Another family photograph, this time out in the woods, our playground. A time when the river overran the banks and we had to cross over walking the logs. We learned not to look down at the moving water but to focus on where we were going, testing each step carefully before taking the next. As a child I remember this being fun, for I always loved a dare. I considered myself equal to my brothers in the fact that I was able to learn fast and enjoyed the challenge. As we got older the logs got smaller, but learning balance was a thrill and still is.
Homesteading in Canada’s north in the 1960’s meant no power, no TV, no corner stores, etc. My dad learned to be a logger, the only job that paid well back then. Mom cooked, cleaned, fixed things and every second week drove back and forth to Terrace, a town forty miles away on a bumpy, gravel road for groceries, gas and to make deals on what the farm needed. Grandad guided my parents through the learning process of farming, hunting, and wood gathering. Grandad taught us how to skin and tan hides, build smoke houses and make picture frames from birch logs so that we could have a surprise gift ready for Mother’s Day.
Memory is a funny thing. Aside from annual Christmas photographs, which we all dressed up for and learned to say “cheese,” I don’t remember posing for pictures. I am now starting to appreciate my childhood collection of photographs and I am delighted that I can share them with you. It gives me incentive to write the ongoing story of how I am getting well. Creating a healing centre is part of the process as it helps me to access healers and allows them to make a living as we network and provide support for the segment of the population that believes in self-responsibility and are willing to take the time to understand how their bodies work.
As I go through the various stages of healing, I am understanding ‘why I am the way I am’ much clearer. Each month I feel stronger in my body and clearer in my intent as to what it is I am here to do. Being in my body (as opposed to being in my head) as I type, as I eat, as I go about my daily tasks, takes constant practice. Quietening the monkey mind and assuring her that she is still loved has been a ten-year educational process, but it is helping me to change. I do believe that my body is a reflection of my mind, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Slowing myself down is an illusion but most days, I feel that I have taken a few more moments for myself. Enjoying physical exercise, moments in nature and watching new babies lets me embrace life and enjoy the magic.
Writing this column every month gives me a written record of my changes as I go deeper into my body and let go of old wounds and beliefs systems. Being aware of my arms as I type keeps me in my body and I consciously breathe into my fingertips so they don’t go cold on me. Every few minutes I put my attention to my left shoulder noticing how it has rolled itself forward and up. As I breathe into my shoulder, and ask the tension to let go, my back straightens as my body elongates. Staying aware in my business takes diligence and practice, but I promised myself that I would feel my feelings as they came up. Once in a while, that means I have to take time in the middle of my day and go outside and sit by the creek and have a talk with myself or cry if that is what is needed to figure out what my body is trying to tell me.
The Integrative Body Psychology sessions that I do with Ken Martin every month are taking me deeper into my core self and I am glad that my process resonates with so many of you out there. Ken is teaching me to listen to myself as I speak. Whenever I hear my voice or breath change when I am talking about something, I know I still have a charge in my body related to that subject. Knowing that the original event happened long ago doesn’t make much difference; the childhood memories that are surfacing now feel like they are happening in the moment.
As I re-listened to a 1991 cassette tape with Dr. Kaplan, my vision trainer and eye doctor, it was interesting to hear myself talk, laugh and breathe. As I talked about Dad being a hardhearted person, the tension and quivering in my vocal chords was clear and spoke louder than my words. At that time I felt I had dealt with his way of being, for he was long gone; surely he still wasn’t affecting me. It has taken me many years to realize how much my heart had hardened in response to his not being able to be with me as a child. He just didn’t have the skills. Instead of taking the time to listen and honour my feelings, he imposed his beliefs of right and wrong with a good spanking and left me believing that God would punish me by sending me to hell.
The pain and anger that never got expressed then got stored in my belly. Learning to be honest with my body is a slow process, as is being aware of my breath, practising deep breathing and taking the time to meditate. It has taken me five years to open up my emotional body so that I can heal from the inside. After one of Ken’s sessions, which usually involves a fair bit of crying, my eyes feel tired, my stomach quivers from the change of energy flow, and I feel drained. It takes several days to get my energy levels back up, but it well worth it.
My latest session with Ken brought up angry feelings deep in my stomach, old pain of being punished for something I really didn’t understand. It is Christmas time and I am in grade one: we have chosen the name of another child to exchange gifts with at school. I am little enough that my Dad has to pick me up so that I can see over the counter and I choose a ball and jack set. I pick up one for her and I ask for one for myself. Dad says, “No.” I put a second set in my pocket. When we get home I go to my room and play by myself, totally absorbed in the fun and the wonder of a bouncing a ball and picking up jacks. I hear the door open and look up to see my Dad. There is fire in his eyes and I know a spanking is coming, so I jump up and run into the bathroom. As I duck behind the door I am almost blinded by one of the coat hooks as he pushes the door open. I didn’t have memory of the spanking but as Ken asked me questions, I was able to bring up my anger by making faces, sticking out my tongue and shouting at the ceiling, pretending Dad was there. Then Ken had me bring in my wiser self to fill the void left by the anger with loving thoughts of how I would have liked my Dad to have responded. Gift giving made no sense to me at the time and I just got more angry when I had to wrap up both sets of jacks. I remember thinking “I wonder if the kid that got my present wondered why she got two sets of jacks.” As I tuned into what was happening now as Ken asked questions, I could feel the inner contractions as my body tried to protect me from the old pain.
After all these years of releasing, I am starting to understand why it is so difficult for me and other people to access their emotional bodies without expert help and guidance. I now understand why it is so easy for us to become creatures of habit. As I have said before, pain is a good teacher. Ignoring it, suppressing it, or drugging it usually means it will surface later in some form of illness. I decided long ago I didn’t want to be pushing a walker when I am ninety years old, so I am learning to listen and I thank you for joining me.