A couple of weeks ago, I remembered a moment I hadn’t thought about for a long time. It was 1986. I was sitting in the front row of a stifling hot crematorium chapel on an unusually warm and bright September day. I was watching my sister’s body, inside a pale wooden coffin, move along a conveyor belt, through the little door and into the furnace. As the box disappeared and the door closed, I said goodbye.
I also said “I will NEVER feel like this again”.
It’s taken a few months of work to clearly identify the body pattern associated with decades of suppressing and avoiding grief. The posture is best described as defensive and hyper-vigilant: chin jutting forward, chest armoured and pushing out/up, hyper-extended backwards through the shoulders, all the muscles behind the heart firing to compensate. It actually started at my sacrum by over-emphasising the lower back arch, which flowed into an exaggerated curve through my whole spine.
The effect of this posture was to break the circuit of life force energy that naturally flows up the spine and down the front of the body. Taoists call it the microcosmic orbit… and it couldn’t flow while I was defending against grief. The posture also effectively blocked all other strong emotions – both ‘negative’ (ie. the yucky stuff like terror and shame and rage) and ‘positive’ (ie. the yummy stuff like delight and joy and love). And while the shape got an extra kick from the vow I made after my sister died and I didn’t know what to do with that grief, it was an echo of a shape established long before. I’ve probably been carrying a version of it in my light body for lifetimes.
When I was able to finally see the pattern and shift it, everything changed. I directed my breath down into my tailbone and it corrected the sacral tilt. I dropped my chin, which brought my head back in line with my spine. I stood up straighter. I could start walking from my hips, sourcing power from the earth.
I want to be clear that these are tiny adjustments, not big movements. I didn’t have enough body awareness to make them with the required degree of precision until very recently. And when I’d reached that point, the right practitioners appeared… as is always the case. I’m beyond grateful for their loving help.
When I moved into the new position for the first time, my hands and feet lit up with life force. It was as if someone had turned on the electricity. It was so startlingly different, I looked at the practitioner and exclaimed “holy crap – this is what it feels like to be alive!”
I didn’t know what was missing until it wasn’t.
I’ve realised that it takes a lot of work to hold your skeleton up using willpower instead of its natural, structural scaffolding. This pattern was one of the key sources of my prolonged dance with exhaustion. Of course it doesn’t magically change overnight – I’m still learning how to hold my new shape and I’ll be practicing living this new body for the rest of my life. But here’s the most exciting bonus – the thing that gives me the greatest motivation to keep practicing. When I’m out of the pattern, I can feel more of Her… because She can move into and through me more easily. This is a whole new way of walking through the world, with Her. And I’m loving it.