The body in therapy

Hello, how do you feel today?

Let us do an experiment.

Take a pause. And slowly feel how it is to be in your body.

Feel your chest rise up and down with your breath. Feel your abdomen.

See how your consciousness pours out from your eyes to these words on the screen.

How the internet makes us so excessively visual.

See how your mind tries to make sense of what you read, to react to it, to like it or dislike it, to put a label on it.

How the internet makes us so mind-oriented.

Settle into the body, into all your senses. Allow the body to hear what it hears. To taste what it tastes. The smell what it smells. To desire what it desires.

When you are not forcing your senses in one direction or another, you are at rest.

Let your mind, too, be at rest.

We are like a baby who has been anxious for something. When the mother takes him in her arms, the baby lets go of his worries, and eases into rest and sleep. Ease into the space that opens up when you are with the senses.

The pressure on the senses is only an extension of the pressure we put on our mind. To be safe, to survive, to cope.

Rest. Let go of this pressure for now.

***

Let us stay with this experience, and reflect on what it means.

When the senses are not forced in one direction or another, there is an expansion of the sense of self. There is a felt connection to the world outside us, to the planet and the larger cosmos, which is a visceral, sensory experience, rather than only a theoretical proposition. There have been cultures in human history that have lived with this sensorial connection to the cosmos as the centre of their collective and personal life.

In our bodies, the state of rest corresponds to shifting away from a perpetual fight-or-flight mode that we are in as a result of the conditions of modern living. Dirty air, loud and sharp noises, bright lights, travel at unnatural speeds, electric impulses running through our homes – this is not what the human body was meant for. Each of these is a signal to the body that something is wrong, and puts the body in a chronic state of alarm, chronic, and hence, un-aware of itself. This perpetual state of alarm causes the processes of the body to dysfunction, leading to chronic illness. It is no surprise that one out of two human beings alive is going to get cancer, and not necessarily in old age.

On the level of the psyche, the state of rest corresponds to the state of trust. When I am at rest, I trust another human being. I allow the emotions they are experiencing to be felt by me, and I allow the emotions I am experiencing to be felt by them. The boundaried nature of my self is smudged, and there is a soft exchange of being.

The state of alarm corresponds to mistrust of the self and other. When I mistrust, there are always feelings in me that must not be evoked – wounds, shocks, sorrows. Whoever I meet, and whichever spaces I go to, I look for assurance that this ‘not me’ will not be evoked, living perpetually in activity and anxiety.

Many methods of healing work with the body, and what is often at their essence is facilitating a shift from the state of alarm to the state of rest. The therapy experience too, if it is to touch the depths of a human being, needs to affect the body.

While the therapist does not touch the client, the human voice is capable of shifting the other’s state of being. By creating a space of depth and acceptance, by his own example, the therapist may invite the client to speak in a way that when they speak, the voice expresses not just what the mind is thinking, but the tensions that the body holds, and the long suppressed emotions that these tensions have kept away. This is far from simply talking and figuring out things, far from a habitual talkativeness that we often fall into in order to avoid jittery silences. It is the therapist’s vocation to invite other human beings into this restful space, a space so suppressed in our times, and to allow this space to reveal what it does in us.


***

Let us end with another experiment.

As you look at the light on your screen, become aware of its brightness, of the particular part of the infinite spectrum of colour that it belongs to, of the intensity with which it reaches out to your eyes.

Rest your eyes, do not strain them to make sense of these words. Let them softly receive all the light, and not sharply focus. Stay with this relationship to the screen as a piece of light, rather than a page on which one needs to make sense of the letters, words and sentences.

Now, go to the window, and look out. To the extent possible, look up at the sky, and away from street lights. Become aware of the sky as a piece of light. It could be sunny, it could be softly lit, it could be dark, as in the night. Absorb this light.

Note the difference between the brightness of the two pieces of light you have just absorbed. Note the intensity with which they reach you, and of the particular parts of the spectrum of colours they emerge from.

Notice how screen light makes you tighten up, focus.

Notice how natural light makes you rest and receive, rather than grasp at something.

See if you can approach all light – screen light, indoor light, outdoor light, with that sense of rest, without straining your eyes chronically. See what that does to your inner states.

Stay with this sensitivity to the body, to the various things that it takes in – light, sound, touch, vibrations – and to the corresponding sensitivity to one’s inner states this way of being brings. There is nothing new here. We are only reminding ourselves of our true nature.

Rest, and appreciate this gift of the body. The body is an extension of your being. Take care of it, protect it from all the harshness out there. Find ways to make this care a part of your life, if it isn’t already.



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2 Comments

  1. Varsha kv 15th November 2020 at 5:37 pm

    This is really meaningful! Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    1. Kaif Mahmood 16th November 2020 at 6:08 am

      Thanks 🙂

      Reply

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