It’s nearly 10pm on the night before this blog is due. There’s a few reasons I’m “Last Minute Leslie” today but the most significant one to this project is the fact I was spending my afternoon time (normally a blogging opportunity) writing a “Body Awareness Meditation” for my therapist in training community.
It’s part of the routine of our twice yearly weekend intensive retreats to start Saturday and Sunday morning with “Body Awareness”. It’s up to whomever volunteers for this duty to decide how to do that. Sometimes it’s more like yoga. Sometimes it’s more like silly walks and sometimes it’s more like mindfulness It’s always something about the body.
I had never led this aspect, I’m only in my second year of the teacher role and I sat down to think about what I wish I had known 20 years ago when I was on my first weekend intensive retreat with this same school. I hated the body awareness thing. I’d listen to my instructors who were crunchy granola baby boomer hippies in socks and Birkenstocks with dangly earrings and roll my eyes. All that breathing in and out. All that stretching and clenching and releasing. All that feeling the parts. It was stupid, uncomfortable, uncouth, undignified, weird, creepy. . .I squirmed in my head until it was over and then moved on.
20 years is a nice round number later to reflect on where I was back then and where I have travelled to since. Essentially, back then, I was a head floating on a support mechanism that I was utterly unfamiliar with. It was awkward, rebellious and foreign. It was beautiful but I didn’t know what to do with that, so I mostly hid it and cursed it’s unruly ways. I only saw the flaws in the mirror and I didn’t want to feel them or breathe into them or inhabit them any more than I perceived was necessary.
So Much Has Changed. One of the things that happened that really shifted me is something not everyone experiences or can experience and that’s childbirth. Growing and pushing out some babies had a very intense and unanticipated embodying impact. The most powerful things I took from that experience were a sense of autonomy and control. I know that some people have the exact opposite experience of childbirth and I have compassion for that also. I am so grateful that it introduced me to the inherent power of my body.
I had both my kids while I was in therapy school and it may not have been a co-incidence that also at that time, I was starting to recognize I wanted more out of my physical self-experience in a multitude of realms. My intuition was firing on all cylinders in the parenting department and the therapist department. They were feeding each other and informing each other.
I found Pilates, a thing I was good at. It’s also a thing that promotes micro awareness of all the parts. I was strong, not awkward, I found grace. I started running and eventually biking. All along this path, other things were also changing. I was becoming experienced in my craft, I was less fearful about my physicality. My felt sense of myself became a landscape the same as my thoughts and theories, put to use to help connect with a client, or help me dance, it was all the same.
So now I’m sitting at my table thinking about what to write and say to 35 students to bring them in and invite them to be aware of the awesome resource that is their body. Whether it is well, or unwell, loose or tense, a haven or a hell, it’s theirs and the information it holds, processes and conveys is absolutely essential to what I’m trying to prepare them for. I’m making magic workers for wounded souls and I know they can’t be at their best unless they learn to be with and listen to their own bodies.
I wrote a thing I really like. I don’t know if 20 years ago me would have liked it as much as today me does. It has some explaining, and some breathing and some tensing and relaxing. It has some directing to and directing away. It has some exhortations and some settling in. Mostly, it flows like a story from today me, strong, graceful, embodied and accepting of the Things, to 20 years ago me, who was a head on a complex apparatus she was afraid to inquire about. I’ll report back in the comments on how it goes.