“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”
-James Joyce, Dubliners
About a year ago, I had an assignment in a family, couple, and child counseling class that taught me a major lesson. I was asked to bring in a photo album and we were going to look at the pictures as a class to explore family dynamics and patterns. As I hastily flipped through the plastic-coated pages to find candid shots of my family, my professor stopped me to get a better look at the album.
I started off as a pretty cute kid, but there were some awkward years. Okay, lots and lots of awkward years… and the pages landed there. Suddenly, I was living the bad dream where everyone is watching and you feel totally naked. That little girl with the badly permed hair and pudgy body was on display and everyone knew that was me.
I felt my cheeks grow hot and tears spring to my eyes, and I was surprised by the intensity of the shame that welled up inside of me. It was like I expected to re-experience the rejection from my peers that I felt as a kid… my body was just preparing for it. Instead, to my surprise, my cohort was puzzled by my reaction and were totally accepting of that little kid. Complementary, even.
I’ve thought a lot about that little girl and how I’ve tried to hide her all of these years. Orphaning and disowning parts of my identity has been costly. Dr. Brene Brown explains, “(o)wning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light” (Brown, 2010, p.6).
I’ve found that to be a very true statement. In the past, I’ve hated my darkness; I’ve tried to conquer or annihilate it, to banish it, even to pretend it didn’t exist. Hatred is also darkness, though, and those tactics only served to cause more pain, more problems and more darkness. Ultimately, I felt hopeless and fragmented and defeated. I had a spirit (which perceived itself to be light) that hated living in the body it was given because of rejection (darkness). So like Joyce’s character Mr. Duffy, I chose to live a short distance from myself.
I love the yin and yang symbol which demonstrates how contrary forces are actually complementary, and how each contains a germ of the other. Shadow cannot exist without light and light is amplified by darkness. In fact, I believe that our existence was specifically designed to be one of duality for our education and growth. By experiencing the darkness, we ultimately have access to greater light.
All of this relates to grounding, I promise.
The first chakra in the body, the base or root chakra, deals with grounding and the physical world, among other things. Because my spirit and my body have been pretty much living in divorce most of my life, this is an area I’ve been trying to strengthen. I wanted to start off this new blog journey as a whole person, connected in body and spirit.
To begin, I increased my appreciation of the body by attending Gunther von Hagens’ Bodyworlds and the Cycle of Life exhibit at The Leonardo with my friend, Preston. I was amazed and a little awe-struck to see the incredibly intricate systems of the anatomy displayed with real human specimens. It made me reflect on the incredible gift I’ve been given and caused me to feel gratitude and a greater desire to treat mine with respect.
I’ve also tried to connect with my body more through the joy of movement. I’ve spent time exploring exercise from an appreciation for what my body can do, rather than trying to make it more appealing to others. I’ve been loving Zumba every morning (Hey, you. Don’t judge.) and have just started what I intend to be a regular practice of hot yoga, which really helps me connect with my body and stay present in the moment.
Oh, and speaking of yoga, here’s one of my favorite jokes: What did the yogi say when he was asked to leave? -Namaste. (Nah. Ima stay… Get it? GET it???)
But truly, when it comes to the choice of abandoning myself or cultivating the relationship between body and spirit, I plan to follow that stubborn yogi. Ima stay too.
Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are . Center City, MN: Hazelden.