We are creatures of our senses. We feel, see, hear, taste our way to each other and to our selves. It's how we recognize home, how we experience life. You can tell me who you are but I learn more about you, the real you, from the feel of the curve of your back, the smell of your sweat, the taste of your tongue. Sense is language, intimacy embodied. Private, personal, and universal.
I am part of the chaos, it isn't separate from me. Separation is a false sense of security and order. Life is messy and juicy and beautiful and painful all at once, you can't choose the parts you want. It's a package deal. We are built to survive and thrive in chaos and silence, they are the same. We are the same. Resilience is our gift, our calling. To get deep into the unknown and come back home whole. Whole.
It occurs to me that there’s a lot of talk out there about being in touch with your body and how your body parts feel. But we don’t talk a lot about how it feels to be, to really be, IN your body.
I was out hiking the other day and my body was feeling pretty good, all parts in working order as I chugged up and down the green hillsides. Yet I still had a light sense of unease at my physical activity, a small lack of confidence in my ability to reach my hiking goal which was the trail summit. I didn’t have any mechanical reasons to doubt myself but I certainly had historic reasons for my caution: my hiking ambitions often outreach the capacity of my legs and having Multiple Sclerosis, a disease of unpredictability, requires sensible care when I venture off on my own and away from city comforts. Still my unease remained as I scanned my body for clues. Then, as tends to happen when I’m deep in nature, I understood I was asking myself the wrong question. The question wasn't how my body was feeling, the question was how I was feeling in my body. Aha!
How does it feel to be in my body? It took a hot minute to discover I didn’t really like my answer. Unstable. I can’t trust my body to be consistent and my physical condition hinders my balance and my strength, my ability to fully participate in the things I desire. I am stable when I walk or hike (even uphill) with simple repetitive motion, but anything outside my narrow comfort zone is a risk. Slipping on the muddy trail, carrying a weighted pack, snapping into fight-or-flight when a fox startles me on the trail, all push me into unstable territory. So does squatting of any kind, holding my arms up for too long, or anything that requires balance. It’s an overwhelming sadness to admit that my body, the container that moves my soul through this world, also limits my ability to engage with this world. And worse, that I’ve learned to frame my desires in terms of my capacity without challenging the immutable assumptions I’ve made about what my body is capable of.
So today I’ve been exploring how it feels to be in my body through movement, painting and writing. I’m allowing myself to be witness to the state of being embodied by my own body and noticing, simply noticing. Later I’ll start thinking about ways I can close the gap between how it feels now and how I want it to feel. I’ll honor my own capacity and at the same time test my limits (and assumptions) to cultivate stability in my body. I’m starting to visualize how it would feel to be in a body that’s not only physically stable but consistent in performance, and it feels pretty wonderful.
How does it feel to be in your body? Step away from summarizing your parts and allow yourself to feel your body as a whole, the container for your soul. Can you feel what it’s like to be fully partnered to this body? Where are your hurts and where is your joy? Are you comforted by being in your body or does it cause you distress? Sit with that feeling and allow yourself to explore it, find the edges of your capacity and look just beyond it. Do you desire more? There’s no need to go beyond your capacity if you’re comfortable where you’re at. But if you’re not, what are the small simple steps you can take to test your boundaries? What would make you feel wholly supported by your body? These can be difficult questions, especially for those with chronic health conditions, and the answers are the beacon that calls for your self-care and gentle trust. It’s by asking ourselves these tough questions, and allowing ourselves to answer fully and honestly, that we find our true desires and learn to move ourselves closer to fulfillment and joy.
I coach midlife women to help them find the confidence to stay present and feel deep into their own bodies. You can click here to learn more about working with me.
(Art by ©Lisa Berry 2015)
Let me tell you a story about coyotes.
Truthfully, this story isn’t exactly about coyotes themselves but about how we respond to the coyote’s call. How our souls respond to wildness and the siren howl of the pack.
We all know our coyote mythology and the ways of the ever-present Trickster. Coyotes are playful and clever while remaining their own master of disaster. Think Wile E. Coyote. It’s a great idea to hunt your prey with an anvil, until said anvil hurls to the ground and lands on your own head. And still coyote rises, dusts off and continues on the holy fool’s mission.
I have had two experiences where coyote has called to me and stirred my soul. The first was living in a cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains: I cherished the nights I awoke to hear coyote calling across the canyon, waited with my breath held to see if the response would follow. The distant call and respond would continue through the wee hours, until the call changed to the final gathering of the pack. Many coyote voices would chime in as the pack gathered and ended the evening’s hunt. Their final canine crescendo would serve to wake the morning and start the new day.
The second experience was a couple years ago, camping at Tuolumne Meadows. I wasn’t at my usual campsite and my tent was much closer to the meadow, further from the river. In the final morning hours of my last night there, the call of coyote broke the silence with a deep and dreamy howl. The response was immediate as other pack members signaled response and the calls seemed to get closer to us, more urgent in their meter. I could feel the entire campground holding our breath together, as if our own stirring pack, while the coyotes gathered in the meadow. The deep resonant voice of the leader, followed by the responding adults, concluding with the pups yipping in to affirm their presence. The calls became rapid, echoed through the valley, overlapped each other until they finally sang in one voice then suddenly, silence.
I’ve noticed there are two kinds of people in life: those that move away from the call of the coyotes and those who are compelled towards their song. To move away is to play it safe, avoid risk, deny the stir of your own pulse and place coyote in the tidy box of Dangerous Uncontrolled Things To Be Avoided. To move away is to choose to fear what you don’t know. And when you are compelled forward, towards coyote’s song, you acknowledge the wildness in your self and your place in the pack. You step into the mystery that is nature, our nature, and let it flow through your veins like life itself. You hold coyote’s song closely, not tight enough to crush it but enough to let it carry you away.
How do you respond when you hear coyote’s song?
I invite you to pause next time you hear the call and let it touch the brave places within you, let it rise your curiosity and your courage. Let coyote show you yourself through its eyes, and you may begin to see yourself in a whole new light.
I coach midlife women to help them find the confidence to sing their own coyote song. You can click here to learn more about working with me.
I’ve always been fiercely independent. I prided myself on not needing anybody’s help and on my ability to spend copious amounts of time alone, both at home and on spirited travels out in the world. Being able to do, or not do, whatever I want was an incredible feeling of power and autonomy, unchecked by expectations and fueled by my own sense of willingness and adventure. Perfect.
And then I discovered my tribes.
Underneath my independence I deeply longed for a sense of community. I was conflicted by the need to be truly myself and my desire to be part of something bigger, something connected and shared. I’ve never been part of an organized religion or sports team or really even present in my family of origin because I couldn’t reconcile my sovereignty with what I perceived as the need to conform and compromise in order to fit into a community. I had no concept of how to be part of a bigger whole while still retaining my own values and beliefs. Until my tribes started gathering.
A wise and sacred friend saw my struggle and invited me to call my tribe to me, instead of trying to fit myself into communities that would only allow me to share a part of my self. He taught me that I could be 100% me and still experience that sense of belonging when I surround myself with those who share my vision and would accept nothing less than my full presence. With his support I started to call in my tribe.
I tested the tribal waters slowly, building up my trust and practicing the hard work of releasing those who would not embrace me for who I am. I stretched beyond my comfort to engage with people to find my kindred souls who believed in connections committed to nurturing our selves, nurturing each other and working towards a vision for a better planet. I was drawn to those not who were exactly like me but who were guided by an abiding belief in kindness, nonviolence, integrity, equality and justice. And my tribe began to grow, from old friends who (unbeknownst to me) already shared my vision to new friends willing to share their passions and ideas. As my community developed, it also segmented into a plurality of tribes with similar yet unique intentions and each with its own sense of connection: my tribe of visionquest soul sisters, my two tribes of coaches (both local and global), my tribe of family, my tribe of creative art making souls, my tribe of souls with magical bodies, my tribe of friends looking to grow together and love one another honestly for who we are. I understand now that I can be fiercely me, truly living in my integrity, and be part of something bigger with tribemates who resonate with me at the deepest levels.
I encourage you to call out to your own tribe, to let them envelop you as you are and allow you to honor them as they connect to you. And if you’re so called, please feel free to reach out to me to spark our connection and explore ways we can continue to draw our tribe in to us with love and honor.
I coach midlife women to help them find the confidence to say yes to the things they desire. You can click here to learn more about working with me.