― Marion Woodman,
We’re a neck-up culture. We place a high premium on words and believe that our salvation comes from intellectual prowess. We talk and think and ruminate: talking our way out of problems, thinking our way through dilemmas, and fully believing that all of life’s answers are found in our heads. Some of this propensity toward talking comes from our extroverted culture (Americans have a particularly bad reputation worldwide for being blabber-mouths) but it also comes from a defense mechanism that begins early in life for many children: when the pain is too big, they travel away from their bodies, which is the locus of pain, and into their heads.
This early defense mechanism is quite brilliant, actually. If children were to feel the depth and rawness of the powerlessness, loneliness, heartbreak, and vulnerability that existed in their growing up years without a loving adult to help them through the big feelings they would collapse from the onslaught of emotional energy. Big feelings coursing through small bodies need grownup attention, and without it the ever-attending psyche steps in with its survival mechanisms, the primary of which are denial, obsessions/intrusive thoughts/worry, and shame. (More on shame in a couple of weeks.)
The problem is that, past childhood when we’re no longer in emotionally unsafe situations and we have access to adult resources for helping us tolerate the pain of life, we need to come back down into our bodies in order to navigate successfully through the challenges of living. We need to remember how to listen to our body’s wisdom and discern between fear and truth. We need to develop a relationship of trust with our body, without which we cannot know what we want and don’t want, what we feel, and who we are at the core.
When I was in the depths of my own anxiety in my twenties, I wrote in my journal: “I trust in the rhythm and wisdom of my body.” I wrote it in a spiral with different color markers, and often turned back to that page when I felt anxious, as just looking at those multi-colored words in a spiral brought a sense of calm. I knew enough to know that my body was speaking to me, but I didn’t know enough to understand the language. For the body doesn’t speak plainly and directly; it speaks in symptoms and metaphors, and for this reason requires that we slow down our pace and bend down to its level, much like speaking to a child, in order to hear and decipher its codes. The body, like children, carries wisdom that we can’t access from our heads. And that’s the point: our wisdom lives in our bodies, not in our heads.
Again: we cannot heal anxiety from our heads. Anxiety, itself a head space, needs a different energy field to heal it, which is the field and wisdom of the body. While an aspect of anxiety arises from cognitive distortions and unrealistic expectations that then lead to a barrage of “shoulds” and to this end does need the truth-water of which I so often speak, this is only the first step of healing. To heal at the root requires engaging from the root, which means coming into the heart’s pain and joy and the body’s pregnant wisdom. The pathways that lead to our pain and thus our healing are found in the ancient woods of the body.
Yet for so many people the body has become a source of shame and confusion, which causes them to shut down to its offerings and deny its wisdom. How do we, then, access our storehouse of wisdom if we’ve shut down the pathways that lead there?
We must start at the beginning. We must be willing to retrieve our shame stories from their underground hiding places and bring them gently back into the light.
This is what I teach in Sacred Sexuality: A 40-day program for women to heal body shame and ignite desire. Together, we shine a clear and gentle light on these darkened-over places. Together we examine the history of shame and peel away the layers of story that hide the wisdom of our shining, beautiful bodies. Together, we chart new pathways that will lead to a new connection with your body.
Sacred Sexuality focuses on sexuality, but it’s so much more than that. For sexuality doesn’t exist in a vacuum but is intimately interwoven with our creativity, our mother-line, our self-trust and self-love, and our wildness.
If you struggle with dropping down out of your head and into your body, this course is for you.
If you struggle with anxiety, which is a head-space, and long to learn how to access your body’s wisdom, this course is for you.
If your body is a source of shame and you struggle with knowing what it means to “drop down into your body”, this course is for you.
If you long to feel healthy desire, both sexually and creatively, this course is for you.
The third round of Sacred Sexuality: A 40-day program to heal body shame and ignite desire begins on Saturday, June 23, 2018. I look forward to meeting you there.