I’ll never forget the first time I was asked to feel my emotions in my body.
I was 19, getting my degree in Psychology and Creative Writing from Naropa University, and I was in one of these meditation classes that had me wondering if I should transfer to a more conventional school asap.
Being asked to “feel what was happening in my body” felt like the last straw.
My relationship to my body at that point consisted of looking at it in the mirror (a lot), judging it while looking at it in the mirror, and using it to produce pleasure, in the forms of eating, sex, even exercise was done for the endorphins and the pleasure I ultimately got out of it.
I never lived in my body though. I lived pretty much exclusively in my mind. My reality was dictated by the thoughts that were coursing through my mind at any given moment.
My thoughts had so much power over me back then. All I had to do was think a disempowering thought, something along the lines of, “Maybe I’ll never find what I am looking for” or “Maybe I don’t deserve to have (insert whatever it is I wanted, love, recognition, success, wealth) ” and wham, I believed it.
In this article, I want to tell you how I found my way back to my body, why it’s the best thing I ever did for myself, and how you can do the same in a few simple steps.
Life experience is always giving us the opportunity to live in our bodies, because the body is always experiencing something. In fact, it is experiencing the moment. Even when we are checked out, caught up in an emotion, thinking about the past or the future, the body is here, present, living whatever is happening now.
Why is this important?
Because if we want to truly live, the only way to live is in the present moment.
When we binge, or indulge in any compulsion, we are running away from the moment. There is something happening inside of us that feels too intense, that we would rather not face.
Sitting still with whatever it is ~ pain, anger, sadness, regret, unspeakable joy, even ~ feels like too much.
We need to somehow escape into something familiar, a territory our mind knows how to navigate, even if it is uncomfortable or even torturous, the way binge eating can be.
The trick is, though, that we can never find lasting happiness outside of the moment.
We can start thinking positively, and this is a great way of starting to get the mind aligned with the heart, which is already positive. But without the ability, the skill, the muscle to come back and be completely present with what is, right now, we will always be reaching for something. Grasping.
If I Want to Live in the Moment, I Must Come Back to the Body
In this way, the body is a wonderful tool and your best ally when it comes to loosening the grip of binge eating, for good.
The tricky thing is, we started binge eating so that we could escape the moment, so now, in order to undo the compulsion, we have to in some ways backtrack and do what it is we were so terrified of doing in the first place: stay with ourselves.
If we’ve hidden ourselves under pounds of excess weight, returning to the body might feel terrifying.
But the reality is, it doesn’t matter who you are, fat or thin, coming back to the body is not about the way you feel about your body, it’s about the way you feel in your body.
Sensation ~ The Pathway to the Body
It’s about feeling all those sensations of discomfort, tension, gripping, unease ~ the sensations that live around your heart and your solar plexus, sometimes down in your abdomen ~ when you finally allow yourself to relax and be still, pay attention.
In the 1990’s Dr. Candace Pert did research that proved that emotions actually live as measurable molecules in the body.*
And everyone, no matter what their size or shape, experiences feelings and emotions in their bodies that are not always comfortable.
It Is By Feeling These Feelings That We Transform Them
What I learned in the years after that experience in the meditation class was that I could – and needed to, if I wanted to be happy – have a relationship with my body that completely did away with the judgement around how it looked, how much it weighed, etc.
I started to use my body as a tool for presence, for living life through, and I slowly began to accept that if I wanted to live, truly live, I was signing up to experience the sad and painful parts of life and the joys and delights of life. That they live hand in hand.
That if I continued to numb myself with food, yes I would take myself farther away from my pain, and in the process, I would take myself equally far away from my delight and my joy. My vibrancy. My actual feeling of being alive.
That by binging, I was not living. I was constantly putting off living.
And if I want to live, it has to be through my body.
Simple Tips for Re-Inhabiting the Body
Have you left your body as well? Are you terrified to go back?
The one thing I can promise you with absolute certainty is that going back to your body will be one of the most rewarding ~ if not the most rewarding ~ thing you ever do for yourself.
Here is how to start:
- Pick an embodiment practice ~ dance (something free-form like 5 Rhythms or Isadora Duncan Technique is best for embodiment) , t’ai chi, slow yoga, or even something more mellow like Feldenkrais method are wonderful ways to start feeling your body again.
- Take your body through a range of different experiences throughout the day and see what that feels like, internally. When we aren’t living in our bodies, we often compartmentalize any experience into either “good” or “bad,” something we prefer and enjoy or something we don’t. As you live your life in the next several days, invite yourself to experience everything you do from inside your body without labeling it. Taking a bath, a walk, making love, even resting, go deeply inside your body, retracting completely like a turtle, and allow yourself to simply track the sensations.
- Cultivate a stillness practice. Take one minute every morning ~ literally one minute (set a timer) and sit in a comfortable position either cross-legged on a cushion or in a chair with your feet on the floor, and just sit quietly. Feel your breath going in and out of your body. Keep coming back to the feeling of your breath, no matter how many times you drift away into thoughts.
I promise you, once you make your way back in to your body and make your home there, you will find more pleasant surprises than pain, more delights than sorrow.
In fact, they are all wrapped up together, and that is the magic of life.