Re-finding my somatic experience

As a child I always lived life somatically. Everything I experienced arose from what I now know to be the fields of interoception (what I’m feeling inside my body) or exteroception (sensations outside of my body). I lived life outdoors, fully connected to nature and I would take great delight in running through the fields, letting the fire of delight and a sense of freedom rise-up through my chest like a secret dragon about to take flight. I spent time observing and learning about the wildflowers and the grasses around me.  I even played with them, making whistles from blades of grass, shooting off the furry cats-tail of a grass by looping it through the end…all the time taking in how these wonders of the world related to me and how it might feel in my body when I held them with curiosity. I played in streams, feeling the greatest excitement that simple water brings, splashing, dipping toes, feeling the cold or making boats out of sticks and objects to see what might make its way across. There was magic and mystery in everything and I held this privilege in my hands with the greatest sense of wonder and belief. I loved time with animals and spent many hours stroking, cuddling and playing with cats or horses…feeling their warmth, placing my face on their fur, taking in their earthy scent, feeling the comforting vibration of a purr, and the tickle up the nose that comes into contact with the hairs.

Living somatically was simple – it was innate, I didn’t even have to think about it. I just woke up every day and met the world as it contacted me. My heart was filled with playfulness and curiosity, and I longed to learn more of the world’s secrets – so I kept my senses open and soaked up all there was to offer.

As I moved away from earlier years, with the change of school…and inevitably the hormones that come at that age, the distraction of “fitting in”, of the elusive “coolness” that we spend a silly part of our lives trying to achieve and of course boys, I felt the need to turn my senses inwards. As I made the people around me “my world” I also gave my attention to my internal world…which was a lot less hospitable than the beautiful nature I had previously surrounded myself with. The light dimmed in my world and the joy and pleasure that were so natural to me, now seemed to be weighted to my experiences with those around me. My emotions felt like a stormy sea and myself a captain on an ill-equipped vessel, left to face them alone. With the feelings of shame and blame for the dark chaos inside of me, I sunk further into the space inside. The world outside no longer seemed like the one I had known of scents, textures, emotional energy, expansive moments, but was one of pitfalls, “getting it right”, situations to navigate. The more times I got it wrong, the more the dark, cavernous space inside got bigger and I continued to crawl into it for its sense of uneasy safety.

As an adult life became structured by routine – “your task is to get from 9 to 6 without causing any trouble and experiencing anything that’s your own”. I followed the instructions in a good girl way, but there was a sense of never really feeling the excitement of the finish line. Instead, I felt a continual flatness with the occasional planned or unexpected excitement, or worse – the drama or stress, that shook me out of the sense of service.

I would love to say I saw the pattern, that it was clear to me that I flew back to the light that I remembered, but my journey was a longer one with more lessons to receive. Crawling into the that internal space, loosing my sense of joy, was a habit that had a price – depression, anxiety, chronic health issues. My body was communicating with me to change…but I didn’t see the signs and treated it like the inconvenience I felt it was.

When you don’t listen to the whispers, to the polite asking, the direct question, to the strong suggestion….eventually you’ll get a shout!  It was a health crisis that got me to stop and really start to listen again to what my body had to stay.

Calling my body back to me started as an uneasy courtship – “how do I fix this?”…and it’s true some fixing needed to happen, but the more I listened to it’s needs, to it’s messages and started to treat it with love, the more it opened up to me and we started to become one again.

So now I follow my primal instincts – what feels good? How can I receive more pleasure here? What does my body need? Movement feels good, so I honour it daily and as the need arises. I look for the messages my body sends me – through emotion or sensation and listen to what it might want to say. I treat it with absolute love (most of the time) because really it has carried me for so many years and dealt with so many functions without so much as a thought. I look for signals of pleasure in the world and let my sensations slide towards it. I meet everything with a sense of curiosity and wonder as I watch life around me unfold. The more I face everything with curiosity, the more I let go of frustration and a sense that things should be a certain way. I feel the joy of wonder slowly open-up my heart again and it has started to bloom like a summer rose. I treat my body with love, its kind messages have got clearer, and it leads me too with love.  I feel safer than I’ve ever felt. The dark space inside has shrunk right back and I chose never to seek refuge inside it now.

It’s a journey (this relationship with my body) and like most relationships, it can be rocky, at times it needs work, but I have felt more harmony in the years that I have found it than in the many decades we drew apart. I learnt so much from my child-self too – she was born with wisdom that I let the world sap away, but I let her innate instincts be my continued north star as I travel on this journey.

We can change our lives…but we can also change the way we experience life and this really is the beauty of letting our body lead – of living more somatically.

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