A Body of Stories
“Hello down there” said Shoulder
“Hello up there” said Hand
“Hey what about me?” said Wrist “I always get left out”
“And me” said Elbow
“And what of me?”
All the other parts between Shoulder and Hand pipe up.
“Be more specific” they say to the whole of me “We are not just all the other parts”
“Well, who are you?” I ask.
“We are the Bones and the Muscles and the Veins and the Sinew and the Cartlidge. See, you can’t even spell us, or name us. You focus on what you can see. What’s of obviousness but what of everything else?”
“But I’ve been told to ask for a conversation between Shoulder and Hand.” I say in response.
“That’s as maybe, they’ve already given you stories, the old ones, the ancient bone ones, but what of all us little hidden ones who make it possible for you to write?”
“You sure do have a lot to say” I reply.
“Yes, we do.”
“Okay. What would you like to add to the conversation?” I ask
“Deep pan pizza.”
“Eggs and sausages.”
“That’s just nonsense” says I.
But I feel it, there in my left forearm is something that wants to be heard.
“Excuse me” she speaks.
Everything else hushes in anticipation.
“May I say something please?”
She is delicate, polite as if sipping fragrant tea from a thin china cup that is balanced carefully on a thin china saucer. She sits on the very edge of a fine carved mahogany chair. Her dress falling in immaculate folds about her.
“Excuse me” she says again.
I feel a little in awe of her poise and grace. I feel big and clumsy next to her. She is the Representative of my Arms, the part hidden away, protected behind a barrage of nonsense words.
Like a Queen protected by the Workers.
I try so hard to listen but I don’t know how.
“Sit” she says “drink tea with me” she says “why do we need to say anything at all?” she says.
There is a well known practice called Body Scanning (Body scanning involves paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence from feet to head. By mentally scanning yourself, you bring awareness to every single part of your body, noticing any[thing as you do]*), it is a daily exercise recommended for most self care routines. I’ve even spoken of it to people when working with them on a one-to-one basis.
I don’t do it myself mind you.
I find it really hard.
I can never seem to get my head around what it means exactly to bring my awareness to a specific body part. Unless it is in pain or discomfort, I only seem to know my body from the outside. I know my nose when it is runny or blocked, I know my stomach when it is sick or hungry, I know my head when it hurts, I know my feet when they are cold. But what about when my body is in none of these states? What about when it is normal? How do I bring my awareness to my ankle then? I don’t know what they feel like from the inside, nor my elbow, nor my earlobe. Who knows what the top of their earlobe feels like from the inside? Or if it’s moving or not when we try to make it move? To passively lie there and bring my awareness to my body slowly from the tips of my toes to the top of my head doesn’t calm me down or bring me into closer relationship with myself, it causes me to become stressed and anxious because I don’t know what it means. My inner voice is becoming high pitched, my breathing shallow even just thinking about it as I sit here and type.
What even is bringing your awareness to something?
Like looking at my phone to check the time?
And how do I know?
As I passively lie here, breathing deeply with plinky plonky gentle music and soothing voices that make me want to punch them?
And as for breathing into my right hip….
I was going to blame Descarte**.
As we always do, make it his fault that we are now so divorced from our bodies that we no longer pay attention to them from the inside unless we have to, but perhaps his whole line of enquiry on if he is just a brain in a jar was because of his own disassociation too. We readily and easily blame modern technology for our distractions but did we ever really know what our bodies were like from the inside in passive ways in the first place?
Bring movement into it, however, and suddenly being aware of ourselves is a different matter. What impulse carries my right foot across the floor in that way? And why does my left foot want to do something completely different? And what if I used my imagination to conjure a dialogue between them? What do my feet want to say to each other? Why does my right foot seem more and more like an impatient child and my left a mother with too much on her plate who just wants to stop for a while?
When we bring movement into Body Scanning it becomes much easier to connect with ourselves from the inside, it becomes natural and unforced, we are fully in our body.
If we were to let our elbows take charge instead of our hands how might our day be different?
And when we allow these movements to form images, when we allow these images to move gently into stories, now w eare fully aware of ourselves, now we are able to be in total relation with what we are made of.
For if every cell in our body really does regenerate and that the body I was seven years ago is not the same as I am today then isn’t it our memories – OUR STORIES – of who we are that hold us all together?
There’s only one way to find out.