When Penny Mann had breast cancer she got tired of noticing everything. She was known as the queen of savoring but chemotherapy ruined it. Pain sucks. She needed to leave pain alone. Noticing and exformation didn’t help. She needed new practices. Reflecting with her, I saw her move her center to a spot above her body.
Dissociation has a place! Personally, I believe it’s a wonderful part of body wisdom. When is it the right time to distance yourself? Detach? Distract? Die to the moment to get back your life? We humans have amazing tricks up our unconscious sleeves for dealing with hard stuff.
Recently, my athletic seventy nine-year-old dad was clearing a mountain trail when he took a bad fall downhill. When he “came to” he had a banged up face and NO memory of the fall. How cool is that? His body’s grace program eclipsed the trauma saying, “No need to remember that!” When friends found him they fed him a piece of homemade pie and drove him home “just to be safe.” Home safe! Hallelujah!
In InterPlay we spend time remembering the great things about being in a body. We reintegrate body, mind, heart, and spirit, and attach velcro to grace experiences. We remember how to sing, dance, speak freely, be still, and intimately connect to the real world. Joy awakens and thrives as we relax our fixer-upper mentalities and, like children, delight in creativity.
Many of us suffering from depression, disease, physical or interpersonal pain, get relief and learn the secrets of what our body wants, simple hungers too easily overridden in this mechanistic era. Communal creativity boosts energy, leavens suffering, and then gives us pie and a ride home, too.
But sometimes suffering is still too much. What then? How sensitive are you? What are your limits for dealing with suffering?
To somatically embrace the world is not the only choice for consciously embodied people. You might need to know when to dim your somatic lights, pull back from political and social banquet tables and “drop connection” as an act of faith in something greater at work. You might need to focus on beauty even during the horrors. It might even be your great service.
Eastern religions address suffering with practice-able tools. Recognizing that “suffering exists,” the Buddha found meditation to be a prime way to alleviate rather than resist suffering. Yogi’s, Tibetans, ascetic monks and indigenous shamans give lifetimes to the body’s hidden wisdom using it to intervene on behalf of the suffering of others.
In InterPlay we use moment-to-moment practice-able ways that allow us to play with breath, moving or voice to activate kinesthetic imagination. With conscious intention we can
shift beyond our immediate body and grow big as spirit,
momentarily pull or shake pain out of our body,
shift attention onto something other than our suffering,
get all the way in our body using breath and grace-makers,
cultivate enjoyable trances other than pain trances.
As a sensitive body with low-grade depression, I use numerous tricks to function well: service to others, laughter, celebration, dimming and relaxing my sensations, telling my village the truth about how I’m doing, getting sleep, seeing a doctor, massage, taking medications, eating well, getting absorbed in art-making, asking or help and feedback.
And, in the long run, I honor, and dance with many unavoidable sources of suffering, the d words: death and dying, disaster, depression, decay, disease, disability, dread, despair, disorder, diagnoses, drugs, drunks, danger, downers, and darkness to name a few. I’ve learned it doesn’t work for me to disguise my underlying malaise. Talking about this with my husband, a hospice chaplain, we created this limerick.
“The feeling you don’t want to feel
feels like falling into an abyss.
You don’t want to feel it
because YOU can’t heal it.
And that’s the way it is…”
To this end, I am powerlessness. Accepting that I can’t play with it all and survive, I am grateful to belong to something bigger, wherever two or more are gathered and serve pie. I am glad for my grounding in a sense of a higher power that holds me in the Great Web even when disaster strikes.
Do you suffer? Step one is to learn to suffer just enough that you don’t make it worse. Step Two: Learning that you are not asked to suffer to your own detriment. You are not asked to revisit past sufferings to get better, or to forcefully revisit past suffering on others. You are not even asked NOT to suffer.
You are not required to walk on rocks or bear unnatural burdens. You may do all of this. but it is not required. You and I are only asked to be wise, to care for each other and ourselves, and as we can create life.
Life wants to play us, even after earthquakes, in prison, and when we lose everything. While we are still here, we can find ways to alleviate suffering, starting with our own. Sometimes we use the great tools of detachment and dissociation. It’s the wisdom of the body.
Come InterPlay, even if you feel lousy, especially if you feel lousy. And if that’s too much, let us know and we’ll dance on your behalf! Leave me your thoughts about how you dance with suffering.
For more thoughts on the soft side of body wisdom visit me at Mystic Tech: Things that They Didn’t Teach in Sunday School, Temple, or PE.