How to See, Hear & Hold Yourself through an Embodiment Practice (Part 2)

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While I meant to follow up with Part 2 weeks ago, the month of May (December’s ugly sister), held me hostage until all the school festivities settled. I could have pushed through in some way — stayed up too late, skipped a morning walk — but part of my own mothering myself is listening to my body for creativity cues. I’ve yet to embody Anne Lamott’s “butt in chair” advice if it’s past sundown or I’ve got the wiggles.

Like I mentioned in my last post, this embodiment work of seeing, hearing and holding yourself involves:
”somatic work as ‘womb-to-walking’ because it’s rich not only in physical developmental patterns but also our initial psychological development patterns. While the parent, therapist, bodyworker, teacher, or other loving/helping figure can offer a child the qualities of being seen, heard and held literally and figuratively, at some point, each of us — in one way or another — is bound to be challenged and even privileged to do this 'mothering' work for our own body and self." In a nutshell, we can be led, we can be guided and taught, the work can be modeled to us, but ultimately, it’s a process of attuning to oneself.

  1. It’s process- and reflective-based work. In other words, to see, hear and hold yourself like you needed to thrive as an infant, and like you still need today as an adult is daily work that takes time, compassion and curiosity. While you can read about it in a textbook, it’s feelings- and sensory-based work that cannot be intellectualized. Like a caregiver feeding a baby, one can watch the clock for a three-hour feeding schedule, but better yet, pay attention to the baby’s sound cues, twists toward the bottle or breast, or other hunger patterns (before baby gets too pissed and dysregulated!). You can have a cognitive awareness of a somatic response or urge, you can have a visualization of what you need or want — which are both worthy of helping to integrate the mind-body connection — but processing the experience from an internal, sensations-based inquiry offers the foundation of turning inward to yourself from a deeper place of holding not only physically but also emotionally. This processing is a practice, one that requires compassion (a softening toward yourself) and deep curiosity (looking at all your parts — the good, bad and ugly — with wonder, not judgment).

  2. Start where you are. There are a million different places to start, so let’s start where you are, right now, in this moment. How’s your jaw? Is your tongue locked to the roof of your mouth? Are you clinching your belly? Where’s your breath going? Where are you holding? Where do you want to be open? What areas might be numb or checked out? How’s your pelvis doing? Is it tucked under? What about your shoulders? Could they use an exhale? Are you standing when you have an urge to sit? Are you sitting when you have an urge to flow like water? Is there some place that needs to adjust, just an inch to shift your view? Do you need to shake off something? If you could reach for something, what would you reach for? What if you allowed yourself to move how your body wants? If you can’t right now, can you be curious about why not and still be present with the urge or desire?

  3. Notice, notice, notice. Deep urges, lingering thoughts, big dreams, postural tendencies, numbness in the body, dissociative tendencies, areas of tension, flutters of wonder. Notice these things, and keep noticing. And when you forget to notice, or you override an urge, just notice. This noticing practice is like the internal mother who provides unconditional love. When the baby takes that step, hooray. When the baby falls, that’s okay, try again. When the baby sleeps for more than five hours, hooray. When the baby cries every two hours, we rock and feed, rock and feed. Underneath all the body awareness lies an ocean of richness about who we are, what we need, where we’ve been, where we’re going, and ultimately, an okayness of what is.

  4. When and if it feels safe enough: It’ll be nice to get out of the proverbial chair, take off your shoes and even get on the floor. In other words, when it feels safe enough to make a change, depending on what your body needs, when it feels safe enough to move beyond your pattern of conditioning or habitual patterns, it will be okay to take that step because you’ll have an internal capacity to see, hear and hold yourself. You’ll be able to stay in and see the process, to sense your body and hear your own presence, to notice how you need to be held along the journey. And, finally, having a sense of exploration and playfulness is not a bad thing either! :)

Want to practice this in person? Come to my June 1 workshop (one week away) in Decatur at the Decatur School of Ballet. Click here for more details.