This morning I set out on my morning walk and, for the first time since my fall 7 weeks ago, I chose the path leading me right to The Spot. See ominous picture above. I willed myself to purposefully breathe. Slowly. So I could feel. The cramp in the pit of my belly. The catch in my throat. The ramp of my pulse. The way those very sensations translated in my heart. Intense dread. Panic tinged with a whiff of shame. This is the visceral route trauma travels to store memory in tissue. For each and every one of us. In the direct face of the evoked memory, how natural it feels to stop breathing. Or turn away. Or speed up. In order not to feel.
So I stayed with, decelerated on purpose. Because feeling happens when we slow down to the pace of the body, which is generally slower than the pace of the mind. Feeling happens when we allow the internal experience to bubble into awareness. There is a virtual buffet of embodiment tools to ramp up our ability to tune inward, to foster this ability. But immediately accessible in the moment to anyone willing to pay attention is the breath. We often breathe at the slap-dash pace of our minds. Or hardly at all. When we attune to our breath our bodies gratefully respond by slowing down. When we attend to our breath we touch the raw material of the internal landscape.
And we simply have to sense what’s going on in there, feel the “issues in the tissues” (thank you Ida Rolf), before we can hope to loosen their grip. So I’m keeping a regular slow-down-and-breathe appointment with my holy sidewalk shrine. Having a little shake out in response to what arises. Wondering how long it will be before I might experience neutral presence with this simple crack in the concrete. I’ll let you know!
Just yesterday I saw a new patient with a long history of body trauma, especially in the feet, knees and hips. Together, we talked and moved and touched and breathed. But it wasn’t until we journeyed into belly depths that some of the emotion connected with the cumulative physical trauma began to surface. This is such sacred work. It amazes me how few therapists are willing to plumb the belly depths.
Here’s a simple invitation if you feel ready. Lay comfortably on your back, knees and hips bent. Let your soft gentle hands explore all the spaces between the bottom of the rib cage and the top of the pubic bone. Breathe slowly. Feel. Gently massage in circles. Spirals. Zig-zags. Go to whatever depth feels nourishing. Give thanks for the organs that keep life force moving through you 24/7. Greet the psoas down at the bottom, spanning the length from rib cage to pelvis. Two hefty loins snuggling up to your lumbar spine. Psoas—our first responder under stress. Psoas—major storage locker for trauma. Psoas—ready for gentle exploration and release. In all of us. Truly.
Well, that’s my share for today. Tonight, after our long summer break, we begin again: Wednesday Waves. I’m showing up with some music and a simple prayer. That we leave our worldly expertise at the door. Assume nobody on that dance floor knows anything…especially me. That we slow down to the pace of the body…and just see what arises. What does it mean to begin again?