The Soft Body Meditation (which you will find on track 4 of the Heartwork CD) dissolves the sense of a separate self by opening you to your inherent vulnerability. As we grow up we learn to wall off experiences from our consciousness that are too painful to deal with, thinking that if we can keep them behind a strong barricade we will never have to feel them. But this is just wishful thinking. The truth is that when we wall things off from our consciousness, we don’t really lock them out—we lock them in! They eat away at us from the inside until something eventually breaks (and in this culture, it’s usually our bodies). The only true invulnerability is total vulnerability! If we are willing to completely experience the pain or fear created by life’s inevitabilities, we don’t get stuck anywhere. We can then feel them fully and let go of them. There is no residue, no accumulation of tension-creating, dis-ease-producing toxic emotional baggage. The Soft Body Meditation allows us to open the body gently and gradually, to allow the armoring to dissolve and the heart and mind to open.
Please note: When working with the experiential exercises that are included on the CD that accompanies this book, it is best to keep one finger on the “Play” and “Pause” buttons on your CD player or your remote control so that you can determine the pace at which you go through the steps of the exercises.
I have been an anxious person for as long as I can remember. My anxiety affects every aspect of my life, and I am always reminded of its presence. Oddly enough, in the present moment, I improbable. So staying in the present moment has become valuable to me, and I use the Soft Body meditation to help me do this.
The first time I tried Soft Body, I could feel my thoughts resisting. As a person who has a hard time staying present, I also have a hard time keeping still. In really focusing on my body and giving it the time and energy it deserves, I realized this was something I had not yet done in my life. My body had been sorely neglected! Sure, I had tended to headaches and similar pains, but when the body is really aching in this way, it means we have ignored it far too long. I had to concentrate on clearing my mind of any thoughts other than receiving the sensations my body was experiencing in each moment. Immediately, I realized that not only was I experiencing a different sensation in every moment, but that in order to fully experience each sensation, I had to let go of the previous sensation. The experience I remember most clearly was this one:
I am lying down, giving full attention to my body and all the energy and sensations within it. I start with the top of my head and listen to hear if that part of my body is trying to tell me something. I am not listening with my ears; I am listening with a part of my conscious self that is deeper than the part whose thoughts easily wander. I pay full attention to what the top of my head is feeling, and I notice that it itches. I don’t reach up to scratch it, but I focus on the itch in the moment and give it the attention it needs. Within moments the feeling disappears and I am ready to move on down my body.
I go from body part to body part, letting go completely of the previous part and giving my total attention to the part I am currently focusing on. As I sweep down my body, I notice different sensations: itchiness, tingling, a feeling of heaviness, a feeling of lightness. I concentrate on each sensation and then let go of it. When I arrive at my lower abdomen, I start to experience pain. I begin to sense that most of my anxiety resides in this part of my body and it will require more time.
As I focus on the physical pain, I slowly begin to experience emotional pain. Concentrating on the emotional pain, I sense that what I am feeling is not pain at all—it is fear. I cannot describe this fear. I do not try at this point to analyze what the fear is or where it comes from. All I am aware of at the moment is that a fear resides in this place within me and I have to find some way to let it go because I have no reason to hold onto it. I start to let out a sound, which gets louder and louder as I “exhale” the fear from my body. The pain begins to subside, and when it is gone, I find myself laughing uncontrollably.
Looking back, I think I was laughing because of the relief I felt in being able to let go of the fear in such a powerful way. I learned that day that our emotions find places in our bodies to live, and that they have a way of taking over our bodies if we let them. As a whole, we are more powerful than the emotions that reside in us. We can manifest peace within ourselves, but only when we feel our emotions in the present moment—and then let them go.
In the Soft Body meditation, my whole body opens to possibility. Answers come for me in the form of heightened full-body physical perceptions. They are like trips into sacred metaphors, and they are real. After the second Heartwork event I attended, while camping by myself, I did Soft Body in my tent every day. I became much more able to sense my surroundings, feeling no separation between me and the sounds of the birds and the wind. In one meditation, I could feel the breeze blow right through me. I could feel every single tiny bone in my hands and feet, as if I were a bird. I could sense the interconnectedness of my bones and my breath, my organs and my flesh.
When I practiced Soft Body in an “I and Thou” Heartwork retreat, I had visions that were incredibly healing for my sense of myself as a woman and my empowerment as a female. As I softened into the sensations of my body, I became a mother wolf, fangs and all. I was a life- giving nurturer but also a fierce protectress. As I traveled down my body, I felt a powerful, grounding energy growing around me, like vines and tree roots taking hold. Vines wrapped me—not in a threatening way, but as if they were holding me securely. And then a tree-like arm, like the arm of God, began to grow through me. With this upward, surging will to live and to connect with the sky, the arm entered at the base of my spine, grew the length of my vertebrae, through my chest, through my throat and mouth and then, with strong but kind root-like fingers, it reached out through my mouth and embraced my face, cradling it.
I practice a form of yoga that channels energy up the spine using a series of energy loops. With Soft Body, I can feel that channel and the interconnectedness of all the energy loops more profoundly than I had ever felt them before. Soft Body also helped me feel space in my torso in places that I’ve typically had a hard time breathing into because of my scoliosis (a curvature of the spine). I am now bringing more breath to more of my rib cage, front and back. My spine seems to be following the force of the upward thrust of the root, organically unwinding, untwisting, opening. Because I feel my face is cradled, I open up to feeling the whole back of my skull more, and I can breathe more into the back of my body. When I am tuned into this arm/root meditation, it is impossible for me to abandon myself or to unconsciously evaluate myself from the outside. I am at home. I am moving with prana (vital life force)! It’s amazing!