A FEW WORDS FROM ALEX
Chen Tai Chi has left me wondering many things.
1 Why doesn’t everyone do Chen Style Tai Chi?
2 Why does my brain panic when it hear the words ‘shift right’ and do everything in its fucking power to shift left?
3 Now my lizardy knee horns have dissipated, how will I impress people at parties?
Life flowed on past these questions when the adventure opened up further. This time it led me to Barry Spendlove’s Healing Tao Centre in North Wales and to his workshop on the fundamentals of Qi-Gong. The questions that arose while there were
1 What am I? (Actually it was more like ‘oh my fucking god, what the fuck am I?)
We’ll get to the how and why this question, lovingly and chucklingly, took shape in a moment. Before we look at the flower, we must first take a big fat gander inside the bulb.
Many of you have read my book and are well aware I survived serious violent attack in my teens. You’ll also know I’m a great believer in the human capacity for healing. You see, we are never broken, we simply forget we are whole. Healing is surprisingly effortless – if we are given enough kindness and space. Bear hugs, trees, music, dancing, more bear hugs, laughter and loving touch all play a beautiful role in solidifying a fragmented person. In other words, good food and company can fuel the natural capacity to heal. Small loves make big differences.
Don’t read me wrong, I’m not naïve. Reaching out and claiming such small loves can be a monumental task for anyone. Let alone those who have experienced violence. It means being vulnerable. Something, if you’ve survived an attempt on your life, you’ve already experienced in its most extreme form. Thankfully I’m twenty-odd years on. In those twenty-something years I’ve gradually re-established my robustness. Part of this growth was allowing myself to accept kindness and lavish it on others in return. (If similar has happened to you recently, be kind to yourself. Don’t rush. Everything has it’s time). At times I rushed my healing. Pushed till it stuck. There were times where I dearly wanted something nameless, formless and seemingly impossible. This desire frustrated and silenced me. Only looking back now do I see what I really wanted. To be at home in my body again. Not circling my own form when I felt overwhelmed, observed, or the centre of someone’s/anyone’s attention. This realisation happened one week during a Tai Chi lesson. I fused with my whole body, briefly, for less than a breath. My inner loveliness shocked me. And although I didn’t want the feeling to end, the shock propelled me into my brain again. (Perhaps here lies the answer to question 2, at least for me anyway).
Violence is destructive. Healing is creative. One contracts the other expands. Seriously, I’m not talking gibberish. In my time working with survivors of violence, and in my own experience, our trapped physical traumas often manifest as bodily contractions in certain areas of our bodies. Many describe this as psychosomatic. It’s not. (What does psychosomatic mean anyway? I won’t answer that here, it’d be a digression too far) It is energetic absorption that needs released. As well as what my transcendental meditation teacher said ‘when we’re stressed we clench up and hold that position. Then when we do relax it hurts. Normally we pop a pill to ease it, or we just tense up again, but without feeling the initial pain, we can’t ever fully relax.’
This is true. It’s also true the body wants to relax. When we fully inhabit our body, it naturally sighs and releases. Yummy scrummy relaxation is the result. However, if you’ve lived in a pain-holding position for days/months/years this release fucking hurts. Initially at least. That’s one of the reasons we avoid inhabiting our bodies. Yet without this initial release, we become energetically stuck. Frozen in time. Fear of pain holds us in fear and pain. We are all survivors of our own traumas – large and small. Reclaiming our bodies by re-entering them is a challenge. It is also necessary and possible. The first hurdle is to acknowledge the benefits of living within your whole body. The second is to overcome our brain-centric love affair.
We, in the hyper-Capitalist rampantly-individualist West, suffer from brain-centricity – the false notion that the mind resides within the brain. That our grey matter, our linear, logical, patterned thought should, and must, take precedence over the whole body/ies interconnected way of thinking. We have been led to believe the linguistic chattering of our brain’s synaptic firing is the beginning and end of our beingness. This belief is not, well, logical. The brain is merely a translator. A typist transcribing body born messages. The brain is not the mind. The mind resides throughout us – interlaced, infused and interconnected with every part of our physicality and beyond. Therefore, if we want to experience real thinking, we must inhabit our whole being. From atom to organ, hormone to bone.
Brain-centricity is a choice. A choice that excludes nuance, subtlety and most non-sensory information. Whole body wisdom is inclusive, aware, expansive, soft and steady. If we want to let in more information, expand our consciousness and understand our full beingness we simply must use our whole mind.
Why are we so brain obsessed? When did we become this two-tiered being? We could blame the English language, which historically and culturally grew up out of dualistic notions. Perhaps we could point the finger at the enlightenment and then Freud who certainly didn’t help matters. We could even wag our finger at religion, patriarchy, media, education, economics….oh the endless linear lists… ad infinitum. Do you get my point? Even the concept of blame is brain-centric. It is the typist trying to translate a whole body feeling of frustration borne from the deep desire for alignment with the highest truth of who we are. ‘If only I can figure out who to blame, I will be wiser for it and avoid similar in the future’ is the brain’s translation of the body’s desire for something beyond language. Yet, without the integrated whole body-mind helping the brain’s translation, we can circle on that track forever.
Oh dear, I’m digressing AGAIN. Back to the adventure.
Being wowed by my now pain free knee. I get the opportunity to spend some time in Wales with Barry Spendlove (who has the greatest name for what he teaches) a Daoist teacher of QiGong, Healing Love and Internal Alchemy. He’s also a senior instructor of Master Mantak Chia’s Universal Healing Tao, teaching retreats in UK, Holland, Belgium and Denmark.
Barry Spendlove, leading me out into the wild.
Barry has a powerful way of being. He possesses an inner gentleness and strength that enables him to be authentic. I crave authenticity. I’m an indigo starseed if ever there was one. I don’t care what you think or feel so long as it’s really your experience. Communicate it, we’re all better for knowing. Barry carries this authentic way of being. Being with him is a feeling of safety, security and love.
Over the weekend we explored a multitude of techniques and processes including: microcosmic, vaginal and ovarian breathing. It was during the latter that I remembered the following.
Separation is a paradoxical illusion.
Time is not linear.
Reality is a myth.
I have no fucking idea what I am. (Notice I say what, not who)
Now this is not a new discovery. I’ve been writing about this for ages. So have others. And the unusualness is not in the statements, or even in the feeling experience, but in how the feeling was reached.
The New Age world is littered with exterior methods for realization and spiritual development. This felt different though, an inner world experience which extended outwards, then folded back in on itself to reflect these truths. A transcendent bodily experience, yet anchored.
Me, chilling out after my delicious inner-honey-soaked experience.
It was a glorious feeling. A dripping with honey, chocolate-sprinkled, melted marshmallow type feeling… that hasn’t dissipated. I fell in love with my body. Head over heels, hook, line, and sinker. I’m utterly deliriously smitten – with my body. The whole of me. I may even marry myself. (Once I prepare the pre-nup).
I’ve returned to Wales with Barry since. He led me into the mystic breathing landscape of Wales. Unknown to him at the time (or maybe not) he took me straight to a harbour I hadn’t visited since childhood. A site of sadness for me and my twin. I had the opportunity to collect that child piece of me then and there. Hug her and my sister’s mini-self before moving on to the mountains. There, I could hear my sister playing. Her childish voice ringing from the stone, bubbling up from the grass, I half expected her to come galloping towards me begging me as she once did to play ‘being horses’ through the wilds. It was beautiful. I will treasure that day forever.
None of which would have happened if I’d not followed the initial signs all those months before.
Qi-gong, Healing Love and Chen-style Tai-Chi have offered me ways to remember my whole being through simple beingness. How to embrace a self-love which is not toxic, power-driven, nor ego-dominated. Just a gentle genuine appreciation of my divine physicality. In today’s age this is something we all desperately need. Not a denial of our physicality, or a surface level thumbs up, but a deep integrated appreciation of our whole being.
This is really exciting for me. I have worked with people living with disability, those experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties, mental health difficulties, in mainstream education and with people recovering from trauma and can see the healing implications these techniques/art forms can offer such fields. Both for the supported and the supporters.