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Beyond the Brain: What My Body Wants Me to Know

Becca Clegg

If summarized, it is fair to say that in some way, I’ve spent my career helping people heal wounds.  I have tried, if possible, to help them create an understanding of themselves that revolves around empathy, compassion and inclusivity of every aspect of who they are.

Typically, the wounds I see have occurred as a result of a myriad of things.  When boiled down to the common denominator, however, you often find that the source of this type of wounding leads back to an experience of being marginalized, trivialized, bullied, abused, assaulted, ignored, neglected, or made to feel inferior for being none other than who you are.  In addition, this wounding is often dealt by the hands of those in positions of authority, often by those who could be described as bullies – people who often demonstrate traits of narcissism, or appear to be lacking in compassion and empathy (anti-social).

So for those reasons, it will not come as any shock to you that I personally, and professionally, have been appalled by the emergence of Donald Trump as a political figure and leader.  I am opposed to, and frightened by, all that he symbolizes.

Another blogger and psychotherapist, Annie Wright, said it far better than I could when she said, “President-elect Trump and his track record of actions so far embodies everything that I work so hard to help people heal and overcome from: The painful collateral damage of narcissism, grandiosity, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, divisiveness, bullying, body-shaming, oppression, lies, and on and on the list goes.” (Check out her blog, she’s an amazing writer https://anniewrightpsychotherapy.com/blog/)

Everyone had personal differences and different reasons for making the choices they did on voting day. This article is not about being right or being wrong in our voting choices.  The focus of this article is on my own personal connection to the wisdom of my body in what I find to be a disturbing and yet critically pivotal time.

Like many of you, as I watched the election results coming in, I felt a sense of shock.  I watched in disbelief and my mind searched for understanding. 

My body, however, had an entirely separate experience, one that I am still trying to understand as I write this today.  My chest became tight, and my breathing shallow.  My heart rhythm shifted in an uncomfortable way.  A deep sadness and disappointment revealed itself as my eyes cried tears.

My body literally mourned. 

Throughout the entire experience, my brain continued to do its best to console me. It did its best to give me logic and reason, telling me,

“It’s going to be fine.  This isn’t the end.  It’s just four years, this is the political back and forth that fills the history books.  Two steps forward, one step back, your life isn’t going to change.  You will rise tomorrow and everything will be relatively the same.”

My brain scanned for facts; it searched for meaning.

But my body wasn’t on board.  My body has been sending me a very different message, one that I have come to see as full of wisdom that my brain cannot, and will not, ever be able to “know.” 

Luckily, I have been clued into the fact that our bodies have incredible messages to send us if only we stop and listen.  So – here is what I heard, and the lessons that I have surmised in these past two weeks.

Be Present – You Need to Be Awake

As I felt my chest tightening, I had no choice but to slow down and take really deep breaths.  It was as if my body was forcing me to focus, whispering,  

“Breathe deeper…you must breathe deep right now.”

It has remained this way ever since, a constant reminder of the power of my breath itself.  It is as though through necessity, my breath is forcing me to ground and center myself through deep sighs and intentional breath work.

The tightness in my chest is saying,

“You must focus on your breath, and you must do this intentionally.”

This, without my brain getting in the way, has caused me to be very present in a time when it would be really easy to just numb out and stick my face down in my comfy bubble until it felt safe to come up.  But instead, I am forced back into the moment, into being present.

As my mind takes in this message, it occurs to me that this is beyond wise.  The wisdom I hear is,

“Don’t check out now, Becca.  Be present – remain awake.  The time for sleep and distraction is over.”

Conscious breathing keeps us present, and our presence is needed.

             "When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” – Chinese Proverb

Connect To Your Heart – The Power Lies In Your Love

I felt my heart rhythm change, to a varied sped-up then sped down rhythm that held its uncomfortable dance inside of my chest until about 3 a.m. that morning.  My heart, the center of my emotional body, the symbol of the love inside of me, didn’t know how to relax.  It was frenetic and confused, grief-stricken and afraid.  

The changing of my heart rhythm that night created an intense focus on the organ itself.  The heart, the universal symbol of love, was literally knocking loudly on the walls of my chest as if to say,

“This is where it hurts, this is where the problem is.  Notice me.  Pay attention to me, I need your attention.”

I believe that collectively, the choice that was made, the campaign that was run, and the blinding frenzy of “us versus them” that the powers that be droned up and used to their advantage screamed from the top of the highest mountain, “We (collectively) are not okay... We are wounded, and hurting, and have so much healing to do.”

The question then remains, what heals?

The answer was so clear - Love.

It isn’t the anger, outrage, or ego based judgment and bitterness that wants to take over in times like this.  Those emotions play a role.  They signify injustice and violation.  They mobilize people and can be a catalyst for action.  But they do not heal.  In fact, often, left unchecked, they only continue to deepen wounds.

What ultimately heals every human being is the experience of being seen and witnessed for who they are, and loved through that process, not in spite of it.  How we do this in light of the great divide we see before us?  I will admit, I don’t exactly know.  But that’s okay.

All I know is that right now, my body is refusing to let me ignore this message.  It feels urgent, as if to give me that push, to get me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to remember to align with love. It’s saying to me,

 “Choose a side.  You can no longer be neutral.  Choose me.”

We don’t always get a roadmap, but we do get an internal compass if we are listening.  My heart, combined with my deeply held belief that love is the essence of who we are, has spoken loudly these past few weeks and sent a message so clear it doesn’t matter to me that I don’t have the linear “plan” mapped out.  Learning to trust my body’s wisdom and move in faith is part of the process. I have yet to be let down.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”  - Elie Wiesel

Embrace Feminine Energy

Around 1 a.m., when I was assured that what I was seeing on the TV screen was real, my eyes released the tears, the healing and beloved salty water of tears.  These tears held a sorrow so deep, so primal, that I believe, it wasn’t just my pain.  It was collective.

Tears are an interesting topic.  As I write this, I realize, this is an article unto itself.  But for the sake of brevity, I will just say, that every baby is born with the amazing ability to release emotions held in the body through the release of salt water through tear ducts in the eyes. When you look at it like that, it’s pretty cool, right?  I mean, what a design this human body has; it has thought of everything!

And yet, somewhere along the way, this amazing and necessary act of emotional release has been negatively connoted in our culture.  Approximately 300 years (and change) ago, a great shift in the human paradigm occurred.  This is the time in history when we saw the formation of the patriarchal paradigm.  The masculine energy rose disproportionately, and while doing so, the feminine became vilified, and the cultural expectation became the denouncing of the feminine, and everything it represented.

We as people lost our inner balance when this occurred.  There is so much history behind that last statement; I can’t even begin to do it justice in this paragraph, so to stay on point, let’s look at the act of crying.  Crying became associated with the feminine, deemed weak and ineffective and, as a result, our culture to this day sends messages both overt and covert that crying is something to be ashamed of.

We are seeing this in action today as many people are referring to others who are experiencing emotions around the election as “cry babies,” as if to cry were something to be embarrassed about instead of a very healthy and necessary bodily release.  This is an effort to shame people for having feelings.  It is a perfect example of how we have learned to degrade the feminine experience.

It is my belief that the reason we find ourselves in this predicament in the first place is largely due to that very imbalance that occurred some 300 years ago.  Our world has been suffering in so many ways as a result of that shift, and this is just a continuation of the pain any organism experiences when it doesn’t have balance or homeostasis.

Masculine and feminine energy is something we all possess.  This is not about gender as we define it culturally.  This is about internal human traits and experiences that we are all born with the capacity and need to experience.  Our society, however, with its need for dichotomy and its biased belief that the masculine traits are dominant and therefore preferred over the feminine, create an impossible scenario for men and women alike.  We all suffer under this paradigm.

The feminine is represented by the qualities of compassion, emotion, creativity, collaboration, intuition, empathy, spirituality, and right brain thinking.  The feminine listens, it receives, it contemplates and it informs.  The masculine is represented by analytic and rational thinking; encompasses competition, determination, and linear, left-brain processing.  The masculine takes action, it possesses, it (when in balance) makes manifest the informed decisions of the feminine contemplation.

The problem is that the masculine and feminine energies are meant to work in union.  The feminine informs; the masculine takes action.  Due to the schism within our hierarchical culture, culturally, we are all action without contemplative information.  We are like planes flying without a compass.  We are deeply disconnected and out of balance, and our culture is reflecting that in more ways than I can count.

So, let me get back to my tears.  That night, my body needed to release.  It didn’t ask. It never does.  It just did its thing, revealing to me the depth of my concern, fear and connectivity to the events occurring around me.  Rather than fight them, I leaned in. I felt my feelings.  I just let it be.

And what was the message my tears sent me?

“Be with your feelings, don’t run, and don’t fix them.  Embrace the feminine, for the world needs this balance now more than ever.”

Now, I have held this belief for years; this has been my truth for a very long time now, but my body wasn’t going to take any chances in making sure I didn’t forget.  My tears have continued to flow, when appropriate, although not always when convenient.  It’s my choice not to judge them, but to see their strength, and their reminder that I am indeed present, aware, awake, and finally – embodied.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” -Albert Einstein

As you make your way through the rest of 2016, I encourage you, wherever you find yourself, to be aware of your body’s wisdom.  There is a wisdom so deep, so ancient inside of you that can never be found “out there.”  With all the noise, and heightened emotion floating around, I invite you to take time to come home.  Come back to your body, your source.  There is much to be learned if you are awake, and if you are listening.

Peace and love to you all.