For Those Orphans Who Can't Sleep or Soften into Safety
I was doing some Feldenkrais exercises (Merry Christmas and all other holidays in advance: https://feldenkraisproject.com) and I felt myself getting really relaxed. The kind of relaxed where I want to close my eyes and sleep. The kind of sweet relaxation that must have led to the phrase lulled to sleep. The pain I’d had in my low back and sacrum was gone. My body felt light, like ease, like an open door.
I started getting nervous, uneasy. Feeling relaxed and in my body was starting to feel as if the whole of me was slowly circling a drain that centered in my navel. If I relaxed any more, my body/mind told me, I would slowly circle the center of myself, getting smaller and smaller until I finally circled the drain in my middle and disappeared.
So I tensed up.
The cool thing is that I caught myself tensing and so I relaxed again. I thought about my navel, about the drain, about disappearing, and I realized that this center of me, this place that was like a mixture of a bruise and a black hole and a cry. I thought about the sound I probably didn’t make after I was born, the sound of a baby echoing its mother’s voice, its mother’s aware presence. I thought about how my first cry might have been answered by sounds not programmed in my body: the voice of a doctor, the voice of a nurse. I thought about what might happen to the part of the umbilical cord that was still attached to the baby, to the belly, to the insides of the body that used to receive its life source from this end of the mother-hose.
I wondered if the space behind my belly button, my navel, has ever relaxed post-birth. I wondered if my navel is my personal 9/11, my personal ground zero.
Have you ever had a newborn grab your finger and hold on as if you are trying to escape or as if you are a branch one might grab in an effort to stop a fall? When Michelangelo painted Adam and God reaching to touch fingers, it’s a given that the moment of contact is inevitable? That’s the whole point of the painting, this moment before, this reaching: that there will be contact. We grow and reach so we can connect.
What if when a baby is born and separated from its mother and the moment of contact does not happen, the baby’s body grabs onto itself? What if when we relax enough later as adults (or super-aware children) we can find where that spot is on our body by feeling for the emptyfull crying place that is holding its own hand so tightly it is a knot of dark confusion? What if when we feel into this spot with our awareness we sigh, we embrace loss, love, confusion, grief, not-knowing, touch?
What if we soften into our fear of loss and death? What if we breathe gently into the places that felt left behind? What if we walk through the terror of aloneness and find we were living a story that isn’t alive? What if we find that letting go of the thing you believe is going to save you is the trick to a life fully lived? What if we sigh out the noise we never made and go to the place we’d been avoiding? What if this was the way home?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lower dan tien is a located three finger widths below the navel and two finger widths behind it. It’s known as the center of lifeforce energy where essence and spirit are stored. It’s the most shutdown part of my body. It’s one of the last places I like to touch when I do self-massage. It’s like a boneless rabbit. Soft. All my weakness and softness there for the world to see.
In yoga sometimes we do breath of fire, a vigorous pumping of the abdomen on the exhale to stimulate belly/body energy. It’s hard to feel weak when you are doing breath of fire. The boneless bunny starts jumping around. So there are ways in, is what I’m saying.
I think I have spent my whole life moving around, eating, looking for the next new thing, all in the effort of not sinking into the darkness. But here’s the funny thing: I’m so tired. I long for my muscles to soften, for the cartilage, the tendons, the fascia, the organ to let go and let me sleep like a baby for one blessed night of sleep. And then another night. And another.
As much as my body wants to hold on to the past, it wants to soften so it can fully experience life in this human form. I just was never taught how to let go. I didn’t know I was safe.
But I know now. It feels as though what was once a bruise is now a blessing.
Softly we walk the earth. Softly we sleep.
With love and deep tenderness.