By Mari Kennedy
I have been in this body of mine for just over four decades. Through most of those years, it carried me around; much of the time it defined me; it took my abuse (I’m thinking the nights in those 4 inch high stilettos as much as the more obvious abuse of my 20’s); it became the hanger on which I expressed my unique take on fashion; it has attracted, perhaps repelled and often connected me to many people; its skin the boundary that physically separated me from others and the world. In those years, I despised parts of it, tried often to change it and spent far too much time looking through critical eyes at it in the mirror. Yet in all that time, I didn’t ever really feel wholly connected to it.
Then one evening 5 years ago, dancing barefoot on a wooden floor to the beat of drums, eyes closed, I met “the soft animal” of my body, and so began the most gloriously fulfilling and rewarding relationship I have experienced thus far in this physical existence!
At that peak moment, a doorway opened into a way of being human that changed my relationship with myself and the world. I realised I had been engaging with the world through my mind and had been living some distance from my body.
Bit by bit, as I reclaimed my body, it offered back to me (as if grateful that I had acknowledged its existence) a gateway into myself, my truths, my imagination, my shadow, my capacity to witness, my authentic pulse and a deep wisdom. In hidden corners of the cells of this body, I met my deepest longings and parts of me that I had unconsciously buried in order to survive. This body showed me how everything and everyone is connected. It taught me how to be present with everything, every situation, every feeling, every person we meet. Most magically, it offered me a quality of softness that I had never before allowed myself to experience or live from.
Living purely from the mind, absorbed in our thoughts, is a rigid, constrictive and exhausting way to be. The mind usually has us engaged in one of three pursuits: 1. Judging, 2 Criticising, 3. Fixing. It is relentlessly hard on us, on those we love and even unassuming strangers we meet along the way. With the mind as captain of our ship, we keep playing out old stories and learned patterns of behaviours, over and over.
THE BODY offers an alternative; our perception of ourselves and the world changes. Living with awareness in the body brings a softer and a much more powerful way of being in the world. It opens up a fullness and a robust kind of existence. Best of all, it offers relief and an alternative to the Judge, the Critic and the Fixer, and provides the doorway into the storehouse of sensations and feelings that can guide us to true wisdom and our expanding consciousness.
In reclaiming the body we do not reject the mind, but rather allow the mind to do what it does best: be our tool for navigation. We need the mind to figure out which bus will get us to work on time. But it’s not the best mechanism to ask, “How am I doing?” The body holds the real answer to that kind of inquiry. I call it a deep knowing, our compass, our unique guidance system should we choose to inquire and listen to our body.
Begin the climb down. As you read this, become aware of the aliveness in your hands. If you are holding the magazine become aware of the contact between the magazine and the skin of your hands. If you’re not holding the magazine become aware of the temperature of your right hand in this moment. Allow your attention to rest in your hands for 15 seconds. You are practicing embodied reading. Notice how it feels. Don’t think about it, feel it.
Embodied Movement, Dance, Feldenkrais, Focusing, Alexander Technique, Mindfulness and Yoga are just some of the ways into the body. But it is the intention of growing our awareness and listening to our bodies whilst doing any one of those practices that really brings you in and down. It becomes a daily spiritual practice that brings rich rewards.
Personally, when I’m living an embodied life, it feels like I’m in a 3D movie. When I forget, everything reverts to the flat screen one dimensional version.
For so long we humans have been encouraged to separate from our earthly body, to reject the flesh as a path to enlightenment. The time has come in our evolution to full-heartedly drop down into the earthiness of our flesh and bones and discover the supreme intelligence available to each and every one of us. And in so doing, our glorious bodies will not only contain our expanding spirit, but will be the vehicle for its fully evolved expression.
Mari Kennedy is a Consultant Coach, Movement Therapist and Yoga Teacher with a practice in Oscailt. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org