How will you hold the rare and perilous given you? Dawn begins in the bones
– Risa Kaparo
We are not just physical bodies, nor are we the untouchable substance of our thoughts and feelings. Somewhere in the interrelationship between our physical bodies (soma) and our psychological landscapes (psyche), we confront the spectrum that is the human experience. Whether we are talking chakras, dreams, philosophy, or spirituality, the real brilliance is that all these systems have interconnectivity. We will see how the chakras align and open the psychic and physical intimacy we crave. This spectrum between body and mind helps us to identify what networks are thriving and which may be split off or disconnected. In the simplest terms, if the body and mind are not in attendance to one another we suffer. We hear this truth when we hear things like, “my gut instinct” or, “my head and my heart.”
A Subtle Flow of Energy
But what flows through the body that holds it together? The electromagnetic fields that comprise and contain our essence are a subtle flow of energy. It is a scientifically founded and experientially substantiated fact. The space between our cells is as voluminous as the cells themselves. How is it that we can experience energy, and even consciously enter or exit the sensory world through intention? We want to take some time these next weeks to reconnect and engage with the energy centers in the body. Through breath, meditation, yoga, and mindful awareness of the chakra system, we will take the time to notice and activate our mind-body connection through our subtle energy fields.
Addressing the Unconscious
One of the great gifts in this approach to our work at Barn Life is the opportunity to come out of old patterns, habits, trauma, and compulsions without having to speak directly to them. While talk therapy is an important part of our work, in the end, the honest experience of our sensory-selves is where the ultimate changes take place. For example, we share may a difficult pattern or a painful memory in therapy. However, if we do not take the time to feel it in the body, experience movement, or adequately express the energy that the topic brings, we may not move through the energy. The information remains simply that. Information. Until you do something with the unconscious, no amount conversation around a subject does anyone any good.
The Organs of the Energy Field
So what are the chakras? Imagine your spinal column as a carrier of all nerve signals that connect to the entire body. From the base of the spine to the top vertebra, we have an organized network that leads to the brain. We discover the chakras through sensory awareness. They are clusters or centers of high sensitivity or connectivity between the neural and the mental realities. Just as the body has organs, the chakras are the organs of the energy field. When activated, one is conscious in the body and the energy field. In each particular chakra, there are observable traits and characteristics that correspond. For example, if someone were to activate their root chakra (as we will discuss this week more in-depth), one would experience a closeness to the body, a more grounded and calmer overall temperament, and a sense of safety and present awareness.
We find the root chakra, or muladhara in Sanskrit, at the base of the spinal column. This energy center, when closed or inactive, can cause one to feel out of touch with the present moment. Without an open and active root, one is ‘unrooted,’ without grounding and often out of touch or disconnected from the here-and-now. When we work to activate and experience the root chakra, we can begin to bring better balance to the spectrum.
In terms of energetics, this chakra channels earth energy upward through the feet and legs to process and stabilize it. It then moves the energy on up the spine. It has transmuted into a form that the body recognizes as signals to balance the endocrine system through the release of hormones. If the flow is cut off, symptoms occur that are also psychological. If, for example, the root chakra is inactive, we do not, then, feel our feet or sense our existence in the body to be a strong component of reality. Instead, the mind wanders. The moment is overtaken and the experience unbalanced.
Opening the Root Chakra
How, then, do we open the root chakra? Through conscious breathing deep into the energy center, reiki, yoga postures, even the turning of awareness to the lower body can help. We will practice during our groups this week and learn to remain open and grounded. For now, you may try simply unclenching the lower body. Simply notice the sensation in your feet. For those of you who are overachievers, you might try a root chakra meditation on youtube. The bones are the nearest and most dense part of our existence. This is earth. This is underneath all else. If our nervous system and our musculature store the stuff we, well, stuff, then starting with the bones, feeling the present moment as it is in the physical and concrete, or in our case, calcium, we may begin to move upward through the spine bridging the divide between body and mind.
Well, we made it! Starting this week Barn Life programs are officially on campus! I thought it an interesting experiment as we connected through such physical distance. Our last theme, I believe, reflected our best efforts under the strain of social distancing. Alchemy is a heady and slippery world of ideas that support a mindful journey through our thoughts and emotions. However, it also addresses the significance of the body itself. Our return to campus offers us a great opportunity to explore the importance of physical and psychological connection. It is my hope that we will gain a better understanding of the psyche and soma (body) relationship and improve our attendance to the wisdom and messages of the body.
A Powerful Way of Healing Trauma
First, I want to elaborate on a few fundamental assumptions about working with the body. As studies continue to reveal, bodywork is an extremely potent and powerful way of addressing and healing trauma, freeing the mind from rumination. This includes cravings, depressive thoughts, anxiety, and more. In fact, no single cultural or mytho-religious background completely neglects working with the body. Psychology, with its broadening horizons and narrowing treatment methods, has to contend with the undisputed significance of the relationship between the body and the psyche.
The Unio Mentalis
By majority, most of us walk this earth with a severed head. In alchemy, this is referred to as the unio mentalis, a separation of the objective world from the thinking mind. On the one hand, this is an important step because we begin to observe the distance. On the other, however, we are often doomed in psychotherapy to the constant observational perspective. Psychologizing, as we might refer to it, is all about observing ourselves with language and category. We learn to be analysts, scientists, and researchers of our thinking, our moods, and our relationships. The problem here lies in the circular reasoning. Should we stay in reflection, we resemble Narcissus himself, oblivious to the love and beauty of the world. Should we remain severed from the wisdom of the body, we serve, in the end, to strengthen the mind’s perspectives alone.
The Unification of Mind and Body
The body becomes, then, a receptacle for all the contents we cannot or will not recognize. As we move through thought, reflection, and strategy, though, we may end up with a physical illness, a numbing to the sensory experience, and, ultimately, a great distance from the soul. How can we break free of the division between the mind and the body? Depth psychology is but one tradition that helps us to access the work of integration. Not only of aspects of our inner life but also the unification of mind and body.
Dr. Jeanne Schul and the Subtle Body
In Dance the Body Electric, Dr. Jeanne Schul suggests that the body is a powerful conductor of psychological and emotional life. The “subtle body” is the space between mind and physical body where a sensory relationship can be experienced. Through, for example, a sensory exploration of movement, we discover the truth about ourselves. Movement is honest. It does not explain itself or rationalize. Movement confesses. It reveals, without words, expressions of the substance of our nature. Movement may reveal frozen emotions or ignite fires of intense expressions. Movement works on our reservations and our need for control.
The Confessions of the Body
This week, I want us to remain mindful of the bodily sensations and the impulses to move. Honesty, in the most spiritual sense, is always an expression of love and not strategy. Should we open up to the confessions of the body, we may find ourselves thoroughly present, sincerely engaged, and wildly human once more. For the next several weeks, we will be engaging with the body from a few different modalities in groups. We will explore the 7 primary chakras and support a connectivity between these real and living centers of consciousness. I encourage you all to remain firstly in the body and, as we come together in a real physical environment, to strive to honor those vessels of substance that differentiate you from me. May we all remain at home beneath the skin and near the heart of wisdom that transcends the mind.