week 6: practice

In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 6.

nun6It’s so easy to pretend to take someone’s advice, or even mean to take someone’s advice and then fail completely on the follow through. Every day I give clients stretches to do at home, knowing that if they remember them, they’ll try it once or twice or maybe not at all. I’m no different.

When I did a massage workshop a month ago, the teacher had us spend a half hour at the beginning of each day doing a qigong exercise called shaking which involves standing in one place and bouncing. Yup, that’s pretty much it.

He advised us that doing this exercise every day for at least twenty minutes would heighten our felt sense and develop our ability to experience the more subtle movements in the bodies of our clients.  If we kept it up, we’d find that we craved it and would feel off on the days that we didn’t do it. This is just the kind of advice I like to have good but failed intentions toward. Every day? Yeah, right.

But in the spirit of trying something new, I committed myself to this exercise for the whole month. It felt silly, looked sillier and at times, made something in my left hip ache. I didn’t always get twenty minutes in. Sometimes it was only five. A few times it was thirty. But I did it every damn day. I think this is what they call “practice” and I plan to keep it up. Not every day, but often enough to keep it from falling into the giant heap of things I should do. It’s relaxing and grounding and I need something in my life that’s ridiculous in just this way.

My commitment to this also made me realize that it wasn’t going to be my pathway into a deeper sense of my own body. Some days, I followed along with the teacher’s recordings of the exercise as he verbally guided us along each segment of the spine or each gland or each chakra asking us to feel these landmarks from the inside out. For whatever reason, these cues did nothing to help me visualize or feel anything at all. This was as true on the thirtieth day of practice as it was on the first.

And then, just this week, I discovered a different way. Over the last few months I’d been trying different guided meditations. Just like the guided visualizations of the shaking exercise, none of them felt quite right. Then I found a somatic meditation that was supposed to expand the awareness and knowledge inherent in the body while bypassing a lot of the intentional thinking that other meditations use.

Well, it worked. The very first time I tried it, I felt heat in my palm and the deeper shape of my hand. I felt fascia unwinding in my arm. The next day I felt my heartbeat. Not the thump/thump/thump of my pulse but the meaty, bloody undulation of my aorta. What a trip. Instead of trying to visualize my seventh cervical vertebrae or the color of my root chakra, all I had to do was move slowly and quietly inward and say, I’m here. Show me what you got.

So I learn, again and more and better, that my body knows things. Time to dig in and see what she has to say.

(If you want to try the shaking exercise you can see it here. If you want to try the meditation you can find it here after setting up a free account.)

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