My personal experience (and that of working with clients) is that connecting the body and mind as one can have a profound effect on the quality of our lives and our relationships with ourselves and others. We live in a culture where value is places on knowledge, logic, thoughts, the mind… and we tend to spend a lot of time living in our heads. (I know I have!) Connecting more with our bodies – and therefore of course our hearts, gut instincts etc., can bring about a more balanced and beautiful experience of being in the world. That’s not to say this is a quick or easy journey – but well worth it.
My path has led me (after years of ‘thinking’ about the mind body split) to experience it within myself and to explore my own challenges around this.
In 2011, when I first sat down to meditate, it became apparent to me that there were huge areas within my torso that were numb and that my body was even blocking me from feeling them.
In meditation, the breath can be a very powerful tool. It is an ever-present anchor we can use to focus and still the mind. Our breath travels into our bodies, and with this we can take our awareness inwards too – and just be there with the pure sensations. As we breathe, every cell respires and on a subtle level this whole body breath can be felt as one. Of course, it’s not so easy to feel these things and stay with them; I prefer to remember that meditation is a constant journey and practice as opposed to a goal-orientated end point. It’s not about the outcome but just about being with whatever is.
As I began to try to soften my mind and journey into my body my breath became increasingly shallow – I felt like I couldn’t get much further than just below my collar bone. This is not how I breathe – when it’s unconscious, however when focusing on the breath this is how my body responded.
Our bodies are miraculous. It is easy to think of them as a vessel that simply homes us during life, an organism consisting merely of the known building blocks; but the body has an intelligence of its own, a knowing and an ability to take care of us in ways we are often unconscious of.
There are clues in our language that emotions reside in the body: through loss we may feel ‘heartache’; when nervous we get ‘butterflies in the tummy’; frustrating situations can be a right ‘pain in the neck’; and sometimes we genuinely feel that we have ‘the world on our shoulders’. But what happens if our experiences and feelings are so big that they overwhelm us and we cannot cope with them? When faced with difficulty in life, the body can safeguard us from emotions that can be too difficult to face or feel. Instead of feeling and releasing strong emotions, the body may tuck them away, in a safe place to protect us. This is both a blessing – because it helps us cope in the moment – and also a challenge because in the longer term these tucked away emotions can manifest as literal blockages of tension and emotions locked in our bodies and lead to blockages in our lives and relationships. When the body stores these emotions and blocks us from feeling them, it can also block positive experiences: joy, laughter, love… The pattern of pocketing difficult emotions can also become habitual, when perhaps we are now able to cope with a situation but we do not realise this.
Metamorphosis is possible.
When the time is right, through exploring the sensations with kindness, meditation and/or bodywork, blockages in the body can be explored and released. Living more fully is about living with all aspects of ourselves – the joy and sadness. But by living fully we experience all emotions in a healthy way that they pass through us and out. This is my personal experience and that of some of my clients and I am a big believer in the potential of bodywork and meditation to create huge positive changes in people’s lives. Bodies can become more open: releasing tensions that hold unhealthy postures, cause pain and create dis-ease; hearts can open creating more space in our lives for love and laughter; and through our bodies we can feel more connected to ourselves, live move fully and connect with love to those around us.