Having understood that the temptation to disconnect from the pressures of conflict into the future, the past or some imagined place can be avoided by feeling our always present embodied embodied responses (see: link to prior article,) we can now examine the somatic messages more closely. As with neighboring populations who speak different tongues, body-wisdom comes in several forms. Each speaks from a body segment, having a gravitational core and location in space. Our inner ear attunes us kinesthetically to its unique “sound.”
Feel the weight of your head. Notice it’s lean forward or back or to one side, and allow a shift toward center to release the effort in holding on. Feel the weight also of its contents, the distinctions and judgments within the thoughts. Everything has weight, even thoughts. You may notice the heaviest ones at first. Do you feel less “attached” to ideas when approaching them through sensing than when following the minds “train-of-though?” Notice whether the ideas present in concepts, words or language? Let’s see if the same thing is true in the other body-wisdom centers.
Bring your attention into your chest and focus on your breathing, and then settle into your heart center. Notice the weight of your torso and its lean forward or back or to one side, allowing a shift toward center to release the effort in holding yourself up. What comes to us from this wisdom center may be less precise that what we found in our heads, and interpreting this language takes patience. I stay with sensations and then notice feelings before words or concepts arise. When they do, often they begin with words like “I feel…” rather than “I think, or I believe. By their nature, emotions also begin to change once they come up, especially when they form into words or sounds and are expressed. When they pass, they seem to be replaced by new ones, perhaps deeper feelings that lay beneath what moved on through expression. The language of empathy has two dimensions; feelings in self and feelings for others.
The third language is more subtle and even less accessible when the head is busy with distinctions and judgments and the heart is full of emotion. I settle thoughts and feelings down by aligning head and heart in a vertical plane, as if the simple act of balancing allows me to go deeper, where the “gut-feelings” at the core of my being lie obscured beneath ripples like the bottom of a deep pool. When the upper waters become still, feel your breath moving in your belly. The split between heart and “hara” is much greater in Western cultures, but everyone has a center of gravity there, and it contains the clues to our basic needs for comfort, respect and nourishment. I hear its language as intuition or inclination. It seems to speak only when my head and my heart accept “not knowing.”
When moving from center, all of me is inclined. Finding this “voice” which speaks not in words, and not the same “feelings” as with emotions, as a sense of mysterious security that builds trust in not knowing, and feels restful in my sometimes-heavy heart and busy mind. That third language, preverbal though it may be, often contains resolution to a conflicted head and heart. And the practice of finding and moving from center hold a promise of greater alignment and balance.
Under pressure and in conflict, attention inevitably rises up and feelings and thoughts take over again. But knowing these centers of body-wisdom, and accessing them in practice without pressure is the first step in learning to access them under pressures of conflict. Aikido taught me to settle down when pressure riles me up by noticing my predisposition to push back against the pressure.
To find center and balance while the pressure is on, you can go to a free lesson that overviews an online course in emotional aikido containing aiki-wisdom, photos, instructional videos, and poetry.
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