Let’s talk about our bodies, shall we?

July 24, 2014   |   13 Comments

This morning I’ve been emailing with some people who run an outfit called Earth Strength. Without even knowing what it is, doesn’t that sound great? They are based in Tarifa, Spain and offer courses on, well, being outside, actually. You run, jump, swim, climb—not in a gym and not with special equipment and not to lose weight or anything like that. Rather it is an experience of being back in your body with joy, just like you may have experienced as a child. The people who run it are mindfulness practitioners and their teaching is based in breath and awareness. We’re talking about the possibility of me co-teaching something with them next year, which would be awesome.

My interest in doing this is personal. “Outside” is not my natural habitat. I am very solitary. I am a city girl. I was raised in a city and have never lived anywhere but a city. (I remember once going on a solitary retreat in a cabin in the mountains in Colorado. It was off the grid—no internet, no phone, no nada. At the time I lived in New York City. I told the man who drove me there that I was scared and he looked at me like I was mad. “New York is where you should be afraid, not here,” he said. I guess it’s all what you’re used to.) My husband often jokes with me about this. He’ll say things like, “You know if we go to visit  _____ they’re going to want to spend time outside,” or “Do you really feel like going to the movies because to get there you’ll have to go outside.” Then we laugh. But sometimes I am actually deterred.

My life is about the movement of the mind, not about the movement of the body. As a meditator, you too are cultivating and deepening the grace with which your mind moves. It is easy to forget about the body and its wish to move. Instead of joy, I often move my body with a kind of grim determination to “get in shape” or increase bone density. I mean, getting in shape and avoiding osteoporosis are great things. But one has to believe that the body would like a little more than this, sex and dancing notwithstanding. I would like to remember the feeling of freedom in the body that I had as a child. There is no reason that is not possible. So my interest in co-teaching with the Earth Strength guys is piqued.

In addition to feeling kind of sludgy in my body, there is another factor that makes me even more interested in going to Spain and jumping around OUTSIDE.

A long time ago,I was in a very bad accident. (You may have heard me mention this before.) When I say bad, I really mean it. I was hit by a drunk driver late one night and almost died. I was in the hospital for a long time and it took me a good two years to recover. I still feel the residual impact including an ongoing sense of fearfulness in my body. I can sense it as a kind of holding back, a strange sense of not quite feeling like I can locate myself in space, and a super-delicate “startle response” which is common to survivors of trauma. Those of you who have had similar experiences of trauma to the body will know exactly what I mean, but even if you haven’t, you have likely had other versions of trauma and may relate. I would like to work with this fear more directly and I don’t think I can do it on my own. Jumping around outside may be just what the great doctor in the sky ordered. I look forward to this adventure and hope it will come to pass.

I wish I could end this email by saying something bright and cheerful like: And so don’t forget to move around a bit after you meditate!! Get out there and smell the roses!!  But it is not that simple. Just like recovering a connection to your mind, recovering a connection to your body is something that we make room for rather than something we can put on our to-do list. I guess a place to start, as always, is with what is. Just notice. Notice what it feels like when you sit down and when you stand up. Notice how your body lies in bed to sleep and how it feels about walking up the stairs. Just notice. And then see what happens next. I will be right there with you.

Comments? Where is your body and are you able to treat it kindly?

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  • Posted by:  Bo Mackison

    Oh I love the idea of this – connecting with the body. Noticing. Accepting. Working with the body as our ultimate the container. Honoring it as such. And the words “Earth Strength” convey many messages, in many realms.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      so true

  • Posted by:  Suzane

    I am right there with you, Susan. As I age, I’m becoming more mentally aware of my need to move my body more so that I can continue to do the things I want to do. I’m also a trauma survivor and that disconnect happened with my body years ago. The need to reconnect with my body continues to arise, so I’m trying to bring more awareness to what my body is saying to me. Sometimes it speaks pretty loudly. I’d love to reconnect with that childlike joy of just moving my body. Please keep me posted on your journey. In the meantime, I will also practice noticing how my body feels doing daily things.
    Peace to you,

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      And to you. I wish you well on your journey and let’s keep each other posted.

  • Posted by:  jane

    Oh my, you are posting some timely wisdom here again.
    Yes, it’s great to connect with the body, and I’m my case,
    as I develop and strengthen mentally and spiritually (with
    with your help), I find that I am re-honouring the ‘housing’
    , my body. LOVE love the idea of you doing that course/
    workshop…. 🙂

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Glad this was useful!

  • Posted by:  jane

    Not sure what happened to the spacing there! Oops x

  • Posted by:  Titilia Cakau

    When outside, i will start off inside and when inside, i will observe the outside. Yes, the two are inseparable. When they are in tune than my next question is – absorption or hopelessness?

    My body is very adaptable and temperatures can also fluctuate in a matter of minutes, even in the midst of drinking litres of water & good health. Being medication free helps, stretching for flexibility, a good & bad diet, laughter with strangers and friends, being of service to all, feeling the softness & heat of a lovers body, being touched & moved by the world is liquid. Accepting invitations without hesitation, helping family and friends, having a full fruit bowl in the house and a movie at the cinemas every fortnight is delightful. I exercise on days off, shower twice a day. Clean my house & yard, pay the bills when it is due, answer questions when asked in a way that is gentle to the person. I enjoy vegetarian & meat dishes in my diet, i enjoy a beer during cocktail hour. Nothing i enjoy more than a face to face interaction with people. The most beautiful sound in the world is a hearty laughter that belongs to a baby. Terrorism and war, fear, plague, and disorder is also my body, totally inclusive of softening. And all this in one breadth. What i would describe as trauma in my body, is an old sporting injury that resides in my left knee. I have a strong body, that is kept flexible through yoga and daily stretches – it has been described by lovers as soft. Today i will be in & out with a three sixty inclination.

  • Posted by:  A.

    When you talk about your feelings:
    Ongoing sense of fearfulness
    A strange sense of not quite feeling I can locate myself in space
    Starle response
    Started crying ,because is so recognizable….and felt overwhelmed.
    Sad to hear you had(have) to go through this to.
    Happy you give me some pieces of a puzzle to understand my life better.Didn’t knew about starle reflex ( and ptsd),but know I understand what happens to me better.That feeling you can not locate in space is so recognizable!I couldn’t explain that to other people and always was afraid they thought I was completly nuts.
    But I also feel angry (stupid,I know) because my parents didn’t act enough when something bad happened in my early twenty’s.
    A whole life I m searching to understand what happened…bit by bit I begin to understand…Reggie Ray ‘s cds :your breathing body (learn to meditate with the body)and his book :touching enlightenment,finding realisation in the body ,helped a lot.
    Peter Levine talks about somatic experiencing ,ptsd,in his book walking the tiger.
    Look forward to hear more Susan.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you for this loving and kindhearted response. It does seem that it takes a lifetime to understand such things… and many thanks for your recommendations. I will check them out. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  susan preston

    While reading your offering I was reminded of how powerful walking meditation has been for me over the years.

    When I lived in DC, I invited a group of friends to meet at the magical garden located at the National Cathedral twice a month during the warmer seasons. Although we did not hop and jump and run, (although that would have been totally okay, come to think of it) we were meditating in the midst of movement. Placing ourselves in a fragrant garden brought the added gift of becoming much more aware of scents–especially in the late afternoon/evening when the smell of the herbs dramatically increased. I miss meditating outdoors, especially during these hot months when aromas are intensified and the weight of air on the skin changes as light gives way to darkness. Thank you for the reminder. So glad you are still with us.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      And I appreciate this reminder of the power of walking meditation.

      I know that garden–it is beautiful!

  • Posted by:  Idowu

    Yup, that’ll do it. You have my apitacierpon.

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