Body integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (author: Patrick Reynolds)
My mind is trying to figure my body out all the time. They only work in an integrated fashion when I am sleeping. The rest of the time they are kind of like my two sons; picking at each other, being obnoxious to get the other’s attention, throwing things at each other and then becoming desperately unhappy when the other is out of the room.
I consider it integration if I can shut the mind down, if I can no longer hear the narrative. Obviously it is still working (my mind) or I would be dead, but I don’t always need the play-by-play.
I did have a moment almost a year ago. I was in the Thursday night Core Yoga class at the community centre. It was my first time attending a Core Yoga class; I had only ever done the gentle, posing kind of yoga. This was more athletic; poses held for longer and repeated more frequently and combined with the rhythmic breathing. And a whole series of exercises on the big yoga ball that I won’t discuss here because I fell off the yoga ball. Yes, it can happen, even if you’re incredibly tall.
The instructor led us through the Sun Salutation, which is a series of poses I was familiar with but only in a check-the-book now try-the-pose now check-the-book-again sort of way because most of my yoga practice has been at home, using books or DVDs to lead me. The instructor performed them as they are meant to be done; in a fluid, fast, flow.
Stretch up, now down, now half-bend, now flat, now arch, now point, now roll up, now stretch, and again…
after a few times I was almost as fast as everyone else. I was a machine. I was breathing in on the up and out on the down and my bones cracked and my muscles sang like violin strings and over and over like flip books we all followed the leader and then he said one more and we’re done
and we were done.
I had another, similar moment, when I was out for a run in the early Fall. Every year I decide to start running again in the early Fall and then have to stop because it’s dark and I’m tired and then I’m sick, but I digress. This particular Sunday morning was lovely and bright and dewy and I ran through a clutch of weeds and a wasp stung the top of my foot, right above the tongue of my shoe. I limped for a bit and then decided to keep running and I went for my longest stretch yet that season. I didn’t feel tired or sore or in pain. I kind of felt like Superwoman.
Lynda Barry, when I saw her at the Writers Festival, talked about the use of rhythm in the creative process. She said that the creative brain works best, most freely, when the analytical brain is occupied. And a good way to occupy the analytical brain is to tap your fingers on your head. Or stand under the pulse of a shower spray (hence ‘the best ideas in the shower’ thing) (also because you have no paper to write them down) or jog on the spot. While we listened to people in the workshop read their ‘free writing’ pieces aloud, we were instructed to draw a spiral on a sheet of paper and to focus on the spiral and not look up from the spiral just draw the spiral as tight as you can. That way, our analytical brains were occupied and our creative brains could listen with open arms, as it were.
As someone who (over) engages her brain, it is ever so comforting and good to be able to be a machine sometimes. That is why I like the repetitive forms of exercise, like yoga and running, rather than the shouty, bouncy forms, like aerobics or team sports. It is about working my body machine, yes, but it is also about pausing my mind machine.