Her fingers had been pressing into my sternum for what seemed like the entire 40-minute session. The pain underneath them was real, unchanging and very, very strong. I had been coming to these bodywork sessions twice a week for 6 weeks now, and there we were again, in what had become a weekly stand off. My practitioner remained steady and consistent, and I, stubborn and rigid, fiercely holding my pain in place with muscular determination and an incessant stream of instructions from my mind, desperately trying to figure out the right thing to do. I was sure I was failing.
It was 1993 and I was living on my own in Barcelona, anxious and lonely much of the time, regularly pushing down a chronic feeling that I must be doing something wrong. I was sure that if I just did the right thing, read the right book, went to the right party, found the right hobby, had the right job, met the right people, met the right man, that that feeling would go away.
I had to out muscle and outsmart it or it would overtake me. And I would fail.
So every week I would ring the buzzer at the front entry door, diligently climb the 5 stories up, put down my leather briefcase, yank off my high-heeled shoes and nervously lie down on the massage table. Secretly, I was hoping for an itemized list my mind could easily follow, so I could just figure out how to make myself feel better. I’d follow the list. I’d be fine.
But that is not how this story goes.
Oh no, no, no. My mind had no idea how to make things “better,” otherwise, it would have already done so. Nope. I needed my body. And my body knew this. My body knew that those fingers that were pressing so strongly in my chest were bringing me back to something essential. Something that needed to be felt, fully and completely.
So finally one day, I simply couldn’t out think the pain any longer. I’d had enough with the unending struggle, and I had to come up for air. And when I did, when I finally took that deep breath, followed by another and another and another, my lungs filled, my ribs opened, and the pain of feeling wrong so much of the time, came bursting out and transformed into a hot, rushing flow that moved vibrantly throughout my entire body. Those muscles that had so obediently held this intense mixture of emotions in place could finally let go.
My mind was deeply still.
And that is when a change would start to happen. When I chose to be my body; one whole, unified experience, with all of its capacity for movement, sensation, breath, intelligence, flexibility, fluidity and strength.
I would have to go back to these lessons again and again. I would have to learn to feel and let go of many different muscles, to breathe as my body wished and needed, and to let old pain, humiliation and fear flow through me purely as physical sensations.
I would learn to quiet the quick reflexes of my mind and stop the feeling that I was wrong.
In the end, there was no checklist. There was no “right” thing. There was just the simple, evergrowing presence of my body. Today, when I choose to stop an old, limiting behavior, life opens up in ways my mind never could have figured out on its own.
This is the power of the body.