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Journal

Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

Filtering by Tag: bodysoul

What happens when you listen to your body?

Katie Gordon

Have you ever noticed what it feels like to completely ignore your body's wisdom?

Some of us feel that disconnect in our emotional body. For others, that disconnection is manifested in their physical body as tension, pain, and injury. Often we forget we even have bodies. Many of us go through our lives as if we're simply talking heads, floating in space with no feet to touch the earth. This isn't to say that ALL tension, pain, and injury is a result of either not listening or ignoring our bodies' inherent wisdom, but for many people, it's definitely a contributing factor.

I got really good at ignoring my body. Here's a little back story...

For awhile after finishing up my first yoga teacher training, massage school, and beginning my journey with Visionary Craniosacral Work, in the process of trying to figure out how to actually make a living doing my sacred work, I thought I needed to be some kind of "coach" in order to help people AND make money. 

I thought all my hours of training, practice, and experience had to somehow fit in and under the title of "[insert descriptor] Coach." I spent so much energy trying to figure out how to define myself and my work in a way that was approachable and made people want to say, "Yes!" to working with me.

Along the way, I worked with some business coaches who advised me to play on people's fears, pain points, and insecurities. Yuck! Even thinking back on it NOW it feels icky. I couldn't do it. It felt gross, inauthentic, and completely missed the point of what I was trying to create. 

Not only was there the ick factor in trying to market myself inauthentically, but the whole time I was trying to force this role, this construct on myself, my body was rebelling. Weird digestive issues, tension in my belly, odd recurring injuries. I even kept losing my voice!

Finally, I gave myself permission to let go.

breath of life.jpg

To surrender what I thought I should be doing and how it should look.

And it was a huge relief! It's exhausting pretending, isn't it?

It takes so much energy. I had done so much healing for myself, but there was a crucial piece I hadn't dug into yet: this idea that my work had to fit someone else's idea of being worthwhile or something people would pay for. 

So, instead of doing all the time, I started listening. Without even knowing what to listen for. I had to trust whatever it was that wanted to come through me. Just like I do when I teach group yoga classes. Trusting the words to come out, and that the students will receive what they need from the class. 

I stopped trying to "figure it out." I trusted that what wanted to be born from my unique combination of skills, gifts, study, and experience would make its way earthside. I trusted that I'd find the words to talk about it. That I didn't need to play off people's pain and insecurities. 

Instead, I'd trust my words to speak to the ones I could serve and be of benefit to. Trusting my words meant trusting my body (just like I teach others to do), as well as...

+ Beginning to notice when and where I was holding and letting that tension be an indicator of where I was trying to "make something happen."

+ Acknowledging that I didn't actually want to be a "coach," and I didn't have to be in order to be of service.
 
+ Believing that my gifts of holding space, of seeing energy, and of inviting people back to their bodies are worthwhile and even necessary.

+ Knowing that the healing people experience through these sessions I guide them through is and would continue to be profound.

One of the best things about these Embodiment Sessions? They're done virtually! 

Some people wonder if virtual sessions can offer the same benefit as my in-person, hands-on sessions. They ask if this work can be as potent if we're not physically together. 

I'd say, in some ways, they can be even more powerful. I used to leave therapy or healing sessions feeling light and somehow changed. But once I got back into my own space, my home, my ordinary reality, it felt like the magic faded. 

But when you're already in your space, the magic is more easily integrated into your reality. You come out feeling rooted, at home in your body and in your extra-ordinary reality. 

If you want to learn more about these Embodiment sessions, a blend of therapeutic yoga, guided journey, subtle-body healing, and visionary work, come visit me over here.

New Year :: the emergence of Light from Dark

Katie Gordon

This winter has been a time of deep introspection, exploration, and surrender for many of us. Becoming more acutely aware of old patterns, perspectives, and projections that no longer serve, and actually detract from, the path of Soul. One particularly powerful lesson of the last month for me has been in giving myself full permission to feel exactly what I'm feeling. Not trying to change, alter, redirect, invalidate or discount anything that comes up. And I'm noticing when I really allow myself to feel the full weight, it often shifts quite quickly. Not always, but often.

I used to deeply fear feeling the full heaviness, sadness, and darkness of whatever I was feeling because I worried I'd just keep sinking in. That it would never end unless I pulled myself out. That I would end up BEING whatever emotion it happened to be forever. This seems to be encouraged in many of our modern therapies. Reframing, redirecting, changing perspective, etc. Which I see the value in. But that approach also takes away so much power from our own souls in the way our inner Self teaches us sooooooooooo much via our feelings and our bodypsyche. 

What would it be like to love yourself so deeply and unconditionally, that you gave yourself full permission to feel and be with yourself in whatever feeling state happened to be showing up in the moment? What would that feel like? 

This time of year is full of words like "intentions," "resolutions," and "new beginnings." But as Marion Woodman writes in Dancing in the Flames"Intentionality in itself does not lead to an enlightened heart. It is better thought of as a way of giving meaning to experience. It is open to both conscious and unconscious information." Meaning, we need to be open to what is trying to come forth from our experience of life and not live by sheer power of will, which can often end up blocking what the unconscious is attempting to bring forth. There is an aspect of surrender in setting intentions for the year ahead. Surrendering to the deeper dimensions of our experience, surrendering to our dreams, to that which our souls are stretching toward.

An embodied look at addiction

Katie Gordon

The other day I was having a coffee date via Skype with a close friend who is also a soul sister/mentor/mystic. She has a knack for truth-telling in a most compassionate & loving way to which I can only aspire. We were talking about relationships, in particular the patterns and lessons you learn about yourself within each relationship. How much potential there is for growth within love and how intense, heart wrenching, and amazing it all is. And then she pointed out to me (again, very nonjudgmentally) my pattern of running in relationships. Or more accurately, running out of them. Since a large part of the work I've been diving into lately, what Bill Plotkin refers to as "Soulcraft," is recognizing old patterns in thought and behavior, relinquishing old identities, and giving up addictions, her observation struck me as something that obviously required my attention.

In his book Soulcraft, Plotkin dedicates a lot of time to the topic of patterns, why we have the ones we do, how they developed, why they were necessary at one point in our life, and why it's imperative that we untangle ourselves from them once we've accepted our journey of descent into soul. Addiction is one form of pattern, something we ALL fall into, whether it's addiction to a substance, food, shopping, sex, Facebook, checking our email 8000x a day, etc. And of course there are countless theories of WHY we develop certain addictions and how to treat them. I'm not even gonna go there today. It's Plotkin's opinion that many times, addictions are either attempts at self-initiation, because basically here in our western, non-nature-based society we no longer have cultural rites of initiation built into our education, OR an addiction is a distraction, a way we have of numbing ourselves because we feel unfulfilled, unsatisfied, trapped, claustrophobic, and we deeply know we're meant to do more in our lives than we're currently doing.

In my experience, and in my opinion, it's often a bit of both. I've distracted myself from fully feeling uncomfortable or intense feelings, from fully acknowledging that I'm feeling those uncomfortable and intense feelings, and then feeling guilty for not acknowledging or feeling those uncomfortable and intense feelings. (P.S. that's a lot of energy moving around without being released. It's best not to do it that way.)

I've also acknowledged that my journey into anorexia and bulimia was absolutely an attempt at self-initiation. Pushing my physical body to its limit, approaching that breaking point when it couldn't take anymore, allowing myself to almost physically and metaphorically disappear, diving deeply into that shadow side of my psyche that didn't feel valuable, loved, seen, or heard. Of course at the time I didn't know that's what I was trying to do, but at some level, I did know the reasons behind all of those behaviors were much deeper than body image and self-esteem issues. Something in me was seeking answers, meaning, and explanations of deeply rooted feelings and my purpose for being here on this Earth.

Anyway, back to my "running" story...

When my friend said that I realized I DO run many times a situation begins to feel out of my control or I don't see a pleasant way out. I have (had) an addiction to running. It was a deeply engrained pattern. Of course often the way out is working it THROUGH, which I also wasn't a huge fan of doing. However, being in a committed and healthy relationship now, one that I want to show up in and not run from, means having to wade through the unpleasant feelings that arise, the disagreements that occur, and the feelings that surface as a result. Not always fun, folks. Some of my ugliest shadows have shown themselves. Each time I feel like hiding, running, or otherwise pretending the discomfort and intensity isn't happening, I see that pattern in myself. I see my need for things to be comfortable and if they're not, to make them better by smoothing it over, even when it's not for the best of the relationship. I know whatever's coming up is at least partly a call to sit and feel, hear, see, and know my own soul deeper. And then it's a call to act in alignment with my soul.

"Be still and know..." - Psalm 46:10

Here's one thing I know for sure. When we can sit through all that intensity that exists within our own wounds, we see that's where our greatest opportunities for growth and brilliance lie. We can witness our own sacredness. We can act from our deepest truth rather than from an old, outgrown identity. We can allow those parts of us to die.

What are your favorite addictions? I invite you to consider seeing them as stemming from an attempt at awakening/stimulating ourselves out of what we've come to see as ordinary reality. Out of our everyday lives. Our small selves. Perhaps acknowledge them as your soul's call to initiation to a deeper level of consciousness, opening us up to a new layer of being seen, heard, or felt.

Evolving yoga & the bodysoul

Katie Gordon

A friend and I were walking and talking the other day about how, as teachers, both our yoga practice and the way we approach teaching has evolved. I came to yoga during college after leaving ballet. I had struggled with bulimia and anorexia for years, but even more than that, I felt mentally, emotionally, and physically rigid. I was stuck in this foreign body that I had numbed and quieted for so long, I no longer knew how to hear the voice of my soul or feel my physical body enough to even know when something was wrong. So I stumbled/dragged myself into a yoga studio around the corner from my apartment in Boston's Back Bay, started teaching awhile later, and discovered a world I saw as completely opposite from my rigid, extreme, self-loathing reality. And unlike the pain and exhaustion of ballet, I had found something that made me feel literally high afterward. Plus it's healthy (both physically and mentally), it's great exercise (they don't call it a yoga butt for nothing), and I felt good about myself as a person, justified in my somewhat-self-righteous approach to the yoga-raw food-vegan-sattvic-clean-eating lifestyle because I'm doing something "of value" and teaching people how to feel better, right? Now I see all I had done was carry that same rigidity, the same self-imposed rules into a new setting.

And then I got disillusioned with the whole thing. I got bored. I got injured. I wasn't down with paying $100 for a pair of yoga pants. I got tired of feeling burnt out after teaching SO much and struggling to pay my bills. Seriously, if you want to be a "successful" yoga teacher (and they're out there!) you gotta hustle. You gotta have passion. And I didn't. My body hurt, I could barely make rent, I didn't even have the time or energy or desire to maintain my own practice. So I said f*ck this.

I gave up trying to survive by teaching and I got a "real job." You know the whole work 9-5, wear "professional" clothes, get a paycheck every 2 weeks, have health insurance, work in an office kinda job. This was that stage in my practice when I was so happy to NOT stress out about money/survival/my-family-thinks-I'm-a-total-failure that you'll do anything for this new job. And don't get me wrong, the company I worked for is GREAT! They treat their employees better than any I've seen. The people there are wonderful. But my connection to my wild soul was fading. And my physical body was like, "How can you possibly have a job where you're sitting at a computer all day??!! Have I taught you nothing??"

During this time my practice taught me to slow down. Because of injuries, I couldn't do everything I used to be able to do. I had to be super mindful, take my time, and listen to my body in a way I never have. I felt like because I no longer had to depend on yoga to make a living, I could make it all about me. What I needed, wanted, craved in terms of movement. How my bodysoul needed to manifest herself. And through that work, it became increasingly clear that, even though I was comfortable & happy enough, I wasn't living my full truth or my soul's purpose in the world.

So when the opportunity arrived, I left. I moved to the Pacific Northwest, where I'd wanted to live since I was a kid (after watching The Goonies. Because pirate caves.) and where I could focus solely on my little business. And since Wild Grace is an extension of me, it became VERY clear that to have an abundant business, I needed to cultivate a healthier mind-body-soul connection. For me, even though I hated to admit it for awhile, the way in to that connection was through my yoga practice. It forced me to sit, breathe, be, and listen. It showed me how to deeply honor my body when I was practicing honestly and from a place of love for myself.

As I was preparing to teach a demo class in my new home town, I realized my yoga practice and what it meant to me had changed because my relationship with my body had changed. Because of the way I used to practice, always pushing myself, forcing myself further into poses, to keep going even if practicing didn't feel good or if I was hurt, my body had finally had enough and my practice HAD to change.

You're probably thinking, "Well, duh!" But really, I could finally see clearly how the way I felt in my body, the way I surrendered to my body, the way I saw it, felt it, heard it. The way I allowed it space. The way I honored the open spaces and the tense, closed, traumatized spaces had shifted in each stage of both my ego & soul growth. And because of that I was finally allowing my body to evolve rather than stay within a "safe" range of weight and shape. I was allowing my soul to expand, to be her brilliant & bright self. Where there was once a major disconnect between my soul's desire for compassion and self-love and my mind's need for some semblance of control, now there's just (for the most part) quiet, space, and a deep honoring of the way it sometimes all has to play out so that we can actually learn how to get out of our own way and meaningfully make something of ourselves.

And so I guess when you can finally let go of your opinion of the yoga industry, your fear of not being "good enough," the constant need to compare yourself as a teacher and student, and the competition for classes, all that's left is your relationship to your body (physical and energetic) and the practice of showing up each day to be with yourself.