Within this fathom-long body is found all the teachings, is found suffering, the cause of suffering, and the end of suffering. —Buddha


Unwinding is what your cat or dog does when it has too much tension in its body. Pets stretch, growl, snarl, meow—whatever they need to do to release the tension they are holding—and all unselfconsciously. We, too, inhabit animal bodies that know what they need to do to release tension. All you have to do is to get out of the way and allow your body to let go: stretch, moan, groan, cry, wail, scream, shout, yawn. Unwinding is a skill that needs to be relearned. We knew how to do it when we were little, but as we got older we outgrew it (we were told, in one way or another, that it was unacceptable behavior). The CD that comes with the book contains two pieces of music composed specifically for Unwinding by Todd Carter. So put them on, simply feel into your deepest yearning (what you really, really want), and just give your body permission to let go. This relearning may take some practice, but it is well worth it.

My body knows how. All I have to do is just stay with myself; stay with the organic process of what is unwinding out of me. But I sour overnight like milk left out and forgotten. I wake in the dark and a feeling of being utterly lost and alone engulfs every cell. I stave it off and try to slip back into sleep. So the feeling builds and waits for me. There is a moment each morning before I open my eyes when it strikes at every facet of the tendermost me. I come to consciousness writhing and twisting away from this familiar pain.

I lie to myself about it. Not so hard. Not so bad. Not so awful. And so I get up laying lie upon lie over this fire burning in my gut, in my heart, in my soul. Hoping to extinguish it. Bargaining at least to deaden it. Knowing. Knowing the quicksilver pulse of my life beats deep within this pain and unwilling to brave the flames to save myself.

I see my feet in wool socks crossing the kitchen floor. I hear the faraway sound they make from my perch atop the pillar of lies I use to stamp out this fire. I eat. I drink. Everything goes into my mouth with an eye toward killing this pain. Then the pain, not to be outdone, emits a siren call, ransacking the stored emotion inscribed in each cell of my body for reinforcement. And my thoughts turn unbidden to specific hardship. Always something I’ve done to irrevocably hurt. Carved in ready detail, this hurt pushes to the surface of my consciousness to feed the painfire.

I turn from it, averting my eyes from the catastrophe of me. “I’ll get back to ya.” “Perhaps another time.” The liar bargaining her way out of conversation, out of the hearts of those she loves the most in order to avoid the emptiness consuming her. Yet this pain is patient. It abides. And something in the way that it waits cuts through all the armor I’ve built to shield myself. It waits for me like no one has ever waited. Honor-bound to see me through, it waits for me like I long to be waited for. The longing becomes the edge that splits me open to this pain. I let it have me. Finding the floor. Falling. Rending. Splitting from all that I know, an eerie sound is born deep inside this vortex—my own voice, honed by a lifetime of longing, keening the loss of me. Wolves calling the moon.

Unwinding with this sound comes the familiar face of my longing: the victim. And this time I am not her. I see that no crevice of her pain has gone unplumbed. She’s worn out from the ways I’ve used her, prostituted her pain for an answer to this longing. She wails, “You’ll never stop!” and the man I’ve blamed all my life for this pain appears. I see my father from the back. He turns and wears my own face. I am this, too. I know now. I AM THIS, TOO. The boundary of my skin won’t contain me anymore, won’t contain this revelation.

My mouth stretches to howl unspeakable words. In my voice is a self unfurling itself; sound birthing me home into the heart of the need that rules me. The need that owns me. The need that feeds the pain of both abuser and abused. Its tide rips out the timeworn markers of all the falsehoods I’ve used to hold it back: Healer in the name of solving my own pain; giver in the name of filling my own need; liar in the name of protecting the emptiness that steers everything I do. I let the unsolvable mystery at the heart of this pain claim me. I hear my voice, only vowel-round: IYEEE…IYEEE…IYEEE. I NEED…I NEED…I NEED.

All I know is need. I am need embodied. In this single moment I see across the ocean of time and choice that have come together, bringing me here, midwife to the need I can no longer hold back; mother to the orphaned child alive within me; owner of the first hurt and author of all the rest.

Shining, whole, honor-bound, somewhere from the depths of me comes my pain transformed. In bearing the depth of my own anguish is born another self. Within my hands, my arms, within all of who I am there is a solace that would cradle the world. I see my truth in liar’s rags and love the broken-whole of me. I am gathered in my own arms. The need I thought would kill me is answered and I sleep. —Elizabeth Soto

I see Unwinding as a journey that I have forgotten but my body has not. I use this exercise to tune into my body’s wisdom, turning down the noise in my mind so I don’t hear its chatter and my body is better able to communicate with me. My eyes close, my body moves and does whatever it wants. At some point, I experience a knowing, and my body unfolds its wisdom. I had a particularly extraordinary spiritual experience with Unwinding one morning at a Heartwork seminar. The Unwinding started my process of seeing all that I AM. I asked God that I may see from my eyes and not just feel and know. God replied that I see from my soul. Knowing this was the truth, and knowing that I am the truth, I started to cry. This knowingness intensified in my heart and soul, and in that moment my son’s spirit spoke to me from that place. “Mommy, remember who you are,” he said. “I know who you are.” My son then took me by the hand and touched my heart and soul through the truth of his soul. Wisdom came. He then said, “Let everyone know here that words are very powerful and whatever you say and do to the children, we feel it to the core of our being: good or bad—so remember.”

I recalled doing some earlier work when I learned that the part of me who is a defiant angry child would not allow me to take in the love and abundance that God gives so freely. I felt so unsafe while I was growing up and the knowing I had at that time was so scary that I stopped remembering who I was. It wasn’t safe then, I realized, but it is now. I continued to unwind into my heart and soul, with my son teaching me to remember through his heart and soul and to accept this with great joy and love. I accepted who I was and that I was free to be all that I came here to be. This knowing filled my entire being, and as I felt the presence of God’s love, my son said, “I will always be in your heart, Mommy.” He kissed my heart and soul with the love God gave him to give.

I allowed this to fill my entire being, and it’s still there. I take it in whenever I am in need of it. My son will be going off to college in the next few months, and I am so grateful that I have that special moment that will last for a lifetime. After this meditation experience, I can let go and let my son live the life that he came here to live. I can do this with no controlling, just allowing the will of God to take care of all his needs—and mine at the same time. –Margie Mensik

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