to perpetrate the same cruelty on others.

Fair point, and even more interesting in light of research on epigenetics and genetic memory. From what I understand, traumas that our ancestors experienced can actually impact our own DNA. For example, those whose ancestors lived through famine may be genetically predisposed to store more fat.

In my own work on the energetic level, I have found that we can carry inherited and ancestral emotions, beliefs, and traumas.

But I don’t agree when Bly declares that this pattern won’t change because it has been going on for thousands of years. How to change it: by loving the entire past that accompanied us in our arrival on the earth.

Lotus Flower

Photo by Yoshikazu Takada, via flickr Creative Commons

Those things we try to divorce and deny? They are exactly the things that return again and again, to snap at our heels, smack us down in the dirt, keep us unconsciously lashing out and “otherizing” those we see as different. Not a healthy pattern, but it can be shifted.

What if we strove to love those old hurts instead—and not just our own but all of our ancestors’ secret pain as well?

A tall order perhaps, but I believe that we are a tall people. Humanity at large. We have the ability to stretch and grow, to evolve.

I want to believe that we have a future here, that doesn’t give sole survivorship to the last person shouting (or shooting).