“But I see now that the story isn’t about us; it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.”
–Mandy Len Catron
Being human doesn’t always feel natural
It’s hard for some to understand that for many people, being in a body doesn’t feel good. Some people feel the body is a trap, foreign, useless, shameful, or other. Energetically, these people live largely disconnected from their physical form, as if living and directing the vessel of their physical body from the outside. It’s important I clarify I am not a psychologist and this blog is not about people experiencing psychosis. I’m speaking more to the people who feel, that to some degree, they’re living on autopilot. These people can find working excessively comforting (as a distraction from self), and/or may avoid looking at themselves in the mirror. I see many of these kinds of folks in my practice.
The importance of coming home to the body
While it is true, the physical body may have its limitations; it’s also true that it is the vehicle through which we are afforded sense experience. Through the body, we can feel, see, hear, taste, smell and know. So, if we are to find the experience of freedom, intimacy, purpose, respect, and so on – we must, by definition, do it through the body’s processing of those experiences. In other words, how does one know what freedom (or any other experience) is, if not the feeling of freedom? And it’s not just the feeling of freedom, as some sort of objective truth, it is very much a personal experience. How two people define the experience can be very, very different.
Coming home to the body starts with getting to know it
In session, I usually work with clients to identify just one way, to start, that their body either is working towards their goal. For example, if a client is feeling trapped, I might raise the question, “Can you remember a time in which you felt free? How did that feel in the body?” A response might look like spaciousness, calm, or connection. Inevitably, as sensations, these qualities can be brought back and found in the body. The simple act of inquiry can lead to many a surprising and pleasant insight!
To come home to one’s self is to love one’s self, and one’s body as an extension of this self-love
I recently read an article about how to fall in love with anyone by Mandy Len Catron in the NY Times. Catron cites a study conducted 20 years prior by psychologist Arthur Aron in which he successfully got two people to fall in love “in his laboratory” by answering a series of 36 personal questions, followed by a period of eye gazing. Catron goes on to describe her personal experience applying the method. Towards the end of her piece, Catron remarks: “I wondered what would come of our interaction. If nothing else, I thought it would make a good story. But I see now that the story isn’t about us; it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.” This, for me, is the heart of coming home to the body; it’s taking the time and interest to get to know it, how it feels, what it wants and needs.
In energy work, we see thoughts and emotions as diffusing down into the physical body, creating states of health or dis-ease. To get to know the body, then, is to get to know the thoughts and emotions it holds. Truth be told, this is often what feels trapping, shameful, broken, etc — our old thoughts and emotions; and, sadly, these are often confused for the physical body itself. One of the greatest lessons we can learn is that our body is never an enemy.
I am sure you guessed it! Take some time to reflect on the following questions, adapted from the study for the self. If you find some of these questions too intense, I encourage you to seek out and/or work with your counselor or psychologist. If you feel like asking these questions has you ready to start changing your thought patterns and/or open up to greater possibilities, consider seeing an energy worker, such as a Reiki practitioner, to help support you in making the vibrational shift.
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Consider five things you consider a positive characteristic of yourself.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25. Make three true “we” statements that could apply to you and the person physically closest to you in the moment; it does not matter if you personally know them or not. For instance, “We are both in this park feeling … “
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
27. If you were going to become a close friend with the person physically closest to you in this moment, please share what would be important for him or her to know. Again, you do not need to personally know this person to do this exercise.
28. If you were to tell a stranger something you like about yourself, being very honest this time, what might you say that you might not ordinarily say to someone you’ve just met?
29. Recall an embarrassing moment in your life. What did you need at the time?
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. When’s the last time you told someone something that you like about them? What was it that you liked?
32. What, if anything, do you consider too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. Consider a personal problem, and whose advice you’d like on how to handle it. What feelings arise for you as you reflect on the problem?
To complete the practice, go to a mirror and look yourself in the eyes for four minutes. What starts to happen after minute two?