A Conversation with Your Body Voices
Today, I’m beginning a new series. I’m not totally sure which direction this series will take, so I decided to use today’s article is a way to present the framework of the topic I have in mind. As usual, I’m coming at a topic from two directions at once.
One of the biggest problems we experience here in the West is over-thinking while under doing.
People have a burning desire to understand why they think and act the way they do. Typically, much energy is devoted to finding the people, places, or things that are to blame for where the person is right now.
I spend countless hours attempting to demonstrate that the stories in our heads about who we are, and why we are, are nothing more than fictions. Indeed, from a Zen perspective, the “entire catastrophe” (to quote Zorba) is a fiction. Not only is our world view a construct, our ego is equally a construct.
In other words, we are nothing more than our latest story of our self. The cure is giving up story telling altogether.
The odd piece is how much time and effort people waste “thinking things through.” All this reflection amounts to, ever, is one theory stacked upon another.
It’s only when (and as) we let go of the stories that we have a chance of finding peace of mind.
Peace of mind comes not with the cessation of mental chatter, but rather as we turn our attention to the silence that comes in between the stories we tell ourselves. In a sense, enlightenment seems to be all about finding a way to be at peace despite the chatter.
So, if living in our heads all the time simply does not work, what’s the alternative?
As I’ve mentioned before, a rather offhanded comment by Fritz Perls summarizes where we’re going with this series. He said,
“Go out of your mind
and come to your senses.”
I picture him smirking as he said this and wrote this.
Again, as I said in that former article, this flies in the face of Western assumptions about the value of our minds.
It’s why, for me, I experience had The Haven in 1996 was so profound. I’d spent 13 years doing counseling by that point, and I knew that something was missing when all we worked on was the odd, peculiar habit of thinking. At The Haven, I was reintroduced to elegant breathing and to Bodywork.
Rediscovering that the body has a language of its own expanded my practice, my focus, and my approach to life.
Now, the weird piece is how often we try to analyze, label, or describe our body sensations—and thereby end up right back in our heads.
My answer is both yes and no.
The “yes” part has to do with “getting” the message our bodies are working so hard to tell us. The “no” part has to do with not getting stuck there—in other words, having yet another story or explanation of who and what we are is of little use.
What’s required is a change in direction, and that requires a change in behavior.
Let me repeat a really important Zen principle, and then tell you a story.
In Zen, everything is directed toward finding comfort in peace and emptiness—emptiness of a peculiar kind. Zen and Buddhism are not nihilistic.
In other words, they are not focused on nothing. Zen and Buddhism are focussed on emptiness.
Emptiness=empty of meaning.
Zen is about dropping the need to define, explain, defend, or judge. The more emptiness I can create inside myself (where else would the emptiness be?) the more space there is for the free flow of Chi. This, in turn, can be refined, directed, and used to power our creativity, our passion, and empower the elegant living out of our lives.
This isn’t the story I was going to tell you, but it just occurred to me so let me toss it in here. I was working with a client yesterday. She’s a person I’ve known for almost a decade, and someone I care about deeply. She just recently returned to talk and to do Bodywork. We were discussing her beliefs, and how they play out in the real world.
I kiddingly suggested that she get a
T‑shirt with two letters on it:
R C stands for “Rescue Chick.” Because that’s what she does—she rescues. Since our first session, she’s taken a bit of a step back from rescue mode, but her description was, “I’ve put them all in little boxes, and I’ve provided lists of rules for how they should behave.”
Her default belief, and the one it might best empty herself of, is that it’s her job to save everyone else first—and then it’ll be time for her. But it’s never been her turn, not in 45 years, and maybe never will be, if she doesn’t drop this belief. Which is hard.
So, I told her some stories and we talked and talked, and finally her eyes glazed over. I said that I thought her mind was likely full. And then I told one more story, about total self-responsibility.
Her eyes opened wide. She said, “In the past, I thought I understood what you just said, but somehow now I really get it.” I replied, “So now you know. In order for you to learn something new, you first have to exhaust your mind, so that you can finally let go of your fixation on your beliefs—beliefs that do not, and have never, worked.”
But the key here is to remember that the voice in her head, the one that encourages her to be a rescuer, will go on and on until she dies.
The only question is, can she quiet that voice enough to choose another way of being? And when she establishes this other way, will she also choose to put it into action?
If you’re a longtime reader, you’ll know that one of the core components of my Bodywork theory is that the body is divided into zones. Many Eastern approaches to the body do this, dividing the body into regions, and suggesting that regions, or meridians, or Dan Tiens (burning centers, or energy gates) have psychological meaning.
On to the story. Recently, I’ve been working with a client who has returned after several years. She’s done all of the traditional things Westerners do to deal with a badly blown lower back. Nothing much has helped, and she is noticing that she is getting stiffer, and, as she put it, “Less flexible.” To which I replied, “Yeah, and your body is less flexible too!”
Our belief is that the lower back, the sides, and the lower belly is the relationships zone. The lower back has much to do with passion for life, and a lower belly with sexual passion—and thus an issue of how we relate to sex.
Needless to say, in our culture, this is a hot, hot zone for injury. And in keeping with the theory, my client, in the past, has had many unresolved relationship issues.
The thing that caused me to think about writing this series happened as I was working on her solar plexus. (Chakra 3) As I mentioned with the Zen guy, the solar plexus region is about self-esteem.
I don’t like to get all airy fairy about self-esteem.
Self-esteem, to me, is “simply” about owning, respecting, and living from a place of accepting all of me. It’s not about positive affirmations—because the real key to self-esteem is accepting and owning not only the socially acceptable, fun parts of myself, but also the difficult parts.
In my client’s case, she is coming more and more into a place of accepting the relationships she has just as they are. She’s learning to give up on wishing they were some other way or trying to fix people. And, as she does this, she has less and less pain in her body.
But notice what’s happening here. As you let go of the long-held belief that your misery is the result of the behavior of others, suddenly there’s no one left to focus on. Or better put, all that’s left is you. I thought it very significant when I asked her how she was, and she said, “Bored.” This from a highly active, deeply involved professional woman.
Of course she’s bored!
She’s invested years of energy blaming everyone else, being sad about everyone else, being focused on everyone else. Now, she’s giving up on this and has yet to discover something else to do with her time. At the same time, she’s landed firmly in her body, which for years has been giving her messages. In the past, when that happened, she retreated to her head and thought about someone else. She’s now resisting this temptation. And she’s noticing that she’s bored because she doesn’t know how to be with herself—without reference to others.
Then, as I pressed on her solar plexus region, she noticed “…an amazing rush of energy.”
And as she attends to her self, without much thought, she notices her own energy, flowing up through her legs, her pelvis, her tummy, her heart.
Our work continues. I attempt to give only as much explanation as is barely necessary to frame this new experience. I want her to engage with the experience, and the only place that happens is in her body.
I got an e‑mail from this client a couple of days ago, and one thing she wrote was, “I’m hearing that I should meditate, from a lot of sources. I think I’m interested in this.” Funny, isn’t it? You start doing body and breathwork, and the world conspires to get you to sit down and be quiet —to do zazen—to center yourself in yourself, quietly. To still your mind, and bring your attention deeply into the emptiness.
Bodywork, at its best, brings us fully and completely into the energetic experience that is happening in our bodies (mostly unnoticed) all the time.
The body begins to open physically. Hard, dense, over tightened muscles begin to melt. Rigidly held body parts begin to shift, to move, to open. And with this relaxing and opening, this un-tightening, comes a powerful flow of Chi.
I have an artist client, Susan Seitz, who is cranking out amazing paintings at a prodigious rate, and has laughingly suggested bringing a canvas to my place so she can paint after Bodywork. Needless to say, I’d be delighted if she did, and I might even buy the painting. Here’s one she did following our last session.
by Susan Seitz
I naturally listen to Darbella all the time, and I’m really enjoying her exploration of what’s changing for her since she started a daily meditation practice the beginning of February. There is no easy way to describe what has shifted, but Dar has noticed that the experience of just sitting is somehow permeating pretty much all of the rest of her life. It’s neither big nor dramatic. It just is. And, without coincidence, or perhaps serendipitously, my clients and our friends seem interested and/or want to begin meditating too.
I think what I’ll do with the rest of this series is to talk about what you can learn if you’re willing to listen to your body. I’ll do this as I always do, using the chakras to describe the zones of the body—and thereby help you to begin your own exploration of the voice of your body
The goal is not to get you to think more about these issues, but to recognize how profoundly these unresolved issues have affected all aspects of your life.
I’ll propose body techniques like meditation, Chi Gong, breathing, and of course, Bodywork—if you can find someone—I suppose you can book some time and come here, he says with a grin.
You’ve put in a lot of years into living in the 6 inches or so of your body that exists between your ears. I’d like to suggest spending the rest of your life going out of your mind—as you come to your senses.