crisis of disembodiment

How Season One Changed Me

5117504656_60c48148e4_zI 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.

*Image: The Universe is in Us by Tahar Abroudlameur