Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Body Wisdom

The body knows best. Especially on days like today where my body is craving a little TLC. I have laryngitis. I can feel congestion in my chest. And my poor scalene muscles are crying out for a massage. So, I'm tending to that, drinking lots and lots of tea with honey, inhaling steamy saltwater, taking over-the-counter remedies and just generally tending to this house of my soul. Fortunately for everyone around me, I'm not my usual surly sicky self. And I credit this to my newly awakened outlook....and to some very recent reminders of the amazing wisdom of the body.

Case in point: I was doing some work this past weekend in a class that required me to recall just a sliver of an experience that may have caused anxiety, fear...trauma. I narrowed in on being an execution witness, specifically the sound that I remember from when the state applied the 2,000 volts of electricity. (Side bar: I have an audio essay which touches on this subject posted here:
When I recalled this memory, I could feel my entire torso start to tremble. And as I started working with my two classmates through this memory, the trembling went from my torso to my neck, up my throat and into my jaw. I felt my teeth chattering, and wanting to clamp down. My partners helped to keep me in that bodily experience, but also find those ways for me to access parts of me that could move me through the pain. I breathed, both deeply and laughing, and I got grounded into my feet. When it was time to stop my session, my partners inquired as to whether I was OK to move on. Initially, I said yes. But then took stock of how I was feeling in my body and in my head.

"Y'know, if you don't mind, I think I need to just walk around outside."

"Go ahead. Take all the time you need."

I left the room, put on my sneakers, and took a step or two out the door. And then--bam---I was off like a shot into the hardest sprint I had run in about 15 years! My legs surging the rest of me into a lap around the Florida School of Massage parking lot. I had to take a moment to catch my breath before going back into the building (as I said, I hadn't run that hard and fast in about 15 years). The teacher greeted me inside, and helped me complete the process.
What was this "process"? It was the completion of what my body, and my being, had wanted to do in the moment back in October, 1996, when I heard that sound inside the death chamber. Deep inside me, I had wanted to run. I had wanted to escape this stark, clinically-white room filled with white people watching the death of a black man. But I was trapped, not only because I was physically seated in a position that would have prevented me from escaping, but I was trapped by the duty-bound profession of journalism that had put me there in the first place. Being able now, in that moment at FSM, to put this thought with the action of my body together did a tremendous thing: I was relaxed again, and I could be present and keep contact with my feelings of being alive and awake.

The body is a powerful resource, friends. Tend to it. Care for it. Treat it with the love and respect it needs and deserves. As I said, it is the house of your soul.

Which reminds me: I should go make myself some tea.

1 comment:

MCG said...

You constantly amaze me. I truly love to read your words. I remember what the judge said about your writing at the Hearst awards and you really do paint a picture. I could even feel your pain when I read this one.

Peace, my dear,