Halloween is a good time to reflect on bodies, and what happens when we become disconnected from our bodies. I am reminded of the headless horseman, or the ways in which zombies are portrayed, often missing limbs, eyes, fingers, etc. Representations of the “living dead” usually involve decaying or decrepit bodies.
When I began practicing yoga and meditation more regularly as a part of living more mindfully, I started noticing the ways I had “abandoned” my body out of habit. I had pushed down feelings and not allowed myself to feel where they landed in the body. I was not comfortable with feelings of sadness or loneliness, and so to disassociate from them, I used various means: food, alcohol, other distractions such as television or social media to disconnect from my reality. But the more I started paying attention to these visceral sensations, the ability to experience emotions fully and in their raw form, the more I realized how fleeting these sensations could be.
By not resisting the painful emotions I was trying to escape, I was able to feel those emotional “vibrations” in the body, and noticed how they passed through. Nothing ever stays the same in our bodies, in our lives. But a good deal can pass through, when we stop resisting it. I may not WANT to feel sadness or loneliness, but when I allow myself to experience them, they are what they are. They will not destroy me, but resisting them causes so much suffering. By embracing what is true for us, in this present moment, we allow it to be there. We do not chastise ourselves, or tell ourselves we “should be happy” or we “should get over it” whatever “it” is.
By coming back to my body, and starting to fully inhabit it, I have been able to access deeper truths about my life. At first it was quite scary, especially when it came to allowing desires. I did not trust my desires – are they not what got me “in trouble” in the first place? Desires for chocolate? Desires for that glass of wine? Desires to buy myself things I did not really need? As I started practicing and allowing emotions to fully express themselves, I realized that there were certain “false desires” that were really masking deeper, more fundamental desires. All humans desire acceptance, and are genetically wired for this, but few of us realize that begins with self-acceptance. Many of us all desire courage, and realize it is fundamental to living in our truth, because not all desires will seem acceptable to our “tribe” or the people with whom we grew up.
Many of us believe we should be happy, and certainly many marketers try to capitalize on our general discontent by selling us products that will evoke that feeling. But human experience is not all happiness and joy. Without the negative feelings we have no contrast and no way to know joy. About half of our lives we may experience negative emotions, and that is okay. When we allow them, acknowledge them, give them space, we also allow joy, peace, compassion and love. When we numb the pain we feel, through food, distractions, or any kind of “false pleasure” we also numb the joy and happiness we could feel.
I believe women have a special challenge in fully embodying their life. We are told how we “should” look, how we “should” feel, that we shouldn’t be so emotional, etc. But the truth is that we look the way we look, and we feel the way we feel. It is true that our thoughts heavily influence our emotions. When I practice thoughts that allow compassion and love for myself, I feel a greater sense of ease in my actions. My old habit is self-criticism and I used to believe this was how I could improve myself. But chastising myself for my shortcomings just makes me feel miserable and wretched. When I forgive myself and have compassion for my humanness, it gives me peace and the freedom to actually make changes in my life, if I choose.
When I return to my body, listening to it, honoring its needs for rest, or sometimes for excitement or adventure, I learn that there is so much wisdom there. I am re-teaching myself this skill, because I believe as young children we have this ability naturally. But as we go through school, through life and through a media-saturated world, we replace these instincts with layers of “should” and “must.” We are convinced that thinking our way through everything is how we must live. While thinking is an incredible tool, ignoring the body happens at our peril. When we return to acceptance of our body as an incredible tool for allowing us to live and thrive, we reclaim so much more peace.
May you, my dear reader, honor your body and live a fully embodied life. May you live not as a zombie, unless it is just a Halloween costume, but as a human fully awake and alive and aware of your miraculous body.