I remember the first time I realised the power of the mind-body connection.
Years ago, I was listening to a guided meditation on the train. As I followed along, I literally felt the pressure and tension around my heart loosen and lighten. The stress and worry that had been weighing on my chest dissipated.
About a year ago, I heard about somatic therapy on the Over It and On With It podcast. That’s it, I thought. That’s what I need.
I found a somatic therapist in the city, a few minutes from my office, and booked a session. It was incredibly awkward. I sat on the couch. I talked and talked and talked. I filled all the silence. She barely said anything.
And then I felt something within me. Coalescing. Shifting. I felt tingles. I felt hot and cold. I felt this ball, this mass of energy, manifesting inside my body, moving around, and eventually, worm its way toward my right arm, down to my hand, and out of me.
It sounds batshit crazy, but that is the best explanation I can give you, and that is exactly what happened on that sofa in that hour.
All I did was sit and speak my truth in this woman’s presence, and that is what happened.
Later that year, I did a short Zoom session in which the practitioner helped me work through a sticky situation. I identified a person who was the source of my stress, focused on my body, and located her around my heart/chest. She was so stuck there, I couldn’t even get her to turn around 180 degrees.
We worked on visualising her going down a golden path, and eventually we went our separate ways. She left my body, and I felt immensely relieved.
I went on to write a boundary-setting email back to that person and felt great about it. (And perhaps amazingly, she responded well to it.)
What to make of all this?
I’m a pretty damn practical person. Pragmatic. Realistic. Sceptical. I take a pretty scientific approach to lots of things. I believe what I see. And I also believe what I experience.
I believe there’s probably a lot that science hasn’t caught up and maybe never will be able to. In invisible planes and dimensions. Even if it weren’t for that… well, as a friend in the social sciences says… this stuff doesn’t really interest white dudes, generally.
These days I would say I identify as somewhat spiritual; somewhat woo.
I once worked with a couple of healers (that’s what they called themselves) and did a bunch of research into non-western/alternative medicine to support the course material they were creating. I stepped into a whole new world. Muscle testing. Chakras. I quietly scoffed at it all, but in hindsight… I gotta admit, emotions and trauma most certainly live in the body, and doesn’t it make sense that certain emotions are stored in/associated with certain body parts?
If we think of emotions as energy in motion … they need to move; they need somewhere to go. That’s why movement and motion is part of completing the stress cycle.
Instinctively, I realise I’ve always known this. I used to physically shake it off after a stressful interaction, like a dog does (or even when they dry themselves). I’d even meow aloud … that somehow just felt like a good release mechanism, a steam valve of sorts, letting it all move on through and out of me.
Connecting to the body’s wisdom
What are your happiest memories? When did you feel you were living and experiencing life to the fullest? When did you feel most alive? Were your senses really engaged? Were you caught up in thoughts, or enjoying the moment – engrossed and engaged in your surroundings, what you felt, sensed, saw, heard, tasted, smelled?
We often spend our days living in our heads, our minds, and not in our bodies. I know that for me, that disconnection has certainly spawned troubles. The body will tell you when you’ve had enough. It breaks down. Depending how out of touch you are, it might take a few alarm bells. Your body compass will always, however, point you in the right direction.
I’ve learned to start dropping down into my body and seeing how she feels about any choice I face.
Does it feel light, expansive, open? Or does thinking about it feel small and constricted? That is a strong indicator of which way to go. Think about how you’ve physically felt when making decisions in the past, and how they turned out. Did you feel heavy, burning, tingling, cold? Use those as a guide to calibrate your body compass. These are all clues pointing you toward or away from something.
As adults, we tend to detach from our bodies. Reconnecting is an integral part of healing, and the integrated healing that follows can be so powerful.
Intuition and the inner voice
I think back to when I was very young. To times my instincts, nudges, intuition were very strong. Times they turned out to be right. It would sound silly to describe those instances, which were hardly consequential, but very powerful and that I’ve never forgotten.
The older we get, the more we learn to tune out our inner voice. To stifle it with logic. And sometimes we return and learn to listen once again.
If you feel called to, later in life, you may want to dial back into that internal voice. Because we tend to regret not trusting ourselves.
And if talk therapy isn’t cutting it anymore for you, like me, I so encourage you to explore somatic options. At that stage, continually mining the same old ground wasn’t helping. There was nothing useful to extract. I had to heal on the physical level, without necessarily having to go back into the experiences and rehash them.