The Right Brain Approach to Dealing With Adoption
My friend Paula Fahey wrote to me the other day about adoption. She said, “If I don’t know how to occupy space in my body, how in the world can I possibly occupy any space in the world?” I thought about her question all afternoon.
For a couple of years now I’ve listened to Brooke Thomas’s podcast, Liberated Body. Recently, she joined up with another healer, Vanessa Scotto, and they made a new podcast, Bliss and Grit, so I also listen to that. And they mention, again and again, a teacher they share, Reggie Ray. Every time I hear his name I mean to look him up, and then I get caught up in what Brooke and Vanessa are saying and never do it.
I keep forgetting to close my Audible account, and every month two credits pop up and I have to figure out how to get the most book for my buck. The other day, a book called Somatic Descent came on my recommended list, and the author was Reggie Ray. The book was $23.95 so I felt it was a solid choice. If it had been $9.00, I wouldn’t have bought it no matter how many times those women said his name. In my world (America), cheap means cheap.
I downloaded the book and then could not stop listening. I fell asleep listening to it, and as soon as I woke up I got it going again. I did the meditations. I played back sections I needed repeated because I’d been so busy scraping the top of my head off the ceiling.
What I saw was there was a whole new way for me to live in my body and my mind. There was the possibility of freedom. Of ease. Of relaxation within this bag of skin and flesh that has been holding on in a death grip for so long. I may be the only massage therapist who is immediately told when getting a massage, “Relax.” If I knew how to relax 1. I wouldn’t be a massage therapist because I wouldn’t have been on a personal search for relief and 2. I wouldn’t be getting a massage.
I listened to Reggie Ray and my whole body was buzzing, literally. It felt like I’d stuck a finger into a low level socket (the socket of my own energy, really), so now I’m taking his ideas and words and mashing them into my own to create “The Right Brain Approach to Being Adopted”.
Here’s how it starts:
My left brain, the thinking mind, is what reminds me of my stories of adoption: your mother didn’t want you (conjecture). You were alone for the first ten weeks of your life (conjecture). You will never be successful because there is something busted in you (conjecture). Your heart is broken. (But it pumps fine.) You have an internal wound that will never heal (conjecture).
There is plenty of reading material on adoptees to back up all I have said, but here is something else I know: our bodies are constantly regenerating themselves. Granted, most of the cells in the brain and the heart are with us for life, but, still, there is so much other cellular change in the body. Why do stories have to stay stuck? Why does being an adoptee mean I will, on some level, suffer from the trauma of early abandonment my own life?
Clearly I’ve already run into problems putting together “The Right Brain Approach to Dealing with Adoption”. How annoying.
When I ask myself the above questions, I’m face to face with the comments that so many (assholes) (sorry—it gets old) say to adoptees: “But it happened so long ago you don’t even remember. How can being adopted affect you now?
In this process of looking for freedom from the squeeze of my mind and body, I came up against something interesting: the wall of my own will. I wasn’t sure I wanted to feel good. Good as in good. As in a ‘til death do us part good. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up the grief of losing my birth mother, the grief of both birth parents not being willing to talk to me, never mind meet me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up the grief of not feeling wanted, of not knowing where I was the first ten weeks of my life. I wasn’t sure I wanted to accept that I am loved and safe and deserving of happiness.
I’m adopted, remember? My parents, according to the world in general, aren’t my “real” parents, so how could I have grown up into a “real” person, one who deserved “real” happiness?
This kind of thinking is a not so subtle way of refusing to live.
And that is not how I want to live my life.
So let me get back to “The Right Brain Approach to Dealing with Adoption”.
Much of Reggie Ray’s book focuses on meditations that get you in the body (somatic means body). When you focus on the big toe, the second toe, the third toe, the fourth toe, the piggy toe, you don’t focus on the skin: you go deep. You become toe. And that brings your toe, all of your toes, to life. They start to tingle. You go into the bone and meat of your body, and your body responds. We are one giant cat just waiting to be petted. And when we pay attention to how our body feels, it’s like we are petting it: the body purrs with an electrical buzz, and the right brain, the right brain, goes ahhhhhhh. Bliss. Waves upon the shore.
Adoption happened in the past; however, stress resides in my body and mind because the alarms of something is wrong, something bad happened and something bad will happen again have been on low/high alert since I was born and relinquished. Maybe even since the time I was in the belly of a woman who didn’t want me. So how can somatic meditations help with this stress?
The doctor Jill Bolte Taylor had a stroke that, for a period of time, shut down her left brain. Her book, My Stroke of Insight, talks about the euphoria she felt living from the right brain. She felt the interconnectedness of the universe, for the right brain is the direct, unmediated, non-conceptual experience of our life. It sees things within an infinite space without any judgement or evaluation. It’s like a really good date.
Reggie Ray says the corpus callosum, the substance that links the right to left brain, is drying up in people. But when we put our awareness into our bodies, when we direct our attention in a different way, focusing on body sensation instead of thought, within a millisecond there is growth of new neurological pathways and reactivation of those that have become dormant. Changing the neurological wiring in our system means we begin to develop different capacities of experiencing our life. It means, more simply, we can change.
I am thinking that maybe the way out of the wound of adoption is through the big toe, the second toe, the third toe, the fourth toe, the piggy toe, so I’m going deep. I’m paying attention to those guys, to what it feels like to be on the end of my feet. Ultimately, the goal is to experience your toes, your whole body, without thinking about it. Making us like...kids.
I don’t know, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I do feel good. Really good. Alive.
My toes are taking up space. I feel six years old. Watch out.