body

If You Embrace It, It Will Teach You

If You Embrace It, It Will Teach You

"Healing comes in many guises. We're healed by just the touch of a friend. We're healed by the hug of a child. And healing does not imply that your life is suddenly going to lose all of the struggle, all of the challenge. What it does instead is it strengthens us for what is next. But to be open to healing means to be vulnerable. And I think if you look at me, you know I'm what they would call a vulnerable adult. The cat doesn't even listen to me here. I have no real sense of control anymore."

~ Bruce Kramer

Letting Go of Mental Images

Letting Go of Mental Images

"Meditating on the body means meditating on body sensation, not mental images of the body."

~ Michael Taft

Fake It till You Become It

"Don't fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. You know? Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize...Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. 

So this is two minutes. Two minutes, two minutes, two minutes. Before you go into the next stressful evaluative situation, for two minutes, try doing this, in the elevator, in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors. That's what you want to do.

Configure your brain to cope the best in that situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down. Don't leave that situation feeling like, oh, I didn't show them who I am. Leave that situation feeling like, oh, I really feel like I got to say who I am and show who I am."

~ Amy Cuddy, from "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are," TEDGlobal 2012


See also:

Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (January 01, 2010). Power posing: brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1363-8. http://bit.ly/1kQNCwe 

Illuminated Manuscript

Brian Craig-Wankiiri

Your Body is a Holy Book
by Gil Hedley, from Beyond the Leaving

Your body
is a holy book,
a scripture ~

the pages
of your flesh
are marked
in exquisite detail
with the finest hand,

inscribed by spirit
with the poetry
of love,
lessons of mercy,
miracles,
angelic hosts,

and the story 
of your life
perfectly told,

an illuminated manuscript 
of a sacred writing 
epic in scope,
majesty
and grace.

Every hair
on your head
and line on your face,
every rushing tide
of wind and wave
moving you 
from within
this living testament
bear witness
to the truth
layered
within you ~

Study this text
with conviction then,
reflect with care
upon its meaning,
and enjoy
the divine
inspiration. 

Who's This?

Disappearing Act
by Elizabeth Ross Taylor, from Blackbird, Spring 2002

No, soul doesn't leave the body.

My body is leaving my soul.
Tired of turning fried chicken and
coffee to muscle and excrement,
tried of secreting tears, wiping them,
tired of opening eyes on another day,
tired especially of that fleshy heart,
pumping, pumping. More,
that brain spinning nightmares.
Body prepares:
disconnect, unplug, erase.

But here, I think, a smallish altercation
arises.
Soul seems to shake its fist.
Wants brain? Claims dreams and nightmares?
Maintains a codicil bequeathes it shares?

There'll be a fight. A deadly struggle.
We know, of course, who'll win. . . .

But who's this, watching?

[Thanks, Linda!]

Split from Our Bodies

Tara Brach, from Presence and Aliveness (Part 1), January 20, 2010 (download audio):

Our children do, more than ever, grow up in a virtual reality: video games and TV and computers and texting. Leaving the body’s very reinforced by the culture.

In spiritual-religious communities there’s a mistrust of the body. Especially where there’s a real imprint of the kind of shadow-masculine of controlling the body and not getting seduced by pleasure. You see this in the monastic communities.

Ulysses and the Sirens, John William Waterhouse (1891)

And of course we know, in this culture, there’s a mistrust of the body with pain, that pain is wrong, it’s bad, it’s to be controlled. And again, it’s totally wise and compassionate to use medication when appropriate, and we so overdo it. We’re so afraid of pain. We think that aging and death are kind of an embarrassment, an insult in some way. We anesthetize births and way over-interfere with dying.

So it’s a split. We get split from our bodies in this culture and it gets very much amplified with emotional wounding. If you really consider that the pain of our emotion lives in our bodies, when that emotional feels like too much, especially when we’re traumatized early, we have to leave. We have no other way to handle it. Emotional trauma makes us leave our bodies. The more emotional wounding there’s been, the more we’ve left our bodies. It’s pretty directly correlated.

So we push away the immediate experience of the pain in our body because we’re designed to try to anesthetize that much pain. The point, again, is not that we should avoid what comforts. It’s not even that we should stick with something that’s overwhelming.

The truth is our lives get very organized around avoiding unease and unpleasantness. It becomes important to recognize our flinch responses, our intolerance to physical discomfort or to difficult emotional weather. Because the habit is so quickly—without even be conscious of it—to leave our body and go into what I sometimes think of as the mental control tower, where we try to work things and maneuver things to feel better. We don’t stay. One of the best phrases I know, in terms of describing meditation, is learning to stay. Not in a way that’s uncompassionate. Not when it’s too much. But gradually getting the knack of noticing we’ve left, noticing we’re off in thoughts, and reconnecting with this aliveness. 

Containing and Contained by Infinite Space

Excerpts from Antony Gormley (Contemporary Artists) by John Hutchinson, E.H. Gombrich, and Lela B. Njatin:

To Meister Eckhart, art was religion and religion art. Artistic form, in his view, was a revelation of essence, a kind of revelation that is both living and active. “Work,” he wrote, “comes from the outward and from the inner man, but the innermost man takes no part in it. In making a thing the very innermost self of a man comes into outwardness.”

Much of Antony Gormley’s art is based on his understanding of Western and Eastern spiritual traditions, and his work resonates when it is placed in this context. Like Eckhart — or, indeed like Joseph Beuys — Gormley believes that the artist is not a special kind of man, but that every man is a special kind of artist…He works with “types,” with universals, and yet he roots his work in subjective experience…But what concerns Gormley more than anything else, is the paradoxical manner in which man, while containing infinite space, is also contained by it…His sculpture deals with what he sees as the “deep space” of the interior body, yet he is also concerned with “touch as gravity” and “gravity as the attraction that binds us to the earth.” Its key strength, perhaps, lies in the artist’s determination to accept nothing until is has been lived and internalized. Gormley’s work is structured and methodical, preconceived to a certain point, and then realized in the process of making.

Old Jail, Charleston, exterior

To Gormley, the body has a relation to the external space within which it exists as well as to the inner space it contains. And in a [1991] installation made for “Places with a Past,” an exhibition of site-specific art at Charleston, South Carolina, Gormley combined a series of works — Host, Field, Three Bodies, Learning to Think, Fruit and Cord — in order to explore that relationship.

The Old City Jail, which contained and became part of the installation, could be described as having the shape of a body: the original rectangular structure is rather like a torso; its later octagonal addition, like a head. And in order to emphasize its parallels with his body cases, which are sometimes connected to the outside world through orifices, Gormley removed the boards and glazing that had sealed up the prison’s doors and windows.

This allowed light and sound to enter the prison, to enliven what had hitherto been dark and dormant, and to engage time as an active element in the installation. In the artist’s words, “the building became a catalyst for reflection on liberty and incarceration.”

On the second floor, Field, a set of terracotta figurines, faced a similar vast space that contained only Three Bodies—large metal spheres, made of steel and air, which the aritst has described as “like celestial bodies fallen from the sky.”

Above Field was Learning to Think, five headless lead body cases that were suspended from the ceiling, in a contradictory evocation of both lynching and ascension. The corresponding space held Host, a room containing mud and sea water — “The surface of the earth described in Genesis…the unformed, the place of possibility, a place waiting for the seed,” according to Gormley

Learning to Think, Antony Gormley (1991)

In the octagonal extension, two related organic forms, Fruit, were hung on either side of a wall. Only one was visible at a time in order “to reconcile opposites not in terms of differentiation but by mirroring,” Hidden from view, and at the center of each sculpture, was a space once occupied by the artist’s own body, linked to the other side, though mouth and genitals, by steel pipes. The final piece was Cord, made of many tubes inside one another — a kind of umbilical lifeline between the “seen” and “unseen.”

gormley-body-fruit.jpg

Body & Fruit, Antony Gormley (1991/93)

gormleylearningtosee5.jpg

In this installation, one of great richness and complexity, Gormley brought into play the full panoply of his ambition. Working with lead and clay, as well as with the four elements, Gormley alluded to physical and spiritual containment, body and mind, outer and inner worlds, feeling and thinking, birth and death, growth and decay.

And if the contradictions inherent in  Learning to See give strength to the artist’s conception of inner vision, the dualities evoked by the installation at Charleston are subservient to a sense of passage towards expansiveness. The emotional depth of the work can be ascribed to its refusal to exclude either the particular or the universal: it encompasses both historical specificity and a sense of shared human experience. In formal terms, this is achieved by the undermining of the Modernist notion of the self-referential object. While each of the elements of the installation can be separately contemplated, they are most meaningful when perceived as parts of a larger whole. In that sense, they are like parts of a body.

Body, Remember...

Bedroom Window. October 2010

Σώμα, θυμήσου όχι μόνο το πόσο αγαπήθηκες,
όχι μονάχα τα κρεββάτια όπου πλάγιασες,
αλλά κ’ εκείνες τες επιθυμίες που για σένα
γυάλιζαν μες στα μάτια φανερά,
κ’ ετρέμανε μες στην φωνή —  και κάποιο
τυχαίον εμπόδιο τες ματαίωσε.
Τώρα που είναι όλα πια μέσα στο παρελθόν,
μοιάζει σχεδόν και στες επιθυμίες
εκείνες σαν να δόθηκες — πώς γυάλιζαν,
θυμήσου, μες στα μάτια που σε κύτταζαν·
πώς έτρεμαν μες στην φωνή, για σε, θυμήσου, σώμα.

Bedroom. October 2009

Body, remember not just how much you were loved,
not simply those beds on which you have lain,
but also the desire for you that shone
plainly in the eyes that gazed at you,
and quavered in the voice for you, though
by some chance obstacle was finally forestalled.
Now that everything is finally in the past,
it seems as though you did yield to those desires —
how they shone, remember, in the eyes that gazed at you,
how they quavered in the voice for you — body, remember.

C. P. Cavafy, from Collected Poems: Bilingual Edition. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

[Thanks, Jonathan Carroll!]

Feeling It

"...when you pay attention to your body (not thinking about it but feeling it) more or your whole brain and nervous system becomes available to link to more parts of the rest of your body...You may have to put aside your mp3 player and video monitor so you can focus more on yourself. The more you allow time for your body sense, the more that whole body activation gets established, and the easier it becomes to access all those good feelings and health benefits in the future."

~ Alan Fogel, from “Embodied Exercise,” Psychology Today’s Body Sense Blog (August 24, 2009)

This Churning is Our Journey

Tossing and Turning
By John Updike, from Collected Poems 1953-1993

updike The spirit has infinite facets, but the body
confiningly few sides.
There is the left,
the right, the back, the belly, and tempting
in-betweens, northeasts and northwests,
that tip the heart and soon pinch circulation
in one or another arm.
Yet we turn each time
with fresh hope, believing that sleep
will visit us here, descending like an angel
down the angle our flesh's sextant sets,
tilted toward that unreachable star
hung in the night between our eyebrows, whence
dreams and good luck flow.
Uncross
your ankles. Unclench your philosophy.
This bed was invented by others; know we go
to sleep less to rest than to participate
in the twists of another world.
This churning is our journey.
It ends,
can only end, around a corner
we do not know
we are turning.