reflectionsmassage

Reflections Massage Therapy

Seeking embodiment in a foreign land February 24, 2013

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Gratitude,Uncategorized — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 8:41 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.” ~ Pema Chodron

It’s not just because I am settling into the town that is also the exiled home of the Dalai Lama that the quote from Pema Chodron resonated with me this morning. This land that I find beneath my feet these days, this foreign soil that no matter how much it reminds me of other places that have felt like home, continues to feel foreign; the sights that assault and delight my eyes, the suffering that meshes with the celebration. My system is learning embodiment in an entirely new way.

It is learning what it feels like to shut down in the face of beauty because the memory of suffering is too close to the surface. It is learning that all the time that I spend talking about universality doesn’t amount to anything if there isn’t some sort of embodiment to back it up.

I am moving in cycles with this traveling. I am moving towards myself and away from myself, towards others, away from others. Towards universality, away from universality straight into the arms of ego.

But these cycles are teaching me something, something I didn’t even realize I needed to learn until it landed in my lap in a moment of intense agitation and discomfort this morning. You see, I am fantastic at the mental part of path-walking, process-working, evolution. Super fantastic, even. I can explain my way in and out of all kinds of mental states. And yet, when it comes to embodiment, I am woefully unskilled. Unpracticed may be a better way of putting it. In the throes of trauma some years ago, my mentor at the time said to me that the mind understands things well before the body. I “got” that then, I understood it in my head and even had moments of understanding it in my body. But it wasn’t until this afternoon, damn near 4 years after that conversation, that I began to understand the slow trickle of embodiment. Or rather, the potential slow trickle. I know some people for whom embodiment is the first place they go and intellectualizing comes later, if at all.

But for me, it’s slow and I am learning how much resistance I have put up to embodiment. How much it scares me in some way. It scares me because if I’m feeling then I’m feeling and if I’m feeling  then I must certainly be bringing whatever it is I’m feeling into the world around me, infecting the space around me. Dramatic, I know. But it inspires a lot of the resistance I have to being embodied.

And so India, in all its suffering and splendor has become my classroom. It is the place that is forcing me, sometimes gently sometimes harshly, to embody these principles I have long talked about, long intellectualized.

And the reason India is doing that so strongly is that the essence of embodiment is presence. Yes, there it is, that word again. I cannot embody something, I cannot allow something to permeate me, to be felt in my body and not just thought in my head, if I am not present. And in this time of travel, all I really can do is be present. This is a foreign place, I don’t have the distractions of home to pull me away. I am constantly taking in, observing, engaging, participating, absorbing, seeing, smelling, walking, feeling, hearing. I am in a sensory soup, and I am present to all that my senses are engaging with. To a degree that is sometimes exhausting.

I should clarify here. In truth, I’m actually pretty good at embodying the good stuff. I’m pretty good at feeling whole and grounded in myself when experiencing joy and elation and bliss. That’s not all that hard for me. It’s learning to embody the darkness. To not contract against the pain or the sadness, but rather give it its due, give it it’s space to be and exist and move on. When I am not in a space of embodiment, I contract against those challenging feelings, I don’t give them space to exist and I don’t give them space to move.

But in this journey through foreign lands, with only my own mind and my partner for daily contact, I am beginning to learn that until I am able to be in a space of embodiment, I will simply wear down these grooves that my mind creates by thinking things, rather than allowing space to feel things. And at some point, if I keep that up, I will get stuck in those grooves and it will be that much harder to get out and to do things differently. India has shown me my edge, my plateau, that place that I’ve come to in my daily life that I will not move from until I begin a practice of doing things differently.

But, lord, what an intense place to learn about presence. How do I allow myself to be present with the child splayed out on the ground with a bloody bandage over it’s head while it’s mother sits by begging from the constant stream of passersby heading into the train station? How do I allow myself to be present to the people whose livelihood centers around other people’s waste? How do I allow myself to be present to the charred remains of a man’s pelvis as it is taken from the ashes of his funeral pyre and thrown into the Ganges? Is it really possible to allow those experiences to be felt in my body knowing that they are just as real on this plane of existence as the fullness my heart felt at the sound of a little girl giggling after an exchange, or the kindness of strangers on countless train rides?

Because that’s what I’m learning. My movement, my openness, my embodiment of both the light and the dark is how to transcend all of it on this path of joy and compassion. And it isn’t easy, but travel is a constant practice of presence and so here I am. Engaging in this practice of learning to embody my experience, this experience of existence. I am learning to allow myself to remain open just a split second longer than I would like to, to resist my own resistance for just a moment, to let a little space in for a little light or dark or both. To step into the embodiment piece of this existence with wholeness and compassion, and to allow for the joy that I know is beneath all of it.

 

Advertisements
 

Travelling Inward January 13, 2013

Filed under: Balance,Gratitude — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 6:40 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The last three years have been full of travel for me. Not the travel that involves backpacks and trains and someone noisily rummaging through their luggage in a shared room at 3 in the morning. No, this travel has been internal. I have been journeying to wounds and scars and memories and strength and health and all the while learning that growth comes whether you are moving or not.

The first few years after I moved to this town, I remember being afraid that my growth would stagnate. Someone asked me years ago what my biggest fear was and at the time, without even a forethought, I said simply, “stagnation.” I was afraid to stop moving. Because in my mind, to stop moving meant to stop growing. At that point my most profound experiences of growth and transformation had come only with a backpack upon my back and foreign tongues swirling in my head. Pushing myself outside my physical comfort zone was the only way that I knew how to really grow. It was in that space that I shed the stories, shed the performance of myself and got to the essence of me. And then I’d come home again and cling desperately to that essence, vowing to not lose what I’d learned about myself and the places I’d come to discover – vowing to not go back to the old way of being.

But after about 6 months of moving to Boulder, with no big travel plans in sight, and the novelty of moving to a new place wearing off, I began to fear that staying in one place meant that those periods of profound transformation would come to an end. Or at least a temporary end until I packed up and took off again for someplace new that pushed me outside my comfort zone and reminded me of the essence of myself.

But, instead, something else happened. Something that has only become really clear to me in this time when I am in fact packing up my backpack and preparing for another journey. 7 years after moving to this town, 7 years filled with struggling to really unpack and settle in, I find that the growth that has happened while staying in the same place is profound on a level that I’d never known possible.

What happens when our internal environment becomes where we are out of our comfort zone, not our external? What happens when the places that push us and challenge us are not a foreign language or the uncertainty of ones location, but the foreignness of our own internal landscape.

Because it’s not about place, at least this time around. It’s not about something outside myself illuminating my essence. This has been an internal process and as such, I carry it with me. It is no longer about being afraid that when the external environment changes I will lose contact with this way that I know myself. And there is something so profoundly liberating about that. There is freedom in knowing myself in this way, and knowing that this self will continue to grow and change and evolve. And with that evolution I have learned to check in and to witness and to see the ways that things shift, and to trust in the unfolding.

I am comfortable now, in this once foreign landscape. I can speak the language, I know the gestures, and I have found some sacred hidden places that are full of joy. This land that was once unfamiliar to me, has become my home. And that comfort might be temporary, as all resting places really are. Inevitably, deeper travel will be spurred and more growth and learning this internal space will occur. The comfortableness arises not necessarily from knowing myself (because that which I know now is bound to change, thank you evolution). No, the comfortableness comes from trusting, trusting my inner explorer and trusting this self that I have come to discover and indeed, love. Trusting the growth and change and trusting the courage to continue exploring, to continue venturing beyond the reaches of what I know and being curious about what else is there.

This internal journey, in the way that I have known it for the past 4 years, is coming to a shift. An end of sorts, a transition into something else. It’s time for this self that I have discovered to go back out into the world. To learn what its external comfort zones are now, and to push it right out of them. It feels bittersweet, as transitions often are – full of sadness at the ending and a readiness for what is to come. And in this transition between coming and going I find myself feeling grateful for the events that set me on this journey and grateful for the beings that have walked with me through some dark and scary places – reminding me of the ground beneath my feet when it felt as if there was none. And surprisingly enough, I am grateful for the constancy of my external environment (in whatever ways anything is really constant) holding this space for me to delve into my own foreign depths.

This internal landscape is not all known to me, there is so much more territory yet to be discovered, more wounds to be healed and more tenderness to be found. And so I continue on, with this dance between internal and external. Inhabiting this body in a way that I only could through my internal explorations and carrying it out into the world to now allow my external environment to be the unknown, and to discover new landscapes with these new eyes. All the while knowing that I have found a home in myself, a land that still contains so much un-navigated ground but that now has some familiar resting places to come to when I need to catch my breath and recharge. This travelling is exhilarating and exhausting work. Thank god I get to do it.

 

 

both/and – on embodying dualities January 12, 2012

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 11:14 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

It’s been just over a month now since my last CranioSacral training and it almost feels that it’s taken that long to digest and integrate the profound work that was undertaken at the beginning of December.

Part of why Cranio gets me all jazzed up is because it’s full of all kinds of interesting information (at least I, an anatomy nerd, find it interesting) about the human body. And I like to relay that information sometimes, so I’ll pass this one along to you, dear reader. Your mandible (the jaw bone) fits into your pelvic bone. That’s right. I said it. Everyone’s is unique to themselves, but each person’s mandible fits snug into their pelvic bowl. What?!?! Yup.

Now this happens to me a lot in Cranio training, I learn something about the body and then can’t get it out of my head. And this time, I am so fascinated by that design that I can’t help but ponder what the intention is and what the ramifications are that a place that is the facilitator of self-expression directly correlates to the core of our core, the basin in which all of our undigested experiences are held. To quote Stone: “In the pelvic basin at the bottom is the sum total force accumulation of sensory tension and emotional frustration.” I’ll give you a moment with that thought, but I will also say, this is no coincidence in my book and here’s where I go with it.

We hold an enormous amount in our pelvis, that’s not news to anyone who has attempted to do a yoga pose or hula-hoop. Our hips go on lock down, perhaps as an attempt to keep us upright, keep us stable, keep us moving through the world at break-neck speed, in essence keep us able to keep doing what we’re doing – regardless of whether or not it is actually serving us. And like-wise, what do you do when there is something that you need to say and you can’t say it for whatever reason? Clench down your jaw, grit your teeth, bite your tongue. Again, allowing the status quo to maintain, for better or worse. All of which result in capping off the top end of a chain that stems from holding deep in the core. Even if you haven’t actually been present at the birth of a child, I’m sure you’ve got some grasp of the birthing process and the screaming that often takes place. Think of that. The woman is trying to release something from her pelvis and her jaw loosens to allow her mouth to open and whatever agony she may be feeling in the moment to escape by means of a tribal scream. Release.

Do our jaws correlate with our pelvi (I’m not actually sure that’s the correct pluralization but I’m going to roll with it) to give us a means of releasing the experiences that we hold in them? Perhaps. It’s certainly something to think about.  Perhaps it is once again the brilliance in our design shining through that we have a built-in release valve. And a way to access trauma indirectly. Since the jaw reflexes to the pelvis, one might hold tension in the jaw that is a referral from the pelvis, but that also means that by working the jaw one could access a part of the whole that may be too activated to receive direct work. How brilliant is that?!

But I think there’s something deeper to it. I think there’s something in this design that speaks to embodying dualities. How, you may be asking, can I make that jump? But, hear me out. The north pole and the south both, up/down, top/bottom – we of course contain dualities (as a side note, I’m choosing not to delve into the possibilities of multiplicities rather than dualities – that’s a whole different entry), but this correlation of mandible and pelvis illustrate not only how those dualities are embodied, but how they relate to one another, how they communicate and connect and share the burden and joy of their roles in our design. And I think this is an important thing to consider when it comes to dualities – the ways in which they support each other. I won’t get into the clichés of light needing darkness in order to help it shine the brighter (see previous post), but I think you get where I’m going with this. So here in the body we have a beautiful example of two areas that are both highly charged and can be enormously sensitive, helping each other out.

I realize that I get really fired up about weird stuff, but I’m going to just throw it out there to you: maybe while you’re out walking or sitting or settled nicely into pigeon pose (or trying to convince your hip flexors to get on board to do a tele turn), invite your awareness into your pelvis, see what’s happening there – no judgment, just witness. And then move up to your jaw and see what you notice – move back and forth between to two with curiosity visualizing the shape of your pelvic bowl and your mandible. I have a feeling that amazing things are possible when that channel is connected. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to both give voice to your pelvis and give deep core support to your voice.

And maybe still there is the possibility of a deeper embodiment of duality and embracing of “both/and” rather than “either/or.” I think there is something intrinsically related to release and ease when we can open to the dualities that are inherent in our systems and recognize that there’s room for all of it. Sometimes creating space for something just means making connections.

 

 

 

Be here…here…here…here now. May 23, 2011

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 11:25 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

When I was 17 I sat at the base of Mt. Kenya and listened as my NOLS instructor, Mo, pointed at the mountain and said, “Be here now.” Be present. Be mindful. Don’t be anywhere else but exactly where you are. So, I adopted that as a mantra, returned to it over and over again in my months in East Africa – being “here” with moments both enlightening and terrifying. Practicing presence in the midst of astounding beauty and painfully blistered feet and an aching back.

My “here” has shifted recently. I moved to Denver a few weeks ago, after more than 5 years of calling Boulder home, I chose to move into transition. I chose to become a commuter. I chose to uproot my somewhat fragile root system and truck on down the road a little ways, with the intention of spreading out – expanding my community and finding new places to reach my branches out to.

So, for the past few weeks I’ve been riding the waves of transition and trying to do that with a lot of mindfulness. I’m watching my transition patterns and can recognize and say to myself “oh, right. This is the time in transition when I desperately want to just run away.” Or “This is the stage where I need to be quiet and reflective and deliberate. And careful with myself.” And instead of trying to rush through this time, I’ve been moving slowly and sitting with all the uncomfortable parts, knowing that they’ll shift and that they’re part of this process. I’m honoring the wholeness if I can honor the light and the dark of challenges.

And while the dark has been destabilizing, the light has been bold. This place that 3 weeks ago held no significance for me, now feels like home. It is a comfort to return to at the end of the day, it’s a space that I look forward to being in when I have the time to stay home, it’s infused with me and those I love – photographs of people and places that have touched my life, and in true me fashion, the living room walls are orange (w/ a turquoise accent wall). It is home.

So, I’m here now. And here is Denver. Here is this little house in five points. Here is still Colorado. Here is still full of community and support and love. And here is different than it was a month ago. Here has shifted.

So, how does “be here now” fit into this? I learned something new, or gained a new perspective. “Be here now” is not asking that you cling desperately to each moment, but rather that you lean into the constant shift and transformation is that occurring moment to moment. That you stay present with impermanence. That you stay present with the shift. That you allow yourself to move with that presence. Because trying to “be here now,” doesn’t really work if “here” is not fixed. Because by the time you remember to “be here now” “here” has already shifted, “here” has become somewhere else and so in essence you’re trying to be somewhere that is no longer.

In presence there is endless movement. And if we can cultivate presence, we get to experience that movement and the limitless possibilities that are contained in that movement.

This is part of why, in bodywork, I focus so much on felt sense in the moment. Asking someone what they’re noticing in their bodies just then – not what’s chronic or familiar – but what is happening in that singular moment, helps to call in presence. It’s so easy to get lost in the stories our bodies contain, and those stories certainly serve a purpose, but sometimes we hold on to them longer than we need to, and mindfulness in the body allow us to see what is, in this particular moment, and then watch what shifts with our awareness.

So, I offer Mo my gratitude, wherever he is. But, I’d like to make an addendum to his directive. Be here now, but remember that here is always shifting.

 

 
%d bloggers like this: