Intimacy as a Way Inside — a series of articles on intimacy, passion, and relating. Featuring ideas from my most popular book, This Endless Moment 2nd. edition
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“Enlightenment must be lived here and now through this very body or else it is not genuine. In this body and mind we find the cause of suffering and the end of suffering. For awakening to be an opening into freedom in this very life, the body must be its ground.”
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, Jack Kornfield, p. 178
(This is an essential book!)
So, I really still amaze myself with the reluctance most Westerners have to being fully in their bodies — there to, in a sense — simply listen to the wisdom of their bodies.
I received a quite “classical” training in psychotherapy. I did academic courses for two years, and was also an Intern at a counselling centre for two years. I learned the techniques of counselling; I earned my spurs working with clients, using what I had learned (sometimes learned that very morning … ) with my head.
During training, I took a week-long course in “Bioenergetics,” a style of counselling developed by Alexander Lowen. It was built upon the work of Wilhelm Reich, the father of Bodywork.
We breathed, a lot, and we stretched, and tried various postures designed to get our bodies to shake. I can clearly remember doing the stuff under protest — I could make neither heads nor tails of the whole process.
No, I “knew” that the key to unlocking the knots of despair that my clients were feeling lay in helping them to understand what was going on between their ears. What was happening to them at the body — feeling level was the last thing on my mind. Literally and figuratively.
Some years later, in ’96, my body gave up on me. And for good reason.
Ready for the burnout
My life-approach was quite Western. I would work and work and work, then get the flu or something and have to stop. I’d go for acupuncture and herbs, get strong, and start working again.
In ’96, I’d been working extra long hours at my two churches (I was a Minister back then…) had incrementally increased my client load at my counselling centre, and had refused to “lie down” when the flu hit. I pushed, and pushed.
One morning I woke up in a black, dark fog, and my body would barely support me. I announced that evening that I was putting everything I could on hold. I loudly declared that “I need a break.” Indeed, I was close to the truth.
I was actually, physically, broken.
I went in to see my therapist and supervisor the next day. She did her magic (actually, I did my magic in her presence), and I recovered just enough of my strength to carry on.
She suggested that I go off to The Haven to do Phase 1 that July. I agreed, figuring that I could use the month to figure out (with my head) what my body was up to.
So, imagine my chagrin. The very first day at The Haven, the very first exercise, I was “invited” to lie down and breathe. To do Bioenergetic-like stretches. And, horrors, to receive Bodywork.
I just “knew” nothing would emerge from my body. Right.
Two thumbs, elegantly and deeply applied, and I was deep into my body, screaming, “What about me?” My body shifted, dragging my mind, kicking and screaming, with it. My mind was initially embarrassed about my body’s deep feelings, then resigned, then interested, then ecstatic — my body was finally being listened to.
My body and language shifted so much that I was “exited” from the Church within 6 weeks of returning from Phase. Best thing that ever happened — I suspect that a Minister who was in his body was pretty scary for a lot of people.
I went back to my therapist. I wanted to know what had happened. Instead, she provided me with the final piece of the puzzle I was creating for myself.
She suggested I spend 6 months saying, “I don’t know.” Hardest thing I ever did, and the most rewarding. I can cheerfully say that, 22 years later, “I still don’t know.” I am, however, excruciatingly aware of my thoughts, feelings, and energy.
With every breath I take, so to speak…
Westerners want explanations for everything. “Why do I feel this?” “What does this mean?”
I really don’t care — either about my dramas, or theirs. Many people I meet are initially taken aback by my disinterest in their “head” questions. They look baffled as I wonder aloud about what they are feeling — as I wonder about what needs to come “out” of their bodies.
I do this because I am curious about who is buried in there, under the surface, just dying to emerge.
And I wonder if they are courageous enough to enter fully into themselves, as opposed to stopping at their heads.
I wonder how freely they give themselves over to the bliss that is a part of our nature. I wonder about their willingness to feel the depths of their pain, so that they will also be able to feel the heights of their passion. What would it be like for them to enter the void — into the very Zen‑y world that is alive and filled with no explanations… but teeming with feeling?
Will they let themselves breathe, and “go there?”
Ultimately, there is a choice to be made here. The choice is to abandon knowing anything for understanding everything. It’s letting go of the need to be right, replacing that with the need to simply be.
This new series of articles is an invitation into the depths of you. We’ll also be looking at ways of calming and appreciating the “little voices” nattering in our heads. We’ll look at being whole — feeling, reflecting, acting, changing as the world about us changes, as we ourselves change.
An interesting walk, for the courageous explorer. Welcome aboard.