So much FUN!


Wow, what a great group we had last night at the Bioenergetic Bodywork Group Session.   We had some people who had been at the group before, quite a few new people, and some folks with other connections to bio and to bodywork.

I really felt like dancing when we were finished…. The movements were great, we moved a lot of energy (you can tell by the heat and the sound!) and I was very relaxed and also energized by the experience.

Doing this kind of work within a group provides unique opportunities.  For example, the movement and sounds may bring up feelings, thoughts, or images.   You are invited to just stay with your own inner experience.  Doing that in the presence of other people may be new for you.  If, for example, you have a pattern of worrying about what other people think, or feeling responsible for other people, you might struggle to be yourself in a typical group.  In a bioenergetic group, however, you can just be with yourself, notice any orientation you may have toward other people, but continue to practice being YOU even when there are other people there.

I remember in my early group exercise experiences, I was perpetually looking at the other participants and trying to measure my performance against theirs.   Part of me NEVER wanted to be the first to drop out of the bow.  I wanted to be the very LAST person to stop sounding, the very strongest, the most stoic.   It took awhile to see how that pattern – working as hard as I could, hoping that I would be noticed and seen as a Good Girl  – is one that I was also playing out in my life outside.   When that became clear, then I was free to start to make changes.

The group exercise moves through a predictable sequence.  We connect to the ground, we charge up the body to increase the energy flow, we do some exercises to discharge the energy, and then we move back to a quieter experience after we have opened up some blocks and eased some tensions.   But the bioenergetic part of it is about taking the time in the process to reflect, and about staying open to the thoughts, images, feelings, and sensations that arise.   This is a way of making the unconscious conscious, and that’s what we are after.



The space within…

We can be quiet within no matter what is happening in the sensory world.


Many people come into the office complaining that their heads just never stop going.  They have racing thoughts, or even if their thoughts don’t feel like they are racing, people feel like they don’t stop thinking.  There is always something going on inside them, usually in the form of a monologue but sometimes a tune or a song, sometimes a repetitive rhyme, sometimes the sound of another person’s voice.   The main complaint is that there is no peace, no quiet.

People are less likely to be aware of internal “noise” that takes the form of images but that kind of inner activity can get in the way also.   When images are overtly disturbing, then they may jump into a person’s awareness, but often we just go along in our daily lives with this inner movie playing and our inner sound track, often unrelated to each other, and we wonder why we are exhausted and why our lives don’t feel satisfying.

I suggest that all this inner activity is tiring and keeps us from living our real lives in the here and now.  But how to change what’s going on inside?  We have a sense that those inner activities are not ours, that we don’t have any control over them.   Well, if that’s true, then who actually IS controlling what’s going on inside you?   Hmm, that could be a scary question.

Well, let’s assume that it is you.  What has happened is that you have learned a habit.  This is a habit of mind, the continuous thinking or continuous singing or non-stop imaging.   If you pay attention over time, you probably will notice that the content of those thoughts is pretty limited.  You probably only have four or five themes that you harbour, maybe fewer.    When I discovered the fairly boring limits of my unattended thinking patterns, I was shocked and dismayed….so this is what I was spending my life energy on!  My inner life was pretty dull, repetitive, and wasn’t doing much to enhance my living.

Our over-active thinking, because it is a habit of mind, becomes quite comfortable and learning a new habit requires attention.  But it is eminently possible to find a different habit, a different way of being in yourself.   A first step can be to find the space between. By that I mean the space that is between thoughts, between images, between the discrete rush of internal stuff that sometimes threatens to ovewhelm us.

The white space on the page makes reading possible, makes pictures pop into our perception, softens the gaze and allows us to relax a bit as we are reading.  Similarly, the space between our thoughts can help us to notice them, as well as to find peace between them.   But where do you find this space?   For some people, there is space in the mind upon waking in the morning.  Just notice as you are waking up if there is spaciousness and openness in your mind.   Notice that and then look for it during the day.  Another place to find it is when you notice that you have had a thought and you label it:  Oh, that’s a thought.  Right then, right after the labeling, there is a brief moment of openness and space.  If you can continue to pay attention to the spaciousness it will increase in amount.

You can also try a more formal practice of meditation or mindfulness.  If you choose to sit in stillness with yourself,  you thoughts will become more apparent to you.   As thoughts arise, you can say with a smile, Oh, yes, there is a thought …and just let it go.   If you need an image to help with that, you can imagine yourself sitting by the side of a quiet stream.  As a thought arises, you can place it on a floating leaf and watch it float away down the stream.  As it leaves and the image evaporates, notice the emptiness and spaciousness of your mind.

Try it and let me know what you discover.

Mindfulness of the body

Mindfulness is everywhere these days….but, like most things that become fads, the basic concept may have been somewhat distorted in the rush to publicize.

Mindfulness is defined in a number of different ways, but what I want to talk about it a specific aspect of mindfulness.   When we are being “mindful” we are being fully present in the moment that is right here and right now.  We are doing that on purpose, and with no other agenda other than being present.  For example, we are not being mindful in order to relax, although often, relaxation may accompany mindfulness.   We are present to whatever is, without judgment or expectation.   That means that we are present to our thoughts that might complain about how we are doing something (“Mindful!  This is mindless!  Can’t you even pay attention for a minute?”….and let that judgment go) as well as to anything that might come in from the world via our senses.  For example, when I take a moment in my office to just breathe and be there, the ticking of the clock on the table is highlighted….the sound is there all of the time, but when I become aware of the present moment, that awareness include that tick-tick-tick.   If I wait, sitting with that awareness, the ticking recedes and something else arises in my field of awareness.   I have no agenda, I have no expectations, I have no need to “let go of my thoughts” or “stop thinking” or “breathe deeply.”  All I am doing is being present and aware of whatever is in my field of awareness.

In bioenergetics, we actually work to develop self-awareness, which might reasonably be called “mindfulness of the body.”  We do this work through movements that may present some level of strain to muscles, through exaggerating characteristic motions or body attitudes, and through expressive exercises with an opportunity to reflect on what happens inside us when we do these things.   What I have learned is that there is a big difference between a conceptual knowledge of the body (“Yes, I have a body.  Arms, legs, chest, organs, all of that…”) and an experiential awareness of being in a body.   Maybe better to say an experiential awareness of BEING a body, because, of course, that is what we are, human organisms experiencing life.

I taught preschoolers for years.  One activity was did was to get out large pieces of drawing paper and have the kids lie on the floor, and we teachers would trace the outline of the child’s body.  The kids would then use markers or crayons or paint to fill in the parts of their bodies.  This helped them to develop the conceptual outline….this is my body and these are its parts.  However, it may not have done much to help them understand that the body they conceptualized is also the body they inhabit, live in and through, and the vehicle from which all feeling flows.  So when I started my training and therapy in bioenergetic analysis discovered that while I knew ABOUT my body, I really didn’t know my body.  That is to say, I really didn’t know….myself.   I thought of myself as a person who resided….I don’t know where…in some thought bubble over my head, maybe.  In an astral, unseen body that accompanied my organic body.  Somewhere OTHER than in this flesh and blood and bone and muscle bag that does all the thinking, feeling, and behaving of my life.  Somehow I thought I was something other than this.   Because of that, I tried to “rise above” my feelings.  Or I tried to “control” my body reactions.  I controlled my appetite by limiting food intake;  controlled my body shape and size by over-exercising;  controlled my response to people I related to by overworking and being so busy I didn’t have time to notice how I was feeling.   I denied that I had a body at all, and I certainly denied that my body was ME.

But if my body isn’t me, then who am I?   There is no evidence that people exist in thought balloons over their heads.  There is no evidence that I am anything more than what I appear to be;  a human organism, with human thoughts, feelings, spiritual life, and bodily needs.   The best part is that by minding the body, I can  really experience life as a human, a juicy, vibrant, energetic, warm and alive human person.

Take a moment to be mindful of yourself in your body.   Take a breath, and just notice what it is to be a body, breathing air, sitting or lying or standing on the planet.   Notice the outer surface of your body;  where the skin touches fabric, feels air temperature, takes in the breeze.  Notice what parts of your body, what parts of you, are most vibrant and awake.  Notice what parts are less available to your awareness.  Just notice, and sit with whatever arises.    If nothing arises, sit with that.  If there is emptiness, sit with that.    If you feel full to overflowing, sit with that, also.  Notice that whatever arises will also slip away, as something else arises.   This is holding your self, your bodily self, in mindful attention.

What is this like for you?   If you wish, post a note below to let us share this experience of mindfulness of the body.

So tired…..

I’ve been sick this winter, actually, officially sick with a diagnosis and antibiotics and all of that.   While I am healing well, I am left with lower-than-usual energy and a sense that fatigue overtakes me quickly.

One of the mindfulness practices I learned while taking Dr. Bill Cook’s Body-Mind Awareness program back in 2009 was about attending to where in the body intention arises.   That sounded terribly foreign to me at first;  if I intend to get up from my chair, it seems to me that the intention arises in my thoughts.  But no, if I am careful, take time, and bring attention to my body with the question, I can actually sense into my body where and how that intention arises.

So with this fatigue, I have been using this practice to locate “tired” in my body.  This is probably easier than the intention to change position.  What I notice is this:   my mind will say something like, Oh, I feel tired….then I turn my attention to my body.  Where in my body do I sense this “tired?”  What is it like?   When have I felt something like this before?   What does it remind me of…and what else might be there, along with “tired?”

That last question is a good one.  What else is in there, in this felt sense that I have labelled, perhaps too quickly, as “tired?”  On Saturday, I took to the dog for his weekend walk along the river.  We plowed through shin-deep snow, watching the sun come up through snow clouds, and feeling the barely freezing temperature rise a bit and fall a bit, shifting the nature of the precipitation.  When I turned to walk back to the car, calling for the dog, I was suddenly aware of sensation in my calves, like melting butter, achingly draining to my heels….there it was!  That was my fatigue.   Internally, I named it and asked, what else is there?  As I breathed into my belly and let my attention rise from my legs to my abdomen and diaphragm and chest, I realized that there was more there.   I felt a sensation that I labelled tears;  tension that I wanted to discharge in my core, tension in my pelvis that hard sobbing would release.  So there was more than tired;  there was a deep tension of holding back sadness, right there.

Tired happens when you have been sick.  Tired also happens when things feel like just too much, and when you need to cry and you don’t give yourself the space to really experience those feelings.  Having to “hold in” and “hold on” to yourself to keep those tears in check is a really exhausting way to live.

When you feel tired, where in your body do you notice it?  What else is in there?

It doesn’t take much for me to feel wiped out these days.  But how do I know that I am tired?

Bioenergetics and Mindfulness

Bioenergetics and mindfulness

You have probably heard of mindfulness in many contexts. It is a popular term for a very old concept. This old concept refers to something that people do spontaneously; we become aware of the present moment, with all the subtleties of that moment. This happens many times each day. However, we also may spend a lot of time in unawareness, or mindlessness. This can happen when we are “lost in our thoughts,” caught up in some internal story or conversation, struggling with memories or worries, or otherwise on auto-pilot and out of touch with what is happening right now.

Bioenergetic bodywork helps us to focus on the present moment by focusing on body sensation, movement, patterns of tension and relaxation, and even emotion. These experiences of the body are sometimes ignored or even pushed out of awareness. Bioenergetics allows us to locate ourselves in our bodies and, perhaps for the first time, really experience who we are, right here, right now.

A mindful state can be attained by simply paying attention.  Right here and now, stop reading and pay attention to your body sensations.  Feel your feet on the floor, your seat in the chair, your hands in your lap.  Notice how much of your weight you can let down into the chair.   Notice the breath as it enters your body.  Notice where it goes, and how it leaves your body.  Notice how much of your body moves with the breath.  Now just let that breathing happen, giving it about 25 percent of your attention, letting the rest of your attention just float.  Notice what it is like to let your attention rest lightly on your breath.  Notice what it is like to allow your attention to float.   Notice what it is like to be fully attentive to whatever is happening with your breath, with your body, in this moment…this moment…this moment.  This is mindfulness.  This is being with what is, right here and now.

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