Body Narrative – Spinning
I start this journey with a gentle inquiry into my body. By asking the question “how do you want to begin?” In listening deeply I receive a simple but powerful response. Move me, become more aware and write about it. I am endeavouring to reunite myself with my body after what seems like decades of cold war. A period, that in reflection, I can see has been characterized by ex-communication and combativeness between my body and I resulting in physical, emotional and spiritual injury. I begin by gently inviting my body to speak to me and within a millisecond of receiving this invitation my body whispers back ever so softly inviting me to listen. Apparently, my body has been attempting to communicate with me for a very long time in quiet and not so quiet ways. I find it curious that a recent panic attack in the middle of the night coincided with the beginning of this journey. It was terrifying. I woke at 12:44am feeling as if my spirit had left my body, unable to breath, gasping for air. This episode left me sitting at the edge of my bed sobbing and afraid. I felt as if I were dying. I knew, without a doubt, that it was time for a change. This opportunity to explore the wisdom of my body is profoundly synchronistic.
My body tells me, very simply, to focus on my breath, to walk, to pay attention to what I notice and to journal about it. Gentle walking is creating the context in which the emergence of knowledge in all its forms is occurring. During the first couple of walks I became aware of how very unhappy I generally am with my body. I criticize it, put it down, argue with it, shut it out, punish it, starve it and stuff it. I return to my body for further inquiry. My body longs for gentle acceptance and it seems satisfied that I am receiving the intended messages. I feel a deep fulfillment in the moment and as I continue to walk I notice the ocean sparkling in the bright sun and the green leaves on the trees dance in the warm summer breeze. An overwhelming feeling of well-being and safety overcomes me. This is a profoundly new experience that I am thoroughly enjoying.
The next day is a busy one for me and I realize that I won’t have time for my ritual walk in nature and am disappointed. As I walk across a busy parking lot in Surrey, BC I realize that my practice of walking awareness can occur anywhere and at any time. I notice my feet touching the pavement, I lift my head and shoulders and with openness and attention make my way across the parking lot. My body seems incredibly pleased with this discovery and I am delighted at the prospect of being able to access this state whenever I want.
For the first time in my life I am motivated to move for the joy that I experience in the movement itself and not for an outcome related to my size. My body has been longing for movement, waiting patiently to be listened to and acknowledged. The secrets being revealed to me are creating a paradox. A deepening understanding is accompanied by a simultaneous and increasing awareness of the mysterious nature of existence.
During another walk my awareness drifts to our cohorts afternoon of movement at the waterfront park in Vancouver. I recall a moment of pure joy and bliss that I have not experienced since childhood. We were spinning as part of our movement exercise and as I walked, reflecting on this experience, I began to recall the sensory experience of spinning as a child. A lost childhood memory was being revealed to me. I loved to spin as a child. I was captivated by all manners of spinning. The old fashioned merry go rounds that are now banned in most parks, figure skaters spinning on the ice, girls spinning their batons, ballerinas spinning on one toe, spinning rides at Playland and windmills spinning in the wind. I even remember having had multiple fantasies as a child of spinning and spinning and spinning. I remember one particular memory during this walk. As a child I lived with my maternal grandparents. Every Sunday night the family would gather together after dinner around the television to watch Lawrence Welk, a well-known 70’s family song and dance show. I, being around 4 or 5 years of age at the time, would change into a dress and I would spin to the music in front of an adoring audience clapping and cheering. I felt loved without condition. I felt special, talented, adored, safe, free and alive. Spinning for me represents all of these experiences of being. I stopped spinning when I taken from my grandparents. The short stint away from their care proved to be so injurious to my little spirit that it took me another twenty plus years to sort it out.
As I continue with my breathing, walking, journaling and discovering I continue to look both inward and outward. To rejoice in the miracle of life all around me and to marvel at the universe that exists inside. I end with one of my favorite poems…
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
By Mary Oliver