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The Heart that Purrs

Happy Autumn everyone!

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My wife and I have one of the most independent, "I don't need anyone" cats. She is a mix of Siamese and Flame from what I understand so independence and supreme non-attachment are one of their traits. Every once in awhile when I'm meditating or doing yoga she will sit next to me and bless me with her presence, even at times finding a way to be cradled by my front folded leg as I do the pigeon, or she burrows underneath me as I'm in the child pose. A few days ago, as I was doing one of the practices from my SomaSoul work which begins with a body scan and is followed by creating a "sensory image" on paper of what is felt in the body, I drew an image of my heart, a dense mix of black, grey and red. As I wrote the words down that captured what I saw and felt in the image, words like hard, heavy and constricted emerged. For me these are sensations I sometimes feel in and around my heart.

In the Body-Centered Gestalt Psychotherapy work that I do, we see these patterns as part of our character armor that point to earlier trauma which is in the process of being healed as we "be with it" and "work with it". The next step in the process is to add the words, "I am" in front of the singular words so heart statements that day were, "I am hard", "I am heavy", "I am constricted". We could say this is not such a pretty picture and for most of us (myself included) these are the feeling states we have an instinctive response to get rid of or avoid instead of make room for and create opening around! At this point in the process you imagine your heart saying these phrases as a way to express your body's truth. In describing my process, my deepest intention to invite you to try this as well as a way to befriend your body just as it is. In past enews I've shared elements of this process but I'd like to offer it to you again with a couple of twists.

So far what I've described is:

1. scan through your body

2. draw a body area that speaks to you, where you sense strong feelings or even areas you feel disconnected from

3. write words down that capture what yo see in your image or feel in your body

4. write the words "I am" in front of each of these words in your image

5. say these phrases quietly or internally as if that body part were speaking to you

6. experience a "you" that can simply listen to your body

As I've gone through all these steps in my own self-care practice, my cat is comfortable in her chair in the other room.

The body needs to speak its truth, even when the truth doesn't feel all that great. There is something profoundly centering when we allow our body experience to be recognized and embraced.

When we can listen to our body without judgment, and with curiosity and openness then transformation and healing happens. I'll share in a moment about my transformation in doing this practice.

In a way we are allowing our body experience to occur as we do our body scan, feel what we feel, draw it, let our body speak its mind, as another part of us sees and listens to our experiencing body.

Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist and pioneer in the world of trauma treatment describes this as cultivating an "experiencing you" and an "observing you". Balancing these two "you's" is a key, foundational element in healing any trauma or stress response.

Again, through your drawing and creating words you invite the "experiencing you" of your body to emerge, and then there is a mindful you that listens to the body expressing and experiencing it's truth--that is the "observing you".

In neuroscience research this mindfulness of the body strengthens a key aspect of the brain found to be highly developed in meditators called the insula. This is critical in cultivating a sense of self and enhanced intra-personal intelligence--knowing yourself.

Up to now in this process we have 6 steps as described above in my column. Here's the 7th step which is so very important (which we focus on in my upcoming module at Kripalu--Moving Your Body's Story).

The next piece of this process is to write a body story in which each paragraph begins with one of your phrases. In my example, my Heart's Story, will emerge through each of my three paragraphs, each beginning with the following sentences. "I am hard", "I am heavy", "I am constricted".

Each paragraph expands upon each phrase and the body part writes the story. So in my case I said to my heart, "Heart, tell me about your hardness" as my first paragrah and "Heart, tell me about your heaviness" for the second and so on.

So with curiosity and openness you invite your body to tell you its story, why this feeling is here, how long it has been a part of you, what it needs in life and may not be getting, what it needs from you etc"

In my case, my heart's autobiography was very rich, moving, revealing and as I read it to myself and then went back to my mantras- "I am heavy etc" and repeated them internally. With the gem of each mantra and the depth of each paragraph lingering in my awareness, my heart naturally began to soften, become lighter and more open. In fact it was flowing with energy!

Here's where my cat comes in--just as my heart transforms, Juliette, my cat, jumps on the back of the couch-like chair I'm sitting on and manages to nestle her body on top of one of the cushions just behind my heart and begins to purr as my heart opens through my practice.

Her timing was amazing as she attuned to just the right moment to resonate from her place of cat contentment to my heart's energy of contentment.

I invite you to try this practice this month and be with the parts of your body that are asking for attention.

Also explore the parts you feel disconnected from and don't seem to be asking for attention because of very little sensation being present. These are the places in our body where we have severed our awareness of sensation and very much need attention and healing.

May you find blessed moments of deeper body and soul connection!


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