Metaphor: a link between body and mind

Stories are the way that we make sense of our worlds, at least for most of us. We make sense of our day through narrative.  “Oh, today was a good day, because I got a parking place right away at work, and I had lunch with a good friend, and I was productive at work, and my favorite song was on the radio during the ride home.”   That might not sound like much of a story, but it is certainly a typical way for a person to make sense of experiences.  There is also judgment within the story, an indication of pleasure or displeasure about the way that the experience unfolded.   And that story can have a lot of power.   For example, a story about a “good day at work” can influence mood and social interactions for the whole evening, and maybe even predispose the storyteller to experience the next day in a positive way.

Of course it works in less obvious ways, as well.   We can tell ourselves stories about how we’ve been badly treated, about how the world dispenses injustice, or about the things we would like to do to act out on feelings we’re having.    We can tell ourselves stories about how we can do something or about how we cannot do something.   Stories help us to construct our sense of ourselves as well as our sense of the world around us.

Stories tell us who we are and explain the world to us.

When we hear stories, we often respond viscerally. That is, we have a feeling about the story we hear. There is a set of sensations in the body, responses that happen just as a result of hearing a story, reading a story, watching a movie or tv show. We don’t even need to be “into it” very much to have a response. In fact, distancing can be a response to a story.
The story you tell yourself helps to create the YOU that you are. You can choose the story, though. You are not stuck with the story you have already in place. Perhaps you could tell yourself a story about a person who was stuck in old patterns, who had few different ways to behave, who was not so spontaneous, who didn’t feel feelings very clearly. Perhaps this person was learning about other ways to be in the world, was starting to think about taking some risks to be different than before. Perhaps he or she was getting ready to become someone different. Below is an exercise using a metaphor around this kind of story.

Gold chrysalises
  • You can bring your body into this exercise, or just attend to your thinking and notice that your body comes along. For example, you might imagine that you are going through a change process, perhaps like the one that turns caterpillars into butterflies. You could imagine yourself all wrapped up tightly in a chrysalis, change happening but not yet visible to the outside world. If you want to, use your body to help your mind in this imagining.
    • Feel the tightness of the hard case around you; feel your own desire to break out and begin to move freely.
    • Notice how your face and head feel, how your back and legs and torso feel, while in this tight casing.
    • Notice your own awareness of the changes in your consciousness as you have been learning more about yourself.
    • Notice the parts of your body that particularly want to expand and open.
    • Then using your powers of mind, imagine the hard casing of the chrysalis easing open, gently splitting to reveal …. what? Now just let that opening happen and allow whatever is there to emerge, providing a welcome to whatever is present for you at this moment. Welcome the new sensations, images, feelings, ideas, with compassion. If they are not what you wanted, still welcome them with kindness, knowing that there is something there for you, even if it might not be what you decided in advance should be there.

Acceptance of what is allows things to change.

Many thanks to ” Erica Marshall of muddyboots.org ” for the insect photos, and to Brenda on Flickr for the books.   My apologies for using an old saw…the butterfly metaphor….but it works.

How do you see yourself reflected in the stories you tell yourself? What would it mean for you to know that you are not your stories? How might your life open up?

Wants, needs, desires, wishes, attachments…

Yesterday I posted about finding out what we really want.  I suggested that we don’t want objects or experiences, but we want the feelings that we think we’ll get from those objects or experiences.   I also suggested something that might be harder to swallow…that we can work our way through those wants and desires by practicing feeling a sense of enough in our bodies.

It is worth spending a little time on this whole concept and experience of “enough.”   I am a classic “never enough-er,” according to Jack Lee Rosenburg, founder of Integrative Body Psychotherapy.   I am a person who just doesn’t know how much is enough.  Correction….I WAS a person like that.   That was the way that I functioned in the world.

When I was a young adult, I attributed this characteristic to being raised in a home where alcohol was an influential factor.   Adult children of alcoholics often struggle with enough.  I found that I could not entertain without making more than twice enough food.  If I carefully planned out the food, I’d rush out at the last minute to buy more, certain that running out of food would be a disaster.   When I was a student, I could never figure out when a paper or project was finished.  I would keep working and working on it, until I had actually undermined the work I’d done.  I learned to procrastinate because then the time constraints would tell me that “this is enough…”  because I had to turn it in.

credit: http://ttactechtuesday.pbworks.com/w/page/7857889/AT%20Solutions%20for%20Writing

In later life, I struggled with binge eating, and with binge exercising, running on an injury to the point of needing surgical repair.  I could not tell what was enough.  I never felt that I was enough in any situation, always over-preparing my classes when I was teaching at the university, always having to read more, and buy more books about any topic I need to study.  In fact, I had so many unread books at one time that I made a tidy sum selling them on Amazon.  (Not as much as I’d spent originally, of course.)

By almost any measure, it was clear that I could not tell what was enough.  I didn’t trust my own body experience to tell me what I needed, wanted, or when I was ready to stop.  I overworked, over-ate, over prepared, and over-thought just about everything in my life.

Through body-based therapy, meditation, journal work, and much attention to my own moment-by-moment experience,  I have found a better place for enough in my life.  I now make it a daily practice around eating, sitting in meditation, and in my work to ask myself if this is enough.   I have developed a couple of mantras that help, too.

Credit: http://robertballew.com/2010/11/making-peace-with-your-body/

Now that I can feel that sense of “enough” in my body, and I can trust it enough to take action around it, I don’t struggle nearly as much with the wants, desires, and wishes that used to plague me.   I know what is enough.   For most of my life, for most things in my life, I have enough.  I am enough.  There is enough.

In this moment, right here and now, the only moment that actually matters because it is the only moment that I am actually living, there is enough.

I am enough.

This is good enough.

And good enough is good enough.