“If we are only half in our bodies, we are only half in our truth,” says Julia Cameron in her book “The Right to Write”. If we are only half in our truth, we are half alive, I would add.
Why are some of us only half in our bodies?
One reason could be that inhabiting the body is bringing up stuff we would rather not remember… like abuse when we were little.
Last week, two friends shared about the abuse they faced as children. One recounted days when her mother would beat her black and blue, and nights when her mother would ice her bruises. The other talked about how she was sexually abused by a close family member for many years, and has only recently began to admit to herself that that happened.
Both have spent years running away from the memories and emotional pain of it all, while attracting people and relationships in their life that perpetuated the same patterns. As we know, but wish so hard to not be true, running from pain doesn’t work. While we are running full speed, it accompanies us like a shadow every moment of our life. It lives inside our body. It colors who we talk to, how we talk to them, what we say and do not. It colors who we get I attracted to, who we let into our lives, or not. It inhibits connection. You can not be there, present to someone, while your own body and mind are flooded with painful sensations and thoughts. You can not be there, present to someone, when you are busy running from what they are saying.
Most importantly, unfelt pain colors how we connect with ourselves, how much we inhabit our bodies, how much we live into our own truth.
Yes, we have to feel the pain, but how?
These experiences are so difficult to even get our hands around. How do you simultaneously hold the trusting innocence of a child with the unconsciousness of an adult? How do you not struggle with the realization that children, hurt and abused for no reason at all, will have to live with this pain much of their life – some will even become the pain? How do you exercise acceptance towards the idea that by not facing pain that is just so hard to face, they are likely to generate more suffering for themselves and others?
Pema Chodron says to feel the pain let the heart break. Let it split open at the fragility of the human condition, at how deeply we can be thrust into unconsciousness, how mothers grieve their own savagery towards those they love, how cultures perpetuate oppression by encouraging some of us to continue being violent towards others, how the name of God and notions of piety are used to bury human urges till they fester, mutate, and become putrid. Letting the heart break can help us air whats been happening, and feel the universality of pain.
For pain of this nature, becoming mindful of it at a physical level can help. Sit down in a posture that is comfortable. If your mind is racing and body hurting, start cognitively. Remind myself that you are not the pain. You are the Self that is not confined to this body. Let yourself sense that boundlessness. Once you feel expansive, anchor in the space of openness, and let your mind sense pain in any part of your body that is most calling to you in that moment. Sensing its contours like it’s a cloud and you as the expansive consciousness are the sky, experience just the physical aspect of it. Stripping pain of its emotional and mental weight, makes it subtler and not overwhelming.
I wish there was something neat and clean that I could say beyond this. I would love to hear from you if you have some insights. Truth be told, I don’t know why some of us humans have to suffer this way. Karma? I don’t know. But I know that whatever it is, we can make the choice to not stay shackled to it. By learning to be with it, we move out of it… in time.
This blog was originally published in the Elephant Journal on October 10th, 2018