by Hannah Kinderlehrer
“We need to be awake in our bodies to be awake in our hearts.
To really take care of ourselves and others and really to celebrate life,
we need to be here in our senses.”
This moment, yes this one, is only available NOW. And NOW is only available when we are home in our body-beings, through our senses, our breath, our belonging to ourselves and the earth.
All of our thoughts are about the past or the future, which, as mindfulness practitioners, we know don’t inherently exist. And we know that living in the past and future causes suffering. So, how do we come home to right now? To the present moment with all of its challenges, wonder, impermanence, and magic?
One breath at a time. One breeze on the skin, butterfly in the belly, itch on the nose, ache in the knee, one booming heartbeat at a time.
I spent years and years believing my body betrayed me. Why was I always sick or in pain? Why didn’t my body look like the media insisted it should? And I lived in thoughts about my body rather than in my body itself. I’m too strong, too weak, too short, too round, too sensitive, too allergic, too reactive—but those are just thoughts. Super toxic and awful thoughts. The actual experience of being in my body-being is different, but I had to learn this over time.
When I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, I left my body entirely. I became so sick from the treatment, that I was barely a shell of a human. Most days I was face down on the ground, unable to communicate or care for myself and my family. As I switched medications and the symptoms died down, I knew this was the moment to either form a loving, accepting, full-on inhabiting relationship with my body-being, or give up on it entirely. I chose the former. I chose to mix my decades of meditation practice, which were shockingly disembodied, with my decades of dance and movement obsession. I began to move mindfully, letting sensation and intuition lead me. I slowed waaaaaaaay down. I gave up teaching cardio dance and my chronic back pain, tendonitis, stress, and anxiety lessened. I started teaching mindful ecstatic dance, where we follow the rhythm of our bodies, We move from the inside out. We inhabit ourselves from the inside out. We don’t think ourselves, we feel ourselves, and we move, express, and create from this place.
This practice transformed my relationship with myself, in so many ways, but especially my relationship with my body-being. I still get caught in judgmental thoughts–the negative bias we evolved with is wired in. But when I feel into myself, it’s a different story. It’s a story of curiosity, and not knowing. Of exploring each moment, conscious that whether it’s pleasure or pain, this too shall pass. When my coaching clients or dancers complain to me about their body image, I guide them, as I constantly guide myself, to feel into that body part. To live into what it’s like to inhabit ourselves, rather than “think” ourselves. This practice changes everything!
And I cannot minimize the power of activating the parasympathetic nervous system! There are more embodied practices than I can name that shift us out of fight/flight/fawn/freeze on the spot. And into care, repair, tend, and befriend. Join me for my online workshops to learn more- we will be doing this and many more delicious embodiment practices, all designed to bring you home to your body-being. Our body-being can be our greatest resource in times of stress and dysregulation, we just need to learn to activate our bodies’ brakes, otherwise known as the ventral vagal nerve, in order to stop pumping the stressful hormones, and turn on the flow of ground, relaxation, calm, and resilience.
I use the term body-being because our bodies are not static nor permanent. Nor are they empty vessels; they are filled with emotion, intelligence, spirit, wisdom, and more. Every body is ever-changing, growing, evolving, dying; they are birthing bundles of awareness, creativity, ecstasy, agony, and more. This body-being is more than my home, it is the vehicle for my soul’s curriculum, or the unfolding of my consciousness’ karmic growth. Without the sensations to ground me in the moment and create the gateway to interface with the world, I would live an isolated, distracted life, running from reality and presence. It’s the smells, tastes, stunning sunsets, aching feet, butterflies in my solar plexus, that bring me back to NOW, over and over again.
What it comes down to is that we are not floating brains for a reason. We have taken birth inside these wondrous, mysterious, imperfect, and impermanent body-beings. And while we’re here, we may as well dance. Let’s live from the inside out, tending and befriending this body-being that is home this lifetime. We may as well enjoy it.
Hannah is teaching The Wisdom of the Body, a six-week series on Mind Oasis on Wednesday mornings starting 15 September, 2021. Try her free mini-workshop for a taste of the dance medicine her series will offer.