I am in a yoga class, and the teacher is encouraging us to be sincere about our willingness to pay attention to the signals that the body is giving us. Instead of forcing or imposing something on the body, she asks, “Could we consider participating with the movement of our breath, and the true rhythms of our bodies?”
I cannot get this question out of my mind.
What would it be like to participate with myself in this way? How would it feel? Where would it take me? To participate is to share in something. To take part of. To enter into. To join in. There is no part of this definition that proposes a “doing to.” Or worse yet, a “getting done to.”
Think about it. How often do you do something to your body that does not feel good to you? Maybe it is eating or drinking too much, or ingesting the wrong kinds of things for your constitution. Maybe it is not getting enough sleep, or satisfying movement each and every day. Maybe it is using sugar or caffeine to perk the body up, only to go through the inevitable crash later on. Why do we do this? How is it that we have created a kind of split within ourselves where we can be feeling and knowing one thing, and then choose something in violation of that?
And how is it that not only do we do these things to ourselves, but that we also “let them” get done to us? Maybe it means working in a job where the corporate culture does not make enough room to meet the basic needs of the body; ones like respect, hunger, elimination, a sane pace, and rest. Maybe it means being in relationship with people who are so unsupportive, difficult, or harmful to be around that the best our little bodies can do is to ingest emotional toxins and turn them into tension, fear, and armor in the body.
To participate with the body is to enter into a relationship that is already there. Already set up for us to join into. Already available to share with us the gems of what it means to be an embodied being. We have forgotten this because we have come to believe that we can live outside of ourselves. We have come to believe that we can override the instincts and the messages of the body. We have come to believe that not only can the body wait, but that it should be able to line up with our modern day machine ethics of going and working 24/7.
It demonstrates just how far we have gone astray as people that we even need to make this a thing that we remediate and work on. No baby needs to be taught this. Nor any toddler. It is only as we get more and more conditioned that we lose track of the truths of the body. That we start to ignore or abhor its functioning, its needs, and its wants.
Try this. The next time you feel at odds with what is happening in your body, pause. Take a breath. Then, gently ask your body; What do you need? And then, go get it. Or do it. Or stop doing it. Whatever it would take for you to honor the need and participate fully with your experience of being in this body, in this moment.
The truth is, the only way that we can participate in this life is through a body. There is no other way. No other option. Instead of seeing this level of participation as a chore, an inconvenience, or unnecessary, what if you made the decision to fully show up for what it was that was happening with your body? No questions asked. Only a willingness to learn to remember what you have forgotten, but that is coded deep within you. Just a curiosity and a commitment around how you could develop into becoming a better participant.