“I don’t know if I ever told you,” my therapist said. “But I’m a birder. I love birds. And when they hit a window like that, or get hurt in any significant way, they have this ritual. They shake off the pain. They shake off the trauma. And they walk in circles to reconnect their brain and body and soul. When your bird was walking and shaking, it was remembering and relearning how to be a bird.” Oh, wow. I couldn’t say much after that intense revelation, but my therapist continued. “We humans often lose touch with our bodies,” she said. “We forget that we can also shake away our pain and trauma.”
A wound in the soul, coming from the rending of the spiritual body, strange as it may seem, gradually closes like a physical wound. And once a deep wound heals over and the edges seem to have knit, a wound in the soul, like a physical wound, can be healed only by the force of life pushing up from inside.
Never have I thought so much, never have I realized my own existence so much, been so much alive, been so much myself…as in those journeys which I have made alone and afoot. Walking has something in it which animates and heightens my ideas: I can scarcely think when I stay in one place; my body must be set a-going if my mind is to work.
― Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions
We sleep, allowing gravity to hold us, allowing Earth- our larger body- to recalibrate our neurons, composting the keen encounters of our waking hours (the tensions and terrors of our individual days), stirring them back, as dreams, into the sleeping substance of our muscles. We give ourselves over to the influence of the breathing earth. Sleep is the shadow of the earth as it seeps into our skin and spreads throughout our limbs, dissolving our individual will into the thousand and one selves that compose it- cells, tissues, and organs taking their prime directives now from gravity and the wind- as residual bits of sunlight, caught in the long tangle of nerves, wander the drifting landscape of our earth-borne bodies like deer moving across the forested valleys.
― David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
Outside, as she passed the kitchen window, she watched her breath appear before her in the lamplight and then it died away in moist clouds. This was the smoke of her internal fire and her soul. Every breath was a letter to the world. These she mailed into the cold air leaning back with pursed lips to send it upward.
― Paulette Jiles, Enemy Women
With each breath a wave can be seen to ascend and descend through the body. The inspiratory wave begins deep in the abdomen with a backward movement of the pelvis. This allows the belly to expand outward. The wave then moves upward as the rest of the body expands. The head moves very slightly forward to suck in the air while the nostrils dilate or the mouth opens. The expiratory wave begins in the upper part of the body and moves downward: the head drops back, the chest and abdomen collapse, and the pelvis rocks forward.
Breathing easily and fully is one of the basic pleasures of being alive.
― Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body
Awareness can be quite sensual (which can add to your sense of feeling empowered). Think about how your body moves as you live your life, how amazing it is; think about nature, observe the intricate beautiful details of natural things, and of things we create, and breathe deeply to soak it all in. Focus on the taste of food, the feel of textures in cloth, the feel of you partner’s hand in yours; smell the sea breeze, listen to the wind in the trees, witness the colours of the leaves, the children playing; and be thankful for this life we are experiencing – this life we can all help to keep wonderful. Feel the wonder of being alive flood into you anytime you want, by taking a deep breath and letting the experience of these things fill you, even just by remembering.
We all have that same stream of life within us, so you are a part of everything. Each one of us has the power to make a difference to everything.
Breathe in that vital connection to the life source and sensual beauty everywhere, Feel loved and strong.
As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious
and full of detail: it wants to polish itself; it
wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in
the world that can hold, in a mix of power and
sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas,
ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.
―Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems
The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul. The true dance is an expression of serenity; it is controlled by the profound rhythm of inner emotion. Emotion does not reach the moment of frenzy out of a spurt of action; it broods first, it sleeps like the life in the seed, and it unfolds with a gentle slowness. The Greeks understood the continuing beauty of a movement that mounted, that spread, that ended with a promise of rebirth.
What is the matter with these people, these people who won’t stop fighting, won’t stop hurting each other long enough to see that a body is a thing of beauty, is a miracle of rivers and oceans and islands and continents contained within itself? That the brain is divided into two hemispheres, each symmetrical, each perfect, each with its own system of waterways. These people of war should be shown an x-ray of an intraparenchymal hemorrhage, of a hemorrhage in an eighteen-year-old girl’s brain, a girl named Ivy. Take a look at that, people of war. See, you should not hurt each other, and this is why. Without you ever even trying, this is what can happen to your body, your beautiful body, and your brain, your beautiful symmetrical brain, and your heart, and your soul.
―Alison McGhee, All Rivers Flow to the Sea