The Dance of Life (2)

By Cathy Rowan

We start with Addie guiding me into that low-gear mode of being with my body within the environment. I open to the weather outdoors, the room I am in, the quietness of it, and Addie with me on the screen.

I open to this and then also to the contact of all this with my physical body. I am sitting on the chair, the warm air on my hands and face. Once again, I am turning my attention to the air as it enters my nostrils. Once again, I am opening to the dance of life that is me living now.

The Breath, Expansion and Recession

I welcome this expansive experience. The air is flowing through my nostrils, down my throat, and into my chest. It is spreading outwards through the whole of my body. Just being with all of this and noticing too now the feel of the breath as I exhale. The in-breath is one that grows and expands my body, I get subtly and yet perceptibly physically bigger….and then the moment comes when the breath starts to pull back. Not to retract…that does not fit. Retract implies a pulling back and stopping–an ending.

The experience is a receding, it has the quality of the wave as it pulls back on the beach, and yet already it has within its movement a getting ready to come forward again as the next wave. This is just how the exhaled breath is in me. Each receding, pulling back of the breath, has within it the kernels of the new breath that is to become the next wave of air to be drawn into me.

This whole breathing pattern within me is a circular cycle. It is three dimensional — a 3D circular cycle that makes a spiraling. The spiraling is variable – some spirals are more significant, some smaller, they are not copies of each other, they are all different. They are not uniform; some are jerky, uneven even, they are not manufactured “tins of baked beans” breaths that are predictable and repetitive. No – they are all unique and different. Each a different flow, a diverse and individual dance. Each just what I need right now, for this moment, in this place, at this time.

I am with the out-breath withdrawing, with its sense of receding and yet here too are its kernels of expansion so it can go forward again…. I notice how my fingers are slightly apart as I breathe in and then come together as I breathe out. Then the next breath in the fingers opens again – only to once again enter into a withdrawing. It is coming together to make more room for expansion. And so the spiraling dance of the breath unfolds its unique flow of “aliving.”
Aliving: this is this dance of expansion and withdrawal to take in and then release the breath. And as I sit with this, a spontaneous full-formed sentence comes “until we die we are always dancing, our breath is always dancing the breath of life…until we die.”

Breath, Life and Death

A body memory comes of me sitting with my father dying – his breathing becoming increasingly difficult. How the spiraling got more and more drawn out, each out-breath having a little less energy to give to the potential for a new in-breath. Finally, there was no more receding energy in his out-breath- it was the only retraction. I can recall now how this felt tangibly different. He had finished his dance of the breath of life. The life-energy could no longer keep going, and I saw it stop. In his final out-breath, there were no kernels of the forward movement that would create the next inhale. The out-breath was his last step in his dance of life.

This experience of how the breath faded away and then stopped had a profound impact on me then, particularly concerning “following the breath” practices. Almost a decade later, it continues to fascinate me now. I felt then I had witnessed the core of what gives life and what takes away life. And as I sit here and am with my breath now, I realize each breath is a gift of life. And that this dance is not just about life, but it will be one day be about death for me too. Life and death: this is what the breath is all about.

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Cathy Rowan

I originally trained as an OT and also in Gestalt therapy. In 2010 I discovered Focusing which for me was the natural next step on from Mindfulness. I trained as a Focusing Practioner with Fiona Parr and I am currently training in Wholebody Focusing with Addie van der Kooy. What I love is how Focusing blends so naturally with other previous experiences. In particular I find my work as an OT in acquired brain has informed the way I practice. This includes my interest in making accessible relational neuroscience in supporting peoples understanding of how our bodies neurology is shaped by our experiences of others and their experiencing of us. I live with a chronic pain condition from a car accident in 1999. Focusing has changed my life in how I now live with this health condition. Through this I have learnt so much personally about trauma and grief - how they live on in the body unless one befriends them. For me Focusing enabled me to heal when therapy did not - it was just "too much too fast" for my body. What I needed was the Focuser - Companion relating where the relationship feels to be for me much more one of quality and this brought to my body a sense of finally being free to choose and to control the unfolding process. This meant that the process went at my pace and was received by compassionate attuned mirroring. Thus healing what I got so little of as a child.

4 thoughts on “The Dance of Life (2)”

  1. Thank you Cathy, there is so much there to resonate with as I follow your experiencing in me. The description of the breathing, in and out, and how it has its own knowing of what is wanted next, until the whole livingness comes to rest, and in your father’s story, to a complete rest. So it leaves me wondering here, is the dance of life over or what might be next?

    Kevin

  2. Dear Cathy I returned to your post and I was distraught to find the sound of your voice missing! I heard it and it went right through me as you put words to your experience so directly that it awakened something in me about my own experience too. It is a remarkable voice, the sound of true……. so beautifully express for all to join in, that sound of true. Maybe it could be published again, my hope. Kevin

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