I recently saw a flyer for a cuddle therapist. It seems that now, in yet another way, we have moved far enough away from what it takes to be human, and what it is that we truly need, that we now pay for hugs. Not that this is new for us; prostitution is as old as the ages. And yet, it is examples like this that really point out how far we have strayed. How much we truly do not understand about ourselves in terms of what we need, and exactly what it takes to satisfy those needs.
To be human is to be in a body. To embody is to incarnate. It is to inhabit. It is to sense and it is to need. It is reflected by, and embedded in the natural world; the very body of the Earth herself. And always, and in all ways, it is to risk. For it is a deeply, deeply vulnerable experience to be in a body.
There is so much at stake. There are old hurts. There are rejections and needs gone unmet. There is exposure and ridicule. There is shame and doubt. There is harm and violation. There is fear and anxiety. There is confusion and inability. There is disappointment and frustration. There are false standards and the wrong information. And there is so much more.
But what if we could go back to the beginning? What if we could begin the journey of simplifying something we have made dangerously and overly complicated? What if we could untangle from all the thoughts and beliefs that have separated us from the truth of our bodies? They say that seeing is believing. Can you imagine seeing your way into a simpler, truer, more harmonious existence with this body of yours?
Lately, when I find myself disconnected from the body and habitually hooked into the busy, planning, judging, past-obsessed, future-anticipating mind, I am simply coming back to some sensation in my body. Any sensation will do. When I can catch myself, I breathe, and I let all of my weight pour down the length of my body; weighting myself into this moment and what is real. This gives me a sense of here-ness, solidity, and rooted-ness. Sometimes in these moments, I even get myself outside to touch the earth, and maybe even pick up a handful of dirt as a reminder of what it is that I am and can sink myself into.
I got this idea when I heard the story about what the Buddha did on the eve of his enlightenment. It seems that a terrible demon visited him and presented Buddha with all of the scariest images and button-pushing fears he could muster. Content that would push anyone over the edge.The Buddha did not fight, he did not recoil in fear, he did not run away. He simply reached down and touched the earth; in effect opting out of engaging with illusion in favor of what was real.
In our increasingly disembodied existence, where from our own minds and coming from all around us, we conjure up one distortion and distraction after another, there is a sure fire way to get back to the truth, and it is through our bodies. Otherwise we find ourselves victim to the cultural norms that encourage us, at ever-accelerating rates, to detach from and deny the needs of the body in more and more extreme ways.
Do not be fooled by how obvious or sophomoric this sounds. Don’t be put off because you have no language or good models for how to be with your body. Don’t turn away because you have been at war with your body for a lifetime. Some part of you knows the way. Some part of you has never forgotten. It is built into us as humans to inhabit this body of ours, and to instinctively and intuitively know how to respond to our truest needs.
Start simple. Start now. Each and every morning, before your feet hit the floor, pause for as long as you can to feel what is there. Before the busy, rational mind kicks into overdrive with all of the things you must get to, ask your body one simple question; What do you need?
And then, do two things: Don’t move until you hear or sense or feel an answer. Respond as soon as you can.