How would it look to have a conversation without words? Is it possible? What might two people share this way? How can Wholebody Focusing be the medium through which this happens?
Cristina Griggio and I were curious about what connecting via videoconferencing in grounded presence without words would bring. We agreed to sense into our bodies separately and then asked our bodies to move how they needed to move. While we sensed into our bodies and gave them time and space to move, we also sensed into each other to connect to the other’s movement. We became at once the actor and observer.
The video below is but a small slice at the end of that conversation. We were interested in the experience of the communication itself rather than any meaning it might have held. Sometimes we were thoroughly connected to self, and other times were aware of the other and sensing into what is coming for her.
It was fun, surprising, and felt like playing. It also helped us know each other more profoundly. Cristina’s natural ability to express herself through movement at one point filled me with awe.
We offer this video as a suggestion to others–that you too can have a non-verbal conversation between two bodies communicating using the concepts of holding space for what is present, asking your body to move in its own way while holding all that comes with equal regard. We also offer this video as a companion to you so that you have company if you would like to allow your body to communicate with you and move in any way it wants.
Let us know what happens.
Heartfelt Conversation Senza Parole (Google Translate)
Come sarebbe una conversazione senza parole? È possibile? Cosa potrebbero condividere due persone in questo modo? In che modo Wholebody Focusing può essere il mezzo attraverso il quale ciò accade?
Cristina Griggio e io eravamo curiosi di sapere cosa avrebbe portato il collegamento via videoconferenza in presenza radicata senza parole. Abbiamo concordato di percepire i nostri corpi separatamente e quindi abbiamo chiesto ai nostri corpi di spostare il modo in cui avevano bisogno di muoversi. Mentre abbiamo percepito i nostri corpi e abbiamo dato loro il tempo e lo spazio per muoversi, abbiamo anche percepito l’uno nell’altro per connetterci al movimento dell’altro. Siamo diventati subito l’attore e l’osservatore.
Il video qui sotto è solo una piccola parte alla fine di quella conversazione. Eravamo interessati all’esperienza della comunicazione stessa piuttosto che a qualsiasi significato potesse avere. A volte eravamo completamente collegati a se stessi, altre volte eravamo consapevoli dell’altro e percepivamo ciò che le stava accadendo.
È stato divertente, sorprendente e mi è sembrato di giocare. Ci ha anche aiutato a conoscerci più profondamente. La naturale capacità di Cristina di esprimersi attraverso il movimento ad un certo punto mi ha riempito di soggezione.
Offriamo questo video come suggerimento per gli altri – che anche tu puoi avere una conversazione non verbale tra due corpi che comunicano usando i concetti di spazio per ciò che è presente, chiedendo al tuo corpo di muoversi a modo suo mentre trattieni tutto ciò che viene con uguale riguardo. Ti offriamo anche questo video come compagno per farti compagnia se desideri consentire al tuo corpo di comunicare con te e di muoverti nel modo che desidera.
“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. And when our souls lie down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” – Rumi.
This poem very well captures the essence of the monthly on-line Pause for Presence gatherings which is all about bringing people together to experience the “underlying field of living Presence” – a sense of the aliveness felt within the body and felt around you as an aliveness that holds and nourishes you. And then to simply “lie down in that grass” and rest there, letting yourself be nourished and resourced by this dimension within you that is completely unperturbed by all that is going on within and around you.
Being together in this way also generates a palpable energy field of group Presence, which allows you to experience Presence in a much deeper way than would be possible if you were on your own. These monthly gatherings also aim to be “an oasis amidst all the world chaos of this present time”, as a recent participant described it.
So far, we have had 3 gatherings in which, after some brief guidance into Presence, we simply rested in this underlying field of Presence, embracing the silence (interspersed with times for sharing) and “letting ourselves just be”. And indeed at the end of each gathering, “the world was too full to talk about”. Words felt wholly inadequate to say farewell, so we just raised our hands – paws up for Presence! – as a way of appreciating our full experience together.
We have planned our next get-together for Saturday 15th August, so if you sense a “yes” inside you to join in, then you are warmly welcome! You can also already register for the one after that, which is on Saturday October 17th.
Time and date: Saturday 15th August from 4 pm to 5.15 pm BST (British Summer Time). The next gathering is on Saturday 17th October from 4pm to 5.15 pm BST.
Venue: Zoom video conferencing platform. If you have no experience with Zoom, please let Cecelia know for necessary guidance.
Fee: £10 (by bank transfer) or £11 (by Paypal which includes £1 Paypal fee). It includes a free audio-recording of the guided sessions.
This Whole-body Focusing training session began with discovering a new embodying experience within me as I slowed down and connected to my body and presence. I found a deepening body-trusting that the environment will support and hold me, a sense of letting go into gravity and being able to be.
I sat with my breath just “doing its thing” when I was suddenly struck by how the breath in me awakens my unique conscious aliveness. My breath was “switching on” my Cathy aliveness–a shaping movement in my hand came under my diaphragm. With it came a sense of trying to find the shape of my aliveness. It was similar to the sense of awe and wonder I had felt at the birth of my daughters and on first meeting my new-born grandchildren. It was beyond words, a heart-felt “wow” at the creation of this particular utterly new unique and individual life energy, this new little human being and the excitement of who are they? Who will they become?
My body remembered how with my daughters this felt sense of their own energy was there even in the womb. Connecting with these body memories, I felt the unique patterns of their energy shapes, their particular form of aliveness. I suddenly recognised that I know the contours of their life energy far better than I knew my own. A familiar pattern for me – being more aware of the felt sense of the other person than of my own aliveness and sense of self. This pattern was a well-established survival pattern.
My hand continued the arced shaping movement, feeling for the shape of my aliveness: searching for the feeling of me-ness. The felt senses of my two grandchildren came: Meg all pink and sparkly, darting all over the place, an exploding dazzling firework of creative energy. Ethan very different – softer and flowing, leaning into, cuddling up, deep focused concentration and sensitivity, a broad connecting smile.
Addie invited me to sense into myself to find my shape, my energetic movement pattern: this was far more elusive, the old familiar survival pattern at work. Addie encouraged me: a reminding me that I was here with my breath awakening my aliveness.
My Trauma is Not my Shape
Suddenly a light bulb moment happened: a new awareness that for decades I had been “working on” the shape of how multiple traumas had impacted on me and in many senses “shaped” me. But this was not the same thing as the unique “within-me-from-creation” sense of my essence – this was my true shape.
Addie mirrored back to me, both in copying the shaping gesture of my hands and with these words, “This is the shape of your unique aliveness which is the essence of you that is untouched no matter what happens in life in terms of trauma”.
The words and the movement together sank into me. My body was absorbing this new discovery in a way that felt akin to the action of the yeast fermentation process in the bread-dough. “To begin to know the essence of you,” Addie reflected back to me.
A sense of expansion gently occurred within my whole body with this new awareness. And then a mental recognition that this is what I needed to discover and take into myself to be able to differentiate myself from others.
Then I noticed, as I sat with all of this, was how patterns of tightening in my body came, as they so often did. They were old trauma-shape models and I could now “mark and park” them with ease, to use Addie’s phrase. I was able to let them go rather than pursuing them and their paths. I now felt in my body that what would help me more would be if I could connect with the essence of myself untouched by my traumatic past.
Suddenly I realised that I had a sense that my essence was around in me but was hiding! Like a baby deer hiding in the trees and it was watching me. I could feel that this little fawn needed me to be very still and not to startle it, that the fawn was shy and not used to the attention. My hand started moving up and down – a gesture showing me that this place was needing stillness and silence.
In the quiet, I began to feel more of a sense of my shape: not as energetic as star-burst Meg and yet I had her colourfulness and independence. I also had the more muted nature colours of Ethan and his sense of flow and sensitivity – this was the shyness of the fawn.
What is My Shape?
My hands started doing a grasping movement as if trying to capture something that was ephemeral: a curiosity came to do with this fleeting feeling. Was it that this was something more trying to come? Or was it that by my very nature, in my essence I have a sense of the ephemeral? Then the energy of my younger daughter comes: she is an engineer, always has a clear understanding of direction and purpose, and there is nothing ephemeral about her! And in connecting with this, my whole body shifted as it owned that ephemeral-ness was and is part of my intrinsic shape.
A tightness came around my head and the image of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole: my bodily experience of how this being ephemeral can mean I often feel somewhat out of kilter with our external world of left-brain planning and organising. Suddenly something came – this ephemerality of mine it is Gene Gendlin’s “fuzzy edge”. A sense of something not yet entirely known and again on the verge of conscious becoming. Addie invited me to allow all that had come to be here. “The all that had come” sank into my body with each breath.
Suddenly my breath shifted gear, and more came: I had been in a fuzzy edge about my intrinsic fuzzy-edged-ness! My intrinsic ephemerality is the language of my body, and when I sense into and listen to it, then I am in step with myself. That being a fuzzy-edged person is not a “psychological issue” as I had always previously thought, it is not some trauma-derived problem, but it is part of the intrinsic nature of who I am.
For me then, to be in step with myself, I need to invite and be with my fuzzy-edged-ness that this is the healthy way forward for my aliveness and also for healing the residual trauma still within me.
As you may already know, the Pause for Presence project is all about bringing people together to deepen their experience of simply resting in the ground and aliveness of Being, a dimension in us that is completely unperturbed by all that is going on within and around us.
Being together in this way generates an energy field of group Presence, which allows for all of us to experience Presence in a much deeper way than would be possible if we were on our own. These monthly gatherings also aim to be “an oasis amidst all the world chaos of this present time”, as a recent participant described it.
Our last get-together on 12th June was rich and full. There were over 20 people and after some brief guidance into a sense of the ground and aliveness of Being, we simply rested there, embracing the silence and “letting ourselves just be“.
Some brief, rich sharing came out of this at times, but what was most noticeable was the depth and fullness felt in the group energy at the end. Words felt wholly inadequate to say farewell, so we just raised our hands – paws up for Presence! – as a way of honouring our full experience together.
It brought to mind a Rumi poem: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. And when our souls lie down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about it.”
We feel this project clearly wants to keep moving forward, so we have planned our next get-together for Friday 10th July. If you sense a “yes” inside you to join in, then you are warmly welcome!
Time and date: Friday 10th July from 4 pm to 5.15 pm BST (British Summer Time).
Venue: Zoom video conferencing platform. If you have no experience with Zoom, please let Cecelia know for necessary guidance.
Fee: £10 (by bank transfer) or £11 (by Paypal which includes £1 Paypal fee). It includes a free audio-recording of the guided sessions.
What happens when we let our egos decide how significant a problem is? Here is the story of my toe.
I was born with an oddly shaped toe—the middle toe on both feet is the longest toe. The right foot has been more problematic. That foot is also a bit longer, and there is even less space in a shoe for it. If you look at the photo of the “perfect” foot, you will see perfectly conforming toes with the big toe being the largest and the subsequent toes gradually getting smaller. What happens when one of your toes do not fit such perfection?
When Someone Finds a Flaw in You
My teenage boyfriend was the first to point out the middle toe. He said I had square feet in a mocking tone. Bye-bye, first boyfriend. But now that I knew about this “problem,” I wondered how many other people might mock me for having an oddly shaped toe. “Square feet,” however, became a background feeling to describe my relationship with my toes.
As I aged, however, I understood that I could not wear “stylish” shoes because shoe sellers predicate their designs on everyone having a “perfectly shaped” toes and two same size feet. We all know from watching many police shows that shoes give away who you are. If you can’t wear stylish shoes, then forget stylish clothes. This tiny problem also impacted how I dressed, mostly in slacks with shoes that had square “toe boxes.”
I began spending exorbitant amounts of money, not on designer shoes, but orthopedic shoes that never really were comfortable. My middle toe would never have enough space to be itself, and the nail would send painful shock waves up my leg. I decide to get professional help from a podiatrist who happily cut away the nail. Two years of nerve pain later, the nail just grew back. So what’s a gal to do with a non-compliant toe?
I wear Crocs as much as possible because Crocs designed their shoes to give one’s foot support and space. Three months of lock down made me forget my toe. I only wore Crocs. But now, because I can leave the house occasionally, I began wearing shoes again, and the pain came back.
How Merchandise Controls Our Perceptions
I decided to hold space for my toe with love and compassion. The first thing I noticed was how central this toe is to my well-being. There is nothing in being longer than average that makes it a defective toe—it performs all the tasks one expects a toe to do. Because it is different from what our society acknowledges as a middle toe, few produce shoes to accommodate it. The basis of shoe design is the supply and demand economic model. This model impacted how attractive I felt, the people I dated, and the shoes and the clothes that I wore. Somehow even though the boyfriend is long gone, his harsh words hang in the air as an acknowledgment of the limitations of not having a “classic” foot form.
Getting to Know my Toe
When I hold space for the toe, what comes is how it has been my reliable bellwether. If the boyfriend didn’t like my toe, he needed to go. He was a nascent domestic abuser. When I felt pressure to dress in the hyper-sexualized clothing that society promotes, I thought, “what’s the use, I can’t wear the shoes to make the style work.” If I do not regularly care for my toe when I have to wear outdoor shoes, the unbearable pain makes me stop everything else and care for it. I’ve learned to be proactive in caring for my toe so that I can move, walk, dance, and play without pain. Maybe when I stop my ritual care for my toe, it is the same time that I am not taking care of other parts of me. So my question is, what does my toe need now?
The first word that comes is “constant.” When I have outdoor shoes on, there is never enough space for this toe. My toe develops more hard callus right at the point where the regrown nail is as a way to protect itself. The coming together of the callus with the nail’s edge is what alerts me something is wrong. My toe wants me to know that it constantly suffers from this constriction and works hard to protect my toe by reinforcing the callus already there. Then, I work carefully to remove the callus because that is what relieves my perceived pain.
I have more compassion for my toe and its lifelong journey to live under conditions that do not support it. I also hold an appreciation for the role it has played in my life to give me a reason to leave unhealthy people and activities behind. I hold space for the “not knowing” how to support my toe so that it is not under constant pressure to protect itself only to have me undo that protection. How many other ways do I undo my body’s natural activity to heal because it doesn’t fit my perception of what is right? By holding space for my toe, I trust my body to inform me of what it needs.
One of the positive aspects of the COVID quarantine was the vast amount of time that entered our lives. Like an unexpected gift, we could slow down, sit down to savor the silence, or stand by a window or balcony and gaze upon the empty streets, read a whole book at once, write, care for our gardens, cook, chat, and many other things. In the beginning, I felt a sort of excitement for all this. Then I found myself lost in this huge container of time. I needed references; I needed to stop to one point and dig in.
Therefore I tried to make room for my writing process. In a Wholebody way, I tried to create space and time for what I was feeling while being in the present moment. I connected to my heart in a loving and caring way. Here is what I found. This short dialogue with myself helped me to find my voice.
“Today, it’s a long day, and I wish I could find something really valuable in it–something like a work well done, for example. I feel that I can do it because I can take care of things. This trust -it supports me and feeds me. I know I can take care of my plants, my books, my clothes, my body, or my desk. Perhaps I can even take care of those pages that I would like so much to write. A simple writing job I have been fighting with for days. I want to be doing this work in the most loving way.
How can I do something lovingly? I can love what I do by putting a touch of poetry in it. Loving also means that I don’t need to hurry, knowing that if I only stay with it a little longer, it could become something beautiful, profound, and mine. Being in the present moment while writing is an excellent way of drafting my pages.
I can order ideas calmly–thought by thought. Things written and then read and then corrected. I notice how everything looks different once it’s on the page–how some things come to life and others die because they don’t have enough strength, they don’t have energy, they don’t have roots.
I write and then search for what makes sense, what has a story, my story, my voice. I can recognize my voice in what I write. That is my process. Write to find me in what I write and then trim, clean, correct everything so that my voice is as clear as possible. This is the process I want to get into as I write.
How do I recognize this voice? I believe it is a distinct voice because it comes from my heart and reveals truths. It could be a small part of truth that would otherwise be lost. Maybe this is the real task of a writer. Reveal truths, even if only partially, minimally, but something that begins to shine among a thousand others. I don’t think a text can have many of these pearls, but some, yes. I also believe that the whole piece serves those pearls because they represent the heart voice. So I write slowly, to prepare the ground, to accompany the reader towards these unique pearls.
The Language of the Heart
It’s not about finding inspiration because, after all, inspiration is like a passing cloud, that you can eventually grasp. The language of the heart, however, is always there. One only has to listen carefully to be able to grasp it and bring it out gently. It needs to be encouraged with much caution–lovingly and poetically.
Then the rest of the text is an accompaniment; it is a dance; it is a ritual that brings pearls to light. That ritual must not be listless, casual, distracted, or confused. It has to be done with care and presence because it is precisely from the quality of the ritual that the pearls can emerge. Because somehow it is like welcoming a guest. If the host is not kind and welcoming enough, the guest will not enter. He does not trust; he hangs on the door.
It is a delicate but extremely creative and pleasant process. It is like the process of life. Caring in life is always a winning strategy. Somehow I have lost the habit of taking care of things. I have lost the joy of the cure. Only the appearance of the treatment remains, and that is not enough for the guest. It is not even enough for me. Maybe it’s like listening to background music. Writing with love is like being accompanied by a soundtrack that creates the right environment, the ideal mood, the right feelings.
I do not want to delude myself, because there are no guarantees that by doing all this, the longed-for result will come, it is not sure at all. And on the other hand, I do not intend to do all this for a result. Perhaps I do it because the journey is more pleasant if I do it with a smile in my heart. Perhaps because, in the doing and redoing, there is so much love and love is what matters.
Just doing and redoing, never gets tiring because the heart actively participates in the process. I am not alone in this eagerness to express my voice. My heart is with me, and it leaps in my chest with enthusiasm as I make that decision. My whole body is on the alert and wants to join the process. I am not alone in this task. Every part of the body does its work, and the music begins to play with such intensity that I want to stand up and dance. But I don’t get up; I don’t move, only my hands and my eyes move because the process has started, and I don’t want to miss a single word.”
Uno degli aspetti positivi della quarantena per il COVID è stato avere tanto tempo a disposizione. Un’enorme quantità di tempo è entrata nella nostra vita come un regalo inaspettato. Finalmente potevamo rallentare, restare seduti a goderci il silenzio, oppure restare alla finestra o al balcone ad osservare le strade vuote, leggere un intero libro senza interruzioni, scrivere, occuparci del giardino, cucinare, inviare messaggi, e tante altre cose.All’inizio sentivo una certa eccitazione in tutto questo. Ma ad un certo punto mi sono sentita come persa in questo enorme contenitore di tempo. Avevo bisogno di riferimenti. Avevo bisogno di fermarmi in un punto e scavare.
Allora ho cercato di fare spazio al mio processo creativo. In un modo Wholebody, ho cercato di creare spazio e tempo per ciò che sentivo, restando nel momento presente. Collegata al mio cuore, con cura e in modo amorevole. Ed ecco ciò che è emerso.Questo breve dialogo con me stessa mi ha aiutata a trovare la mia voce.
“È una giornata lunga e tra le tante cose da fare, vorrei infilarci qualcosa di veramente valido. Ad esempio, un lavoro ben fatto. Sentire che lo posso fare perché posso prendermi cura delle cose. Questa fiducia mi sostiene e mi nutre. Posso prendermi cura delle piante, dei libri, dei vestiti, del mio corpo, della mia scrivania e anche di quelle pagine che voglio scrivere da tempo e che non riesco a scrivere. Un semplice lavoro di scrittura con cui sto combattendo da giorni. Voglio farlo nella maniera più amorevole possibile.
Come posso fare qualcosa in maniera amorevole? Posso amare ciò che faccio mettendoci un tocco di poesia. Amorevole significa anche rallentare, non andare di fretta, perché se solo ci resto dentro un po’ più a lungo, può diventare qualcosa di bello, di profondo, di mio. Stare nel momento presente mentre scrivo, ecco un buon modo per affrontare la pagina.
Le idee possono essere ordinate con calma. Pezzo dopo pezzo. Le cose scritte e poi lette e poi corrette. Notare come tutto appare diverso una volta che è messo sulla pagina. Notare come alcune cose prendono vita e altre muoiono semplicemente perché non hanno abbastanza forza, non hanno vita, non hanno radici.
Scrivere e poi riconoscere ciò che ha un senso, ciò che ha una storia, la mia storia, la mia voce. Posso riconoscere la mia voce in quello che scrivo. Questo è il mio processo. Scrivere per riconoscermi e poi sfrondare, pulire, correggere ogni cosa affinché la mia voce sia più chiara possibile. Questo è il processo in cui voglio entrare quando scrivo.
Come faccio a riconoscere questa voce? Io credo che si tratti di una voce particolare perché arriva dal cuore e rivela delle verità. Una piccola parte di verità che altrimenti andrebbe persa. Forse questo è il vero compito dello scrittore. Rivelare delle verità, anche solo parziali, minime, ma che brillano tra mille altre. Non credo che un testo riesca ad averne tantissime di queste perle, ma alcune sì, e credo che tutto il resto vada a servizio di queste perle perché loro rappresentano la voce del cuore. Quindi scrivo lentamente per prendere tempo, per preparare il terreno, per accompagnare il lettore verso queste perle che sono uniche nella loro essenza.
Il linguaggio del cuore
Non si tratta neanche di trovare l’ispirazione, dopo tutto. L’ispirazione è come il passaggio di una nuvola, che puoi cogliere. In questo caso invece il linguaggio del cuore è sempre lì e occorre ascoltare attentamente per poterlo cogliere e portarlo fuori. Con molta cautela. In modo amorevole e con un po’ di poesia.
Allora il resto del testo è un accompagnamento, è una danza, è un rituale per portare alla luce le perle. Quel rituale non deve essere svogliato, casuale, distratto, confuso. Esso va fatto con estrema cura e presenza perché è proprio dalla qualità del rituale che può nascere la perla. Perché in fondo è come accogliere un ospite. Se il padrone di casa non è abbastanza gentile e accogliente, l’ospite non entra. Lui non si fida e resta sull’uscio.
È un processo delicato ma estremamente creativo e piacevole. In fondo è il processo della vita. La cura nella vita è sempre vincente. Io mi accorgo che ho perso l’abitudine alla cura. Ho perso la gioia della cura. È rimasta solo l’apparenza della cura e quella non basta all’ospite. Non basta nemmeno a me stessa. Forse è come ascoltare della musica di sottofondo. Scrivere con amore è come essere accompagnato da una colonna sonora che crea l’ambiente giusto, lo stato d’animo ideale, i sentimenti giusti.
Ora non voglio illudermi, perché non è detto che facendo tutto questo il risultato arrivi, non è affatto detto. E d’altronde non intendo fare tutto questo per un risultato. Forse lo faccio perché il viaggio è più piacevole se fatto con il sorriso nel cuore. Forse perché nel fare e rifare c’è tanto amore e l’amore è quel che conta.
Fare e rifare, appunto, e non stancarsi mai perché il cuore partecipa attivamente al processo. Non sono sola a voler esprimere la mia voce. Il cuore è con me e balza nel petto dall’entusiasmo quando prendo questa decisione. Tutto il mio organismo si mette in allerta e vuole partecipare al processo. Non sono affatto sola in questo compito. Ogni parte del corpo fa il suo lavoro e la musica comincia a suonare così intensamente che mi viene voglia di alzarmi e ballare. Ma non mi alzo, non mi muovo, si muovono solo le mie mani e miei occhi perché il processo è iniziato e non voglio perdermene nemmeno una parola.”
Photo Credit: Jack Arts campaign for the V&A, Tim Walker: Wonderful Things
“How does your body want to be supported?” Addie asked me at the start of this training session. As I felt into my body what came was “the space around me: my space”. I looked around the room. I became aware that my space, as in the room in which I was sitting, activated two very different feelings in me.
The first one was of a snuggly-cashmere comfort. A settling into the safe ground of being in my room, like being wrapped in a soft blanket. My breath just flowing gently. A deep sense of spaciousness filled my body and an invitational quality of “just allowing” came.
Then a jangled jarring feeling took hold. Another part of me butted in – it just saw a room full of heaps. A room needing tidying NOW. Seeing the heaps brought a twisting in my gut that was stopping my breath. With this came highly judgemental thoughts: “it should be xxx”, “What will people think?” Queasy seasickness of unease colonized my gut.
Holding Both Brings an Unexpected Body Memory
Holding both experiences was only possible through a yo-yoing between the two parts. A new awareness came: the heaps reminded me of my mother. Her house was full of heaps.
I was with a place of historic and “as-yet unresolved/unhealed” pain to do with my relationship with my (now dead) mother. Tightening came in my body as if it was trying to “hold me together”. This was accompanied by the queasy ungroundedness as my body was hijacked by these old experiences; being on the receiving end of my mother’s toxic contempt.
My breathing stopped; the impact of contempt was as a body blow. A being doubled-over by a thump in the solar plexus coming out of the blue. The air literally being knocked out of me. The life source in me being stopped. “I am stopped” was the core experience here. My left hand moved spontaneously to the solar plexus area and just tenderly held it. A tactile “I am here with you”.
The sense of nausea intensified and with it a memory of something I had read by Sarah Peyton*. She invites those of us who struggle with nausea to celebrate it. To recognise it as a return of my body’s ability to feel safe enough to acknowledge a sense of violation! Nausea is a signature aspect of the body feeling of disgust. (Along with a wanting to pull away from and escape what is toxic to us.)
Can I Really “Celebrate” Disgust?
Naming the nausea as disgust brought an awareness of a tightness. A pulling back within all of me, a contraction against the environment. Then came a restlessness that had become increasingly familiar to me over recent months. A sense of urgency in my body that something needs “doing”.
I allowed myself to open to the “something needs doing” energy; and my arm spontaneously moved forward in a deliberate sweep down. A demarcation of space in front of me. With it came words: “a boundary needs to be set”.
An “aha” came. Of course, my body felt this way: this is a historic felt memory from my past. I now have the safety and resources to feel this memory. The function of healthy disgust is to offer us protection from what is toxic to us. Poisonous not only in a food-gustatory sense but also in a relational ingesting way. Implicit in the experiencing of disgust is the needing to do something – to withdraw and to remove oneself from the toxicity!
I continued to sit with the nausea, the tightness, and the restlessness, supported by Addie. I noticed, at an emotional level, there is a seemingly never-ending internal negative judging commentary going on. An awareness arises that “I breed within me a vicious perfectionism”. I then recognised that, at a body level, I experienced this experience as one of feeling very physically unwell.
As I described this to Addie my right hand moved in a sort of horizontal circling motion. He invited me to connect to my hand and it’s moving. Addie reflected my body experience, reminding me of my other hand that was still holding the solar plexus. He then asked whether there is a part of my body not caught up in all of this. And maybe it might be able to offer support to me here in holding all this?
Transformation through Wholebody Connection
This changed me: like sudden seeing a light ahead, having been lost in a dark cave, I became aware of the possibility of support around me and in me. I saw again the heaps in my room. But they looked completely different. They were my heaps. The separate heap items reminded me of the love, kindness, and fun I now have in my life.
Something in me opened my arms to “embrace” all of my room. Addie summarised: “This all gives you a sense of you, and space that is larger than disgust and contempt” Embodying this larger spaciousness, I discovered, dilutes the disgust body experience. A “morphing” came – an expanding into a much larger holding space within me. This was warm, relaxed, it’s had a wide-angle lens quality to it. I felt at ease and joyous even. A sense of allowing came, an opening to new possibilities.
Addie invited me to sense into this newly discovered body experiencing of allowing, of open spaciousness. What came was the opposite of vicious perfectionism. Looking around my room again my eyes alighted on a postcard. I had it bought at the V&A museum’s “Wonderful Things exhibition. It was a photographic display by Tim Walker.
The postcard is of young men in amazing dresses dancing in a field of delphiniums. It is whacky, vibrant, and full of fun aliveness. My whole body filled with lightness. A sensation of the little bubbles in a glass of prosecco went sparkling through me.
Joy permeated all of me bringing a sense of infinite spaciousness within and without. My face could not stop smiling as I opened to all this. A word came: “delight”! Delight – the opposite of disgust I realised. I just revelled in being infused with delight, joy, and love.
Addie asked how the disgust was sitting in me now. Has it shrunk? Immediately I knew from my embodied feeling that the disgust-feeling had not shrunk per se. Rather it was I that had grown. There was more of me to hold the disgust. To dilute it.
I had expanded, become larger. Then I noticed that the restlessness had gone. It had found what it needed for me: love, joy, and delight. Vibrant dancing with delphiniums aliveness!
*Sarah Peyton is an author, neuroscience educator and certified trainer of Nonviolent Communication
The past weeks’ protests demand that I hold space for many aspects of this historic moment simultaneously. There is activism in every state of the United States that inspires me. People in countries around the world also demand an end of racial violence in the US and their own countries. At the same time, we need to hold space for those brave enough to leave their homes and risk transmission of COVID-19 to have their say.
On one of the first days of the protest, I was able to see that so many of the people participating in the demonstrations are teenagers, like the students I used to teach. I see they are getting arrested, and police are putting them in jail for their activism against police violence. These jails are epicenters of COVID-19 transmissions. I cry because I love them. I have a special place in my heart for teenagers, having spent so many years sharing important life moments with them. I love them because they want a better life for everyone and are willing to risk their own well-being for the greater good. I also grieve for the tragedy of their young lives. First COVID-19, the loss of school, maybe the loss of loved ones, perhaps poverty, and the experience of how little the society they live in values their lives.
I also need to hold space for “there is no other way to get to where our world needs to go.” I sense that the brave souls leading and participating in this journey are not just doing this for themselves. They are acting with a “we” consciousness.
How is this Happening?
As I try to make sense of this moment, I kept asking myself how is this happening? As a child, I watched Vietnam war end because of demonstrations around the world. I thought that the demonstrations just happened spontaneously and the politicians surrendered to pubic opinion. I later found out that ending the war was the result of an immense effort to organize and educate society along with the the persistence, and the power that that desire to stop the war created. So I knew to look for what is not visible to me. These new and powerful voices that seemingly emerged overnight are not new. The events are the result of years of effort to organize and educate society along with power that the desire to end police violence other aspects of racism creates.
This post offers a chance to meet the leaders of this movement–African American women who used their anger around the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to create a vast network of organizations that helped us get to where we are today. They will tell you how they used their body sense of their lives to propel us to this moment in history. They offer many suggestions of how to be part of this energy and power. I hope you enjoy the video below hosted by Jane Fonda of Fire Drill Fridays in conversation with the leaders of the Movement for Black Lives Jessica Boyd, Colette Pichon Battle and Chinyere Tutashinda.