Madeleine Eames

- Psychotherapist
- Mindfulness Teacher

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Inhabiting the Body for Transformation and Peace

“We’re more than meat puppets doing errands”

Elizabeth Gilbert

 

This is a departure from my usual blab about the mind, but you’ll see how it’s all connected. Befriending your body is one of the most transformative and life-giving things you can do. We have been disconnected from our bodies, sometimes out of necessity, and often through media. We live in our thoughts, which are transient, often negative and repetitive, and can be destructive. What about this bag ‘o’ bones that houses you for your entire lifetime? We are told, particularly women, to change, distort, hate and revile our own house! What is the effect of that over time? A disconnection, and ‘breaking off’ of parts that are deemed unlovable and unacceptable. An incomplete whole.

 

Eugene Gendlin, a famous psychiatrist, wanted to find out why some patients transform and others don’t. He understood that paying attention to the ‘felt sense’ in the body was probably the difference. This is a deep listening to what is arising in the body, where all memory, emotion and stress is felt. I have absolutely found this to be true. When I started including the body in the room many years ago, therapy turned from a mental exercise to a full-body transformation. For people who have experienced trauma (we all have to some extent, big T or little t trauma), inhabiting the body is a slow and careful process.

 

I think of yoga, or movement with awareness, as a clearing out of the cobwebs. As we stretch, feel, notice and breathe, things arise that need to be acknowledged, honoured, and let go. Only by being in the body can you notice this. If anyone has been doing yoga, or practicing inhabiting the body long enough, you know that emotional release comes with physical release. Our physical tissues hold our memories, emotions, accidents: our history. When we can fully be with it, we can be with who we are. The body keeps the score.

 

A recent talk by war veteran turned yoga teacher Dan Nevins explained this perfectly. In a culture where you cannot be in your body and feel the fear, confusion, anger and sadness of being a soldier or you would be sunk, he, like many vets, was out of his body for years. When he ended up having both legs amputated below the knees there was shame, disgust and rejection of his legs at the deepest level. He describes how he was dragged to a yoga class during one of the most darkest points in his life and something happened. He went back again and again, until one day, he took off his prosthetic legs and did his practice and when the teacher said “Root down and rise up”, he did with pride, energy, and the victory of a warrior.  He had inhabited his body, legs stubs and all. His body had been waiting for him to finally arrive and welcomed him flaws and all. No-one could have told him not to feel shame, embarrassed and defective … he had to truly experience this by including those parts. It was life-changing. He could now be himself. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/-285aAvWvLY or on the Mindful Living Now Facebook page.

 

You might think, “but I have pain, anxiety, I’m overweight, I’m old, I hate my body… why be with it?” Because it is yours, and the consequences of not being in it are greater. It IS your starting point. You don’t have to go to a yoga class to show up. No-one can tell you to love yourself. You have to slowly befriend your whole self and love will arise.

 

[tweetthis] There is no point in working out harder if you are sending hateful messages to yourself. Period.[/tweetthis]

 

 

I truly believe in the wisdom of the body to heal us. We often do body scans in mindfulness. When you slow down, become mindful of your body and what is arising. What do you hear? Listen to the whispers of your body. It may alert you to something you haven’t been aware of under the noise of the mind. What parts are you rejecting? If it’s going to be with you for the rest of your life, how can you befriend those parts and include them? Try slowing down today and listen to what your heart, your emotions, your stress, pain or joy are telling you. Feel it, don’t think it.

 

Try this: Please, do one nice thing for your body today. It works hard, it functions everyday in trillions of ways to allow you to be here. It’s the only place you have to live. If you feel stressed, ground through your feet as your anchor, feel the floor or chair supporting your body. Breathe and notice the beautiful bag of flesh and bones that you are in :

 

“Your body hears everything your mind says ” Naomi Judd

 

Have a wonderful spring week everyone, (at least out here in the west 🙂

Madeleine

 

 

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