Our body movements + gestures 'speak' as much as our words do.
One of the consequences of a 18+ year history of teaching yoga classes, trainings, and workshops is that time on my own became essential to stay balanced and recharged. In fact, I'd need dedicated time to go in - in silence, in nature, in contemplation - almost as often as I was going or offering out. This has always been part of who I am. When I can move slowly, with permission to honour my own impulses or rhythms, my body and spirit thrive. Enter motherhood.
And suddenly, large amounts of empty rich time simply disappeared. Inside motherhood is a level of presence and moment to moment engagement that no other yoga or mindfulness practice ever compelled from me. I LOVE it. And, it stretches me. Outside of motherhood is a thin wedge of time that I carve into delicate, tender slices - an hour here, a half day there - for work, exercise, cuppa with friends, rest.
At the end of last year, in the midst of a brisk uphill walk squeezed in between errands and preschool pick up, I asked myself the question - What am I hungry for? Almost immediately, my mind was spinning. The options and longings were coming at speed and overwhelmed my mind. As I continued to walk and inwardly 'spin', a small piece of my attention noticed that, as I walked, I was shaking my hands. Shaking my hands as you would if they had just been washed and there was no hand or paper towel to dry them. Shaking my hands abruptly from the wrist, flinging imaginary drops of water away from my fingertips. Noticing the shaking of my hands surprised me but it's not an unfamiliar action.
It is something that I do on an airplane when turbulence tips over a moderate level or when frustration rises in a tough conversation with a family member and the physiological sensations in my body are too much. It's an action that speaks to the activation of my sympathetic nervous system and a wanting to discharge, to lessen the intensity of what I'm feeling inside. I gave myself permission to keep shaking my hands as I walked. And, a minute or two later, I suddenly stopped. I brought my hands towards the middle of my body, pausing just before my hands touched. I turned my palms outward, and pressed (or flung rather) the space away from the sides of my body strongly and fully, extending through the full reach of my arms, perhaps even beyond. I let myself make this action again and again until there was a point where it just didn't want to happen anymore. SPACE. Space was what I was hungry for.
And while I didn't make any decisions or develop any strategy around asking for or creating space, knowing that this longing had a 'name' that I could 'touch', feeling the longing move through the whole of my body, and making movements/gestures to evoke the felt sense of what I was wanting flooded my body with RELIEF.
Nothing had changed about my current time limitations or my responsibilities, yet something had happened inside and I felt different. Clear, relieved, and surprisingly empowered. My arms, my wrists, my hands were tingling and buzzy but not in an urgent angsty way. They felt ALIVE.
My whole day felt different. Even now, months after this experience, I still feel different inside.
The smallest movement or gesture (even facial expression) has the capacity to open us up to parts of ourselves that we didn't even know were there. This kind of deep body listening is the central current I aim to support in my life and work these days. Noticing. Slowing down. Tracking the 'subtext' - what's happening inside the body - behind the words, thoughts, and stories. Noticing the sensations, emotions, and body movements or gestures that are happening (or want to happen) and allowing myself/ourselves to increasingly experience what's there. Letting what's there point us towards what deeply matters, what wants to be seen.