Life, flowing


Jun 25th 2012

When I pay attention to what is going on in my body, especially in the stillness of meditation, the first thing I notice is tension. This is almost always true. I notice the way I am holding muscles and impeding the flow of breath without awareness. I try to direct breath into the stuck places, which sometimes feels like my whole head and torso, and begin to feel a loosening. If I can stick with it long enough sometimes I can feel whatever lies under the tension, whatever the tension must be designed to help me avoid. But this is difficult and it doesn’t usually happen. I cannot will it. As I write I realize that one answer is probably patience. That by noticing I am probably on the right track. And it is no surprise that it may take time for me to actually feel. There is a lifetime of unconscious avoidance stuck in my body. Watching my mother deal with the reality that she was dying of cancer gave me a glimpse of where that avoidance came from. Repeatedly she insisted “I am not in pain.” Maybe it was true. After all, this is the woman who always refused novacaine. Whatever the reason, I know that I carry tension in my body and that I often have a hard time knowing what I am feeling. Sometimes I can actually observe myself turning away from a budding emotion. I am trying to learn not to do that, but it happens so fast, so automatically.

Recently I revisited a book I met over a decade ago while attending a workshop sponsered by the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning.(AEPL) The book, Embodying Well-Being was created by an amazing woman named Julie Henderson, who had become an expert on working with stuck energy. In the book she says: “If you make yourself do something over your own deep objections, it cannot touch you profoundly because you will express your objection covertly–‘keeping it out’–even as you do it.”(23) Wow. A pretty concise potential explanation of where all that tension comes from. In the book and at the workshop Julie talked about pulsation, that our bodies are made up of pulsation, and that we stay healthy by helping it to move.

This made me think of another word that I’ve encountered in my reading: resonance. Here is Jungian analyst James Hollis in Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life:

“If something resonates within, it is somehow about us, and for us, and if it does not, it will only betray the soul in the long run, no matter how much ego wills or tradition venerates… Your summons is to respect what comes to you…” (206)

I think he and Julie Henderson are saying the same thing. And this thing is the key to unlocking my stuck energy. Resonance, where inner and outer meet. When we feel resonance we can be sure that we have met ourselves and are in our place. It seems a dangerous thing to be out of resonance. Which I feel like I have been for much of my life. Finally, now, I do notice when I have lost track of the energy, but I still don’t quite know what to do. Move? Speak? Change something? Do not pretend? That seems key, do no pretend to feel resonance when you don’t. A first step at least.

And then remember the things that help. This is likely different for each of us, but probably often involves movement. I have learned that painting, especially painting to music can get the energy flowing. Cooking to music, too, sometimes. Even watching So You Think You Can Dance or reading a good book (like Richard Ford’s Canada, which I am reading right now).

I will give the last word to Chogyam Trungpa, great master of fully inhabiting life: “…that is the definition of bravery; not being afraid of yourself.” (Shambala, 28)