For the last 3 years I have had the great honor of exploring inner space with the exceptional people I got to interview, and with all of you listeners who have formed such a warm and inquisitive community "body nerd" community. In this final episode of the Liberated Body Podcast my dear friend Vanessa Scotto- who is also the co-host over at my new show Bliss and Grit- is talking to me about the whole Liberated Body journey.
Today I’m talking with Judith Blackstone. Judith is the creator of The Realization Process, which is an integrated approach to embodiment for psychological, relational, physical and spiritual healing.
Judith is a clinical psychologist and a meditation practitioner and student of contemplative traditions with more than 40 years of experience. She is the author of several books including Belonging Here and The Enlightenment Process, and she is also the co-founder of the Nonduality Institute which is dedicated to the science and practice of non-duality.
In today’s conversation we’re talking about “the issues in the tissues”, or how emotional pain gets bound in the body- and also how it can be released, what fundamental consciousness is and why it’s useful to attune to it, how your experience of gravity and your fluidity of movement changes with this embodiment work, what happens when people bypass their stuck emotional pain, and how this work can help what I call the “sensies” of the world- the empaths- to do their work and to live fully without feeling overwhelmed much of the time.
For the final episode of season 3 Bo Forbes turns the tables and interviews me, Brooke Thomas. Bo asks me her own questions as well as those submitted from listeners (thank you!) and we cover a lot of ground. If you want to hear about my personal path with my body, how learning through the podcast changed the way I see all bodies, how I parent based on what I've learned, my current practices (particularly in natural movement and somatic meditation), and what the road ahead looks like tune in.
Bo and I spoke at length and below are the questions that were asked. The circuitous route that ensues after a question was asked is hard to capture so...
- What’s your earliest memory of being in your body?
- The sense of being different can be an impetus for innovation or a life sentence- how did that go in your life?
- What stands out as key moments bringing you into this work?
- What did your healing journey look like?
- How and why did you start Liberated Body? What was the intial vision, how has it changed, how has the practice of doing it changed you?
- From Rebecca M: "1) You mentioned you had health issues and became really good at eating crackers on the bench while others were involved in activity. When did you realize that you had crossed over from sedentary to a true lover of movement? 2) What were some of the obstacles you had along the way and how did you solve the problems?"
- Bo "The idea that the body should be or should do... it can give people imposter syndrome. Sometimes we just have to step into our place. Often the tipping points we experience are small and subtle, yet the world often conditions us to look for these big momentous transformations.
- From Patrice N “I know that your curiosity (at least I think I know that) and some physical issues brought you to looking more deeply into embodiment as a topic - but now, after this time of exploration - can you say something of the value you've gained from working with embodiment practices? Often, students/clients don't get what or how an embodied existence enriches the experience of being human. They seem to think that if they simply feel "no pain" things are fine."
- From Jill Miller “What do you do for your non-negotiable daily self-care?”
- From Kristin W "Your mention of the Meditating with the Body program, inspired me to check out Dharma Ocean. The result is that I have been meditating on a daily basis for the first time in my life! The Dharma Ocean approach of deeply grounding in our sacred bodies has changed my life in a short few months. I would love to hear about your experience with it."
- Luna E “What are your movement actions/daily/weekly/monthly? and how have you dealt with or have you had any injuries?"
- Natalie “With all the info that you gather how do you discern what to practice for yourself?”
- Marita “Who or what has changed your way of thinking about your body?”
- John S “In season 3 we’ve heard from some fabulous researchers. I know there is so much that can be learned through the lens of science. At the same time, I sometimes question how suitable science is for learning about the embodied experience. Science is necessarily based on objectivity and reductionism, while our embodied experience is inherently subjective and holistic. Given these differences, what do you see as the promises and pitfalls of research into the embodied experience?"
- Julie F “1. Given that body and mind is not separate, and this speaker's discussion has implications for body, mind, and life practices - I would like him to expand that more. Also how he practice the line in his life. 2. Do you have 'play list by theme', also for women..since I don't see too many women in your talks."
- Ana Maria “I want to know how all the body nerdery has impacted what you're teaching or practicing with your son?”
- Kathleeen L "Anderson Cooper' recent comment about his massage therapy experience has incited much conversation in our profession. I have been inspired by his experience that negative emotions can be massaged into the body. For the past few days, I have been asking my clients to share a happy, positive thought as I address their area of concern. For example, I had a teacher with tight shoulders. I prompted her to talk about why she got into teaching and her favorite memories as I massaged her upper trapezius. Is there any research or theory to support the idea that positive or negative thoughts can affect muscles in this way?"
- Cathy H “How do you metabolize this incredible world of questions and discovery and constant emerging-ness that the podcast invites us into? Everything I believe to be true is only the case for a moment in time and sometimes I feel that what makes me feel curious and alive also makes me feel a touch overwhelmed.”
- What will you be up to in the off season? What projects are next?
The year 2015 has been an abundance of riches for me, and really much of that is due to listeners like you. When I began the Liberated Body Podcast I knew I wanted to talk with teachers and thought leaders who were shaping the way we understood our own bodies. It felt like a personal master's degree that I was putting together for myself in order to immerse myself more deeply in my field. I just happened to decide to do it in public via a podcast. What I didn't anticipate was the thriving tribe of body nerds who would come join the party and make it infinitely richer.
The way I know that I'm on to something over here is not because fantastic people agree to talk with me, or that I'm gradually improving my interviewing skills, or any silly metric like a growing number of listeners. It is because all of you are so scary smart, dialed into your own bodies, and profoundly aware of how critical it is to make the world a more embodied place. And you want to listen to my show!?Whaaaa!?
I feel so humbled and grateful that you have wandered into my world and to know all of you through this little body nerd learning home we have created here. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a part of this journey with me. And thank you for the good work you are doing in the world- I know most of you are teaching and practicing in the wide array of somatic fields and this work is so sorely needed on the planet right now. Keep it up.
With that, here are some of the highlights from the show for me in 2015 in order from January to the most recent. Picking a favorite episode can feel like picking a favorite child, so I just sifted through my mind and heart for the outtakes that I keep returning to most frequently.
Our superficial fascia is this sort of glowing leaf that we all wear, and it’s a sensual, slippery slope, it’s an emotional ride, it’s part of our sexuality and our sensuality. I would go so far as to say it’s part of how we listen to our world. It’s a kind of antennae that we pick up information of a certain type. In other words, texture has specific structure, and therefore specific tone. We can go very far into it. Superficial fascia is an endocrine organ. It’s an organ of metabolism. We could go on with its many different features, but that’s only because I’ve come to notice and accept it as this thing that we all have. It belongs there.
We’re depleted without it. If you consider also this is the place where a baby rests on it’s mother’s breast, and nurses there, that this is part of the layer as well. When we refuse it, or curse it, and hate it, we hate all that it brings to us as well, and separate ourselves from that comfort, from that sensuality, from the ministry of the superficial fascia to our personalities in a life. We put ourselves away from our self when we hold up to brutal criticism, a tissue. Some day down the road maybe we’ll hate muscle the way we hate superficial fascia now, and it’ll reverse. We didn’t always hate it. It’s a new thing to hate that tissue.
One of the pieces that I became aware of and really became such an integral part of the work that I teach is that I heard so often that gravity was the enemy; That you have to fight it and the way you fought it was by holding up against it. Before I met Dr. Rolf in dance and in different posture classes we were taught to pull up to the sky hook. Dr. Rolf had her own model.. It also had this up feel, this is a feeling of up that you had to pull up against the force of gravity pulling us down.
When I look at that model in action I didn’t like the effort. This little voice inside me said, “If this is correct, why does it have to be so effortful? If this is correct, why do people not do it naturally?” Therefore I was off jumping in to the field of trying to figure out a different way of finding a better posture and being on the planet. I’m not lifting up. I never saw a sky hook before. The only sky hook I’ve ever seen are those that hold the skeleton by the head in a screw. There is no sky hook. If we bounce off the earth, if we let go into gravity, it increases this pressure into the ground and it pushes back on us. As children we learn that spontaneously.
We essentially are foams... When I started doing this, I tried to find some structure that looked like a cell and that would build from a cell. The icosahedron is one of the Platonic Solids going way back. It’s a fully triangulated structure. Again, only triangles are inherently stable, so if you’re going to have flexible hinges, you have to be triangulated. It’s omnidirectional so that you can turn in any direction. It has the largest volume for surface area, so it’s energetically in the sense of using materials that are most economical. It can be close-packed to fill space or would fill spaces like cellular space filling. It joins together. When it does join together, it’ll share structures.
It’s like sharing the faces in the bubble, as we pointed out. The individual icosahedrons can actually then function as a one unit structurally, but it also has the ability to function as the individual unit. They become independent and interdependent at the same time. It can have an external or internal skeleton. You can internalize the compression elements instead of keeping it in the outside shell, and that internal creation is a self-emerging property that comes from the structure itself. It also has mechanical properties that are non-linear, or viscoelastic, which is the same as biologic materials.
The body is full of bliss. Absolutely. That's the greatest secret of all actually- It's brimming with it and somehow we remove ourselves from it... I think something in our culture has said no way can we experience bliss, especially if it's free. No way can that be the case. How can that possibly be the case!? We've sinned way too much to experience something as beautiful as that.
But it's there, it's on offer from your cells all the time. We've just generated this ability to shift away from it. Maybe it's unbearable? The unbearableness of light? We like misery- it's what we know. We are completely as mad as hatters. It's kind of funny really. I laugh at myself and all of us, we're so crazy and we keep digging the hole don't we? We make it worse all the time. It's got to be more complex, faster... all kinds of weird attainments to get to.
And all the time the very thing we probably do want is right there, it's sat with you, it's sat within you. It's your biology. I don't think you need to make it any more complex than that. The bliss of biology. The bliss of your blood moving around you body. And when you start to tune into these things- the simple things like your heart beating and literally arterial and venous flows- it's totally blissful. Give it a week of meditation and you'll be walking around in this beautiful state all the time and not getting caught up in the past or the future. There lies happiness. Just feeling your bones- that is the most beautiful thing. To feel the living bone. Not as an idea, not as a visualization, but to actually to drop into your sensory awareness of that. And on it goes... that is a universe of experience. It's endless. Endless experience and it's all within. All that is necessary is a finessing of your sensing apparatus.
The "long body" is a rarely talked about Native American term. My understanding of the long body is that it refers to the individual body plus the life support systems around it. So it's a much bigger conception of the human body than what we normally have in Western culture. This seems not just to be a Native American idea but it comes up again and again in native or indigenous cultures. They don't make such a distinction between the body and the larger environment; They see the body as being continuous with the larger environment...
In this realm the question that always comes up is why do you have a nervous system, what does it do? And the short answer is that you have a nervous system to regulate your own body. That's true and that sounds good; It's fantastically effective at doing that. But the nervous system has other functions as well that have to do with learning. For human beings in particular, the purpose of the nervous system is to learn habitat and to learn our social environment as well. So we have this incredible sensitivity to these two things: the land, habitat, to plants, the weather, sensation. And also we have this incredible sensitivity to one another.
In other words, the nervous system is all about helping us to learn our life support systems: The ecological ones and the tribal ones. This is why we have a nervous system. If we ignore the life support systems of habitat and tribe then we look at the body in isolation and we miss so much of what the body is actually doing in the world. The body is not as singular and unitary as it would appear.
Fascia is by no means new, it's been there since before the dinosaurs. But what's very interesting from a historical point of view is that it was largely ignored anatomically for its significance. What that means is that John Godmen 100 years before Andrew Taylor Still, 100 years before where we are now, all mentoined the fascia as being highly siginficant and a major part of the body when viewed from an anatomical point of view.
What happened was, if we go back in history very briefly- basically science has to have an element of something popular that inspires the patronage of the appropriate circles to have it considered and have it researched. Rene Descartes was considered to be the father of modern science and he did what Candace Pert in the book Molecules of Emotion called a turf deal with the Pope. Human dissection was not allowed, it was forbidden. So he did a deal with the Pope persuading him that it was appropriate to do human dissection. The Pope basically sanctioned human dissection under very specific circumstances- the church held jurisdiction over the mind, the spirit, the soul and the emotions- anything non-physical. And the physical body only could be taken to science and examined under scientific law. According to Candace Pert that created a rift in the science. It took it down a road under the auspices of the person that had this type of examination sanctioned.
We can't make Rene Descartes the bad guy, his work was extraordinary, but the circumstances under which that work developed meant that the future of work with the body was designated under the way clocks were managed. Horology was another one of his [Rene Descartes] studies- and he suggested that the human body functioned by means like a clock- levers and pendulums. He saw it as like any other automaton. It was divorced from its context. And so anatomy progressed in scraping away anything that isn't a thing.
When you do a dissection fascia is everywhere... Fascia is continuous and ubiquitous. It is absolutely everywhere and it is connected from the tiniest microscopic part of the innermost core of a muscle out to the skin. And it covers the bones, the organs, the neurovascular vessels- absolutely everything within this mesh-and it is continuous. That is one of the reasons why when it is unbroken it affects everything we do.
No one is saying the muscles aren't doing anything, no one is saying the bones are not doing anything- No one is saying throw out the old and in with the new. We are inviting an evolution of the perspective. We are saying we have to include this highly significant fabric of our form because it is all joined up.
We're all effectively crystals. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but our bones are crystalline, the collagen itself is semi-crystalline. And one of the properties of crystals is pizeoelectricity. That means that when you bend a crystal it will create electricity. And equally if you apply electricity to a crystal it will bend.
So anyone who's got a cigarette lighter with the clicky thing that produces a spark- that spark is being produced by pizeoelectricity. There is a tiny quartz crystal in there and when you push it down it deforms this quartz crystal and you get more electrical current on one side and that arcs across the gap and you get a spark of electricity. This is happening all the time within our bodies. The collagen itself appears to be pizeoelectric.
Within our bones this is almost certainly why astronauts lose all their bone mass in space. Because the gravitational stress on your bones is constantly deforming the collagen and that's producing electrical currents. Where these currents are strongest we know that bone cells move into the area nd they lay down calcium and phosphorus and this creates hardness, this creates incompressibliity... This is governed by the electricity in the area generated when things move.
When you go into space because there is not more gravitational stress on the bones there is no more stressing of the collagen and no more piezoelectricity. So the bone cells, called osteoblasts, think, "Oh great! We've done a fantastic job and there's no need to do anymore building." And then the bones get slowly reabsorbed. So piezoelectricity is everywhere in our bodies, and again it's almost completely ignored by Western medicine.
Happy 2016 everyone! I look forward to more deep body learning with all of you soon, and am currently in the process of creating the line up for season 3 of the podcast. It never ceases to amaze me how many spectacular people there are to talk to in the somatic fields. I look forward to sharing those conversations with you soon!
More! More! So many more jewels! I won’t bore you with an intro- you get the idea. I am sharing my favorite 20 moments from season one- courtesy of these gorgeous people who shared their wisdom with all of us. Part one of that post (with 1 through 10) is here. Other learnings from season one are here. And... 11 through 20 is…. Here! 11. Dissociation, or a limited/confused body map, is often the root cause of pain. Steve Haines: “The sense of being outside of our body is a common theme actually... people don’t know that there is this much richer experience of the body. It’s really not a given. People with pain commonly have more of this kind of dissociation. Dissociation comes first likely due to the responses to being overwhelmed..Dissociation is a last ditch survival strategy, and often the root cause of more pain.
Your brain is expecting you to have a body, so if we’re beginning to cut ourselves off from that, if we’re flooding bits of the spinal cord with endorphins to limit the incoming signals, then you’ve got a big absence. And the absence of something when your brain is expecting it to be there is a threat. It may be that we fill that absence with pain to say, ‘Do something about this.’”
12. “We are an under-grieved society” Oof. When Judith Hanson Lasater said this to me it just pierced right through me. Cleary it’s because I had stuff to grieve, but it’s also because on a larger society-wide scale she’s right. Perhaps it pierced through you too? : “We all experience loss in tiny ways every day. When people have a loss in their lives we try to fix that and say, ‘Don’t be sad. Here take this drug, or let’s go for a run…’ depression follows from that. Depression is anger without enthusiasm. Depression is not feeling sad. People who can feel sadness are deeply alive, because it’s an intense feeling that balances joy.
There is something spiritually profound about being still and watching your mind. Most of our unhappiness is not created by what happens to us but by what we tell ourselves about it. With Restorative Yoga you create a space to watch the rising and falling of thoughts. And then the most important thing we can do can happen- we can dis-identify with our thoughts, ‘I am having a thought of anger, a thought of sadness, but it’s not who I am.’”
13. Redesigning your life to be less convenient can have huge benefits. Valerie Berg, in talking about structural aging and the shoulder pain and immobility that can result from not raising your arms above our heads mentioned, “Years ago I had my kitchen redone and I had them make the cabinets really high, so every day I have to reach really high to get bowls and things.” I love that! We should start a design movement around objects that make life less convenient and therefore make us move more... who’s with me? (P.S. I know Valerie in the real world- not super well but we’ve been in the same place at the same time together- and she is one of the most sparkly personalities. It’s like she’s always got some secret she is delighted by, or some fun-loving prank she might pull at any moment. So to picture her telling a kitchen designer/contractor that she wanted to make it hard for her to reach her things in the cabinets just gave me a special kind of giggle and satisfaction.)
14. Oh fascia. Why won’t anyone give you the cred you deserve? Fortunately for us people like Thomas Myers are on the case. And he’s spreading the concept of fascia as the 3rd big auto-regulatory system: “So I’ve put forth this idea that the fascia is the 3rd big auto-regulatory system. The nervous system is an amazing auto-regulatory system, and circulatory system ever since the 1600′s has been seen as just that- we add in the lymph and the cerebrospinal fluid and we have an idea of how the fluids work in the body.
After 500 years of anatomy we still don’t have this image of the fascia as a whole system. Every time I go to Equinox in NY I see someone on a foam rolling out their iliotibial band. It’s really of limited value, and it’s really quite painful, and if someone could see this as a part of this larger system they might not do it- but the predominating vision in a lot of people’s minds is that we think of ourselves as put together like a Ford or a Dell computer. We live in an industrial society, and so we think of ourselves in these terms. But it’s a really inadequate view.
15. Let’s examine the openness bias, shall we? Matthew Remski: “The openness bias- of flexibility as the goal- is harmful not only to those who are hypermobile, but also to those who are less mobile as well. The studio culture often tells us that more open is more virtuous. Those who identify as “bendy types” were praised for going deep into poses which weren’t really hard for them. And as they were being asked to demonstrate and practicing they were injuring themselves. Women within the hypermobile category are showing the highest rate of lumbar spine injuries.
The other thing about the openness bias is that there is this unspoken connection between joint mobility and emotional openness. Looking at back-bends: when called heart-opening, it suggests that a particular thoracic movement will have a particular emotional effect. Openness in the joints is often associated with an ability to be placid and accepting. First, are these virtues we actually want? And second, is that actually true? I don’t have statistics, but I’ve met plenty of bendy people who are as emotionally closed as anybody else I know.
16. What the hell is stretching anyway!? Jules Mitchell totally blew my mind when the work she did for her Master’s Thesis confirmed what I had been experiencing my whole life: “The concept of stretching in itself, at least in the yoga community, this idea that if you stretch more and stretch harder that it will get longer and you will increase your range and you will get more flexible has very little truth to it. In reality that’s just damaging it [the tissue]. If you hold a rubber band and stretch it, then you release that- you release the load- it goes back to its original shape.
Lack of range of motion is not realty about lengthening. It’s much more an issue of tolerance. It’ s a use it or lose it thing. If you never work in that range of motion your body doesn’t understand it and doesn’t want to go there.
So your nervous system limits your range of motion. That argument is the hardest one to come to terms with- that for the most part range of motion is an issue of tolerance and not mechanical length. “Tolerance” means can they go there? When they hit the end of their range, that’s their nervous system limiting their range. If they were under anesthesia, they would have a full range of motion.”
17. Compression doesn’t just make your back feel cranky. Eric Goodman: “The modern body is super compressed- we are losing the war against gravity terribly. What about the digestive issues, the depression, the mood issues- these are just other forms of compression.”
18. The wolf and the Chihuahua. I asked Erwan LeCorre, “What are zoo humans?” And he responded, “It is a metaphor. Some people are insulted by it- a different metaphor would be that we’re farm animals, or domesticated animals. We’re a little bit like pets. All dog species come from the wolf, which means the Chihuahua and the wolf are related. The Chihuahua would die within hours or days in a wild environment. We are fabricating a form of a “human breed”. We are to our ancestors what the Chihuahua is to a wolf. It’s not about giving people a hard time- but it’s an observation that most people have become alien to the body and are in a state of physical neglect.”
19. A return to head carrying? Esther Gokhale, “Head carrying is something we are not doing at all in our culture. We are really missing out from not doing this. If you have to carry on your head it keeps the rest of your spine honest. You get immediate feedback and you have to straighten out. Putting a small weight on the head is the best way to line things up. It is a very primal experience. All the stabilizers in your neck and spine say, “We know this!” and gear into action. “
20. Can you re-visit your infancy to get super strong as an adult? Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert of Original Strength enlightened us about the bridge between movement and brain development, and how we’re actually regressing our brain development in our under-moving culture. Tim and Geoff developed their work by looking at information that had been previously been applied in the areas of learning disabilities, brain development, and brain rehabilitation.
As always, I am hugely grateful to all the smarties who have shared their work and passion with all of us. Thank you. This is the end of my indulging in nostalgia for season one (well in print anyway), and season 2 will arrive on (Liberated) Tuesday, April 21st. Yes! For reals! More nuggets of wisdom!
Additionally, April is a challenge- aka movement cleanse- month for us, so if you have been curious to try out the Liberated Body 30-Day Challenge, there just isn’t a better season (in my opinion) to dive in than glorious springtime. And if you have been a challenger in the past, you’re still in and can rejoin the group for fun kinesthetic exploring again. If you have no idea what I’m talking avbout of course, you can visit the challenge page to read up on all the details. Doors open this Saturday the 28th. Let’s play this April!
I sat down to write a post of the things that most impacted me from season 1 of the Liberated Body Podcast, and as I started writing I realized that in 36 weekly episodes of talking with some brilliant, real-deal body nerd thought leaders my mind has exploded. I’ve actually been changed by this process. Not only do I see the body really differently than when I started, but it has translated into seeing the world differently too. Suffice it to say, as I kept typing and typing it occurred to me- by the time I hit page 10- that this was (at least) a two-parter. So for this post I’ll tell you the 2 most important broad concepts that have rocked my world, and in the next installment I’ll get into my favorite moments from different episodes that made me think, “Whaaaaaat?! Wow!” It might need 3 installments, we’ll see... In the meantime:
Big concept #1: There are whole universes (yes plural) in there.
I went into making the podcast knowing I still had oodles to learn, but also feeling like I was pretty well educated about the human body. What I discovered is that I will spend my whole life learning about the body and I will never be able to fully, or even partly, know it.
Have you seen the update of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos that came out recently? If you want an expansive experience do yourself a favor and watch the first episode. This episode takes us from our planet, to the other planets in our solar system, to where we lie within the Milky Way Galaxy, to the galaxies next door- we are one of thousands within the Virgo Supercluster, and each galaxy contains billions of suns and countless worlds- and this forms only a tiny part of our observable universe. Not to mention that there is a limit to how far we can see in space-time- there is so much we can’t even glimpse. In the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson (the new narrator of the series), “Many suspect that our observable universe is a tiny bubble in an ocean of multiple universes.” Phew. It feels pretty vast. And that’s how I feel the more I get to know the body.
If the deep space to inner space analogy seems far-fetched, take a look at this video that animates the inner life of a cell. [Created by XVIVO in partnership with Harvard. If the "big word" fast-paced narration and music bugs you just mute it and trip out on the visuals]
Look at the whole organized metropolis going on in one cell! Now remember we have about 70 trillion of them within each of our bodies. Yeesh.
I am not going to “figure out” the body ever, but I plan to enjoy whatever time I’ve got in this lifetime peering into its multitude of universes, and glimpsing, if I’m lucky, some of the many lessons each one has to teach us about our humanity.
Big concept #2: We are living during a crisis of embodiment.
I started the Liberated Body site (originally Fascia Freedom Fighters- big shout out to all of you who have been with me from the beginning- thank you!) with the hopes that it could be a resource for helping people out of pain and mobility issues. I believed at the time that we were living through an epidemic of chronic pain (we are) and I wanted to do what I could to build a bridge for people to all the fantastic resources available in the manual and movement therapy fields. This was with the intent of helping people to get out of pain and to have a body that does what they want it to do. Ok, head exploding, so much to say about all this:
First, yes we are living through an epidemic of chronic pain, but I’ve come to realize it is but one wee, tiny symptom of a much larger problem- the epidemic of disembodiment. Being out of our bodies, or thinking of them only as tools to do what our mind decides it wants from them, costs us even more than the pain does. Ultimately, at its worst, it costs us our humanity. Check out this sweet definition of the word to see what I mean, “Disembodiment: lacking substance, solidity, or any firm relation to reality.”
In this culture where the thinking mind is primary (by a long shot), we have reduced our body as the tool that determines whether we are healthy or unhealthy in the physical sense. If you get more frequent natural movement for example, you aren’t as likely to wind up being a good candidate for a total knee replacement. This is true and good- who wants a knee replacement after all- but being embodied has even bigger implications than just being more healthy vs. less healthy.
In the words of Reggie Ray in his excellent book Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body:
“For us to recover our original or primary body as our own involves experiencing the totality of oneself, without judgment. Living with a directness that is not filtered or distorted by the thinking mind; rediscovering ourselves within the network of relations with others; coming to awareness again of the primordality of the natural world as a subject… Recovering our basic, inborn body has then profound implications for healing the self, mending our broken relationships, restoring a healthy relationship to our world, and healing the planet.”
In other words: get in your body and you can evolve. This includes but expands far beyond feeling good in your physical body (though certainly feeling good in your physical self is big time good stuff…).
Approaching the body from an expectation for it to feel good all the time so that it can do what we want it to do also sets up an interesting dynamic. I believe the body communicates with us via pain or dysfunction when it’s trying to get our attention about any number of things. (*It is important to note that it also communicates with us via pleasure and delight.)
My own significant pain and dysfunction, which came to a head in my early 20’s, forced me to face a lot of things. At its most simple: that I had a body, that it had been suffering, that I had frozen up in a number of ways to ignore that suffering, and now I had to deal with all that crap. And dealing with all that crap (and continuing to now that I know how to have a relationship with my body) well, it actually opened up an awful lot of space for an entirely more nourishing life. Like, light years more nourishing.
Said another way, to take the perspective that we just plain want pain or dysfunction to go away and stay away is kind of like undertaking therapy or meditation with the goal of never feeling an emotion again. I’m not saying to suck it up and suffer. I’m saying that a simple shift in perspective might make the whole body thing more bearable. Perhaps it is not a faulty machine that needs to be fixed so it can do our bidding. Perhaps it is our ally and the universes contained within it (see point 1), have some pretty interesting things to say once they get our attention. Having a two-way conversation with our somatic self, instead of cursing it like it’s a busted car, can set off an unfolding process where we can heal, certainly, but you can also gain quite a bit of insight in the process.
No matter how much therapy or meditation you do you will always have a shifting landscape of emotions based on your life and your approach to that life. Likewise, no matter how much thoughtful manual and movement therapy work you do, your body will go through its ups and downs.
The intricacies of the body will continue to reveal themselves to you throughout your lifetime. If you are able to acknowledge and work with these ups and downs it becomes a conversation or a kind of dance (much like working with difficult emotions); Whereas if you are unable to acknowledge and work with the information from your body, that is when more intractable problems and suffering take place (again, much like working with difficult emotions).
If I didn’t suffer from verbosity I would have just said this: perfection isn’t the goal because it’s not even an option. Having a relationship with your body is the goal. It’s what’s on the menu if you choose it. And it’s tasty; The perks of embodiment are vast.
I also learned, oh, about a million other new things thanks to the wonderful people who agreed to talk with me. I’ll get into those in the next post, so stay tuned.
P.S. If you are racing to keep up with some part of your life (even if you love that part)- say getting your kids to their activities, finishing a seemingly endless work project, getting to your workouts, or what have you- try just simply stopping it for a while.
Sounds terrifying right? Then I give to you a delightful word that my dear friend Vanessa Scotto gifted to me: sabbatical. As in taking a temporary break or change from your normal routine. It’s not permanent- so no need to panic- just let it breathe for a while.
If there is some part of your life that feels like you are trapped on a treadmill on its highest setting- and some part of your brain has been convinced that simply getting off the treadmill would mean life as we know it would likely cease to exist- stop. See what happens when you open up some space around it.
For me personally making the podcast is one of the most exciting and nourishing things I’ve ever done in my career. Yet, at some point, it felt like I was just tossing content over the fence to keep up with the treadmill I had created for myself. Taking this time off before season 2 has allowed me to integrate all the delicious deep learning I did in those 36 episodes. And that has been really nourishing and totally invaluable.
P.P.S. I am working on season 2 at this point and I’m really excited about it!! Thus far it’s looking like the podcast will return at some point in the month of April. However I’m navigating uncharted editing waters, so I’ll keep you posted as I follow my learning curve.
Sadly there is no podcast today as things are shape-shifting in juicy ways here over at Liberated Body HQ (it’s very glamorous- lots of empty tea mugs, piles of paper and books, and an archery target fashioned out of yoga blocks and paper for my son...). I’ll just come right out and say it- I’m sorry! I left last week’s episode saying I would be “back next Liberated Tuesday”, and when I handed that episode in to my sound production guy (Hi Tom!) that was what I intended. But have you ever had ideas that keep itching at you until you just need to pay attention to them? It’s been one of those weeks. So here’s what’s changing, why, when I’ll be back, and what new goodies are coming up for you:
The episodes will be shape-shifting a little bit, mainly just by virtue of the fact that I will be spending more time editing and producing them in order to give them the level of craft and attention that they deserve. The 40,000 moments of awe that I have within every conversation deserve a better container, so I’m going to shoot for that. I’m new to this, so we’ll see how that all unfolds!
Since that’s a journey that I’m on over here, it’s probably more important to tell you what’s not changing:
What’s not changing:
The brilliant, lovely, inspiring people I have been talking to will not go away! I will still be talking to body nerds extraordinaire.
This will still be a show that very much celebrates getting to know this wondrous thing we live in (Hey! That also happens to be the show’s new tagline...)
Which brings me to why:
Besides wanting to pay attention to a higher level of craft for the podcast, there is other stuff that has been itching at me. I can only really describe it through how I felt concluding my first experience with Rolfing, 17 years ago.
When I did my first Rolfing series I showed up there so broken. I was 22 and had grown up with pain and mobility issues, so I was your basic desperation case. When I completed my 10 series, I was radically different. My Rolfer, Joe Wheatley, had a journal there that people could write a little something in as they left their 10th session. I’m paraphrasing because I haven’t seen that journal in a long time, but what I basically wrote was, “Thank you for introducing me to myself.”
I could have written: “My constant neck, back, jaw, and sacroiliac pain is gone. I can eat solid food again. I went out for a run today for the first time in my adult life. I feel light years better.” All of those things were true, and I was grateful as hell for every single one of them. But what I chose to write was, “Thank you for introducing me to myself.”
The upside of having a birth injury and then growing up with pain and dysfunction is that I really didn’t know what it was like to live in my body. I knew what it was like to be bothered by my body, and then ignore it some more, and then be bothered again, and on and on. In my 20’s my body’s complaining got loud enough that I couldn’t ignore it and so I was “forced” to pay attention. As I got better what was unveiled was the concept that I even had a body... it was totally novel. And so, so f*cking exciting and, well, liberating that I can’t even describe what that was like.
I don’t think I’m alone. Birth injury or not, pain or not, we live in a culture that is really disembodied. Most of us get introduced to our physical selves somewhere a ways down the road from where we begin.
The Liberated Body Podcast started out in more of a how-to vein, but thanks to the wonderful guests I’ve talked to and thanks in large part to how all of you as listeners have shaped it, it has become about a deeper relationship with our bodies. One that transcends “stop hurting now” and “perform better now”(both of which are totally valid, and both of which I think to myself several times a week...)
But here’s what I want to highlight more- the raw, unbridled awe that comes from a different place. The, “Holy shit! I’m alive! I have a body! What does that mean!? What can it do!?” that starts to seep in when we dip our toes into the infinite universe inside of us. It still manages to constantly feel like being let in on a miraculous secret.
We’ll still talk about things that help us to stop hurting and to perform better, but the thrust behind that will be- I hope- wonder, awe, and excitement.
I’m still over here doing my Liberated Body thing. I’ve been conducting interviews with amazing folks as usual (Frank Forencich! Ged Sumner! Jessica Wolf! Jamie McHugh!), but since I knew I was wanting to really craft the episodes more attentively I didn’t want to keep pushing episodes out the door. Instead I’m working on those while I lean into this new learning curve. I'm not sure when I'll be back (eek!) but my hope is it will only be a few weeks. I'll keep the Facebook page and Twitter updated as things evolve.
This also means that I’m not sure how often I will be able to produce new episodes. I’ve been managing weekly episodes with my Rolfing practice and being a mama, but the increased production time might make for a longer interval between episodes. But maybe not- we’ll see!
Many of you have still been sending me ideas for shows and guests, and I’m still delighted to hear all of those! I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other stuff is in the pipeline including some website tweaks, potential sponsors for the show, and opportunities for listeners to both support the show and to be more a part of it. Looking at each one:
The website: Probably not that exciting to you, but I look forward to a micro-makeover that will better reflect the show’s direction.
The sponsors: The podcast is important to me and I want to dedicate myself to it as full time as I can, which means I need to earn some income from it- because I don’t have a magical trust fund hiding anywhere. The obvious answer is to get sponsors/advertisers which I wasn’t that psyched about until I remembered that this is my show and I can do what I want with it! Hooray! There is no boss-man who is going to tell me I have to advertise herbal penis enlargement pills...
I have had several advertisers reach out to me and so far I have said no to everyone because they just didn’t feel like a fit (no penis enlargers in the group, but lots of nutraceuticals and exercise equipment). I am currently reaching out to brands who I already adore giving a shout out to, so we’ll see.
For you!: Once I have gotten into a rhythm after re-launching the podcast I will have opportunities for listeners to support the show and to get goodies back for their support. Sure, some of those things will be small gestures like a t-shirt, but there will be other bigger goodies like a monthly hang out for a small group of body nerds where we can all talk together about what’s left floating around in our brains from each episode. Stay tuned!
Whew. Big doin’s. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks so much for being on the ride with me. Oh and, as always, keep on making the world a more embodied place : ).
P.S. The guides? Yes, I had planned to produce a whole library of guides, and some of you were waiting for the next installment. For now I’m going to try on this novel thing I’ve heard about called focus and really dig into making the podcast as amazing as it can be. The fate of the guides will evolve from there.