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Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

Filtering by Tag: bodywork

Home for the Holy Days

Katie Gordon

The Holy Days are fast approaching. 

As it's a time of year that has traditionally been hard, I've been preparing myself and doing some deep work to unwind the patterns of WHY I had such a hard time during the holidays. When I say that, it sounds like I've just begun, but really it's been years of preparation. Years of deep digging and diving, uncovering, understanding, asking questions, and softening. Always softening. 

You see, for my whole adult life I've been learning about the emotional body. Whether it was through herbalism, massage + bodywork, craniosacral work, yoga + movement, or shamanism, for me it's always been about why we feel the things we feel and what we do about it.

The way I dealt with challenging emotions from a young age was to leave my body. My close family and friends always commend my good memory, but there are very poignant events that happened in my life that I don't remember. Vacations I've forgotten, memories I've blocked out, experiences I've erased.

The thing is, we don't actually erase any of it. It's still there, buried in our bones, vibrating within our cells.  But one of the best ways our psyches have of dealing with experiences and emotions that we don't have the tools to deal with is to leave. That isn't a bad thing! It's a truly wonderful defense mechanism we have that only means we're functioning optimally. 

As a kid, I felt EVERYTHING because I could feel everyone. From a young age, it was apparent to me that many people couldn't handle their own emotions, so unconsciously I decided I'd take them on instead. In the midst of divorce, death, fights, upheavals, I took on their anger, grief, anxiety, and sadness. It was an enormous weight and once I took it on, I didn't know how to give it back.

Photo by  Matt Howard  on  Unsplash

Photo by Matt Howard on Unsplash

To hold back this enormous wave of emotion from overtaking me, I built a tall, strong wall around myself and left my body. 

Slowly, gradually, I noticed that the things I used to love doing felt flat, unalive, distant. Or rather, I felt distant while I was doing them. I was on the periphery of whatever was happening. It felt as if I always just needed to make it to the next thing. Then the next. And the next. I only had to make it through. Like I was crossing them off a to-do list.

I didn't actually enjoy doing the thing I was doing, even if it was something I would have normally loved. It felt as if I had to keep going, otherwise whatever it was I had been avoiding for YEARS (that wave) would catch up with me and I'd have to look it in the eye and feel the things I had so brilliantly blocked out for so long. Which was okay. I could live like that for awhile, right? It wasn't so bad... 

Except it got to a point when there wasn't anything I absolutely LOVED doing anymore. I never felt overjoyed. Ecstatic. I never got so wrapped up in anything that I completely lost track of time. Everything was so contained inside me, safe, untouchable, that the whole world was going on without me.

And it sucked.

Because I WANTED to feel overjoyed. I so badly wanted to feel ecstatic. I desired to know delight again. But I was so afraid of the grief I knew I was being held back by that wall around myself. That wall that had kept me safe and not overcome by the wave of feeling.

I realized awhile back I had been preparing for this moment. In all my trainings, in all that time I thought I was learning new things to help other people, I had actually been collecting tools to heal + bring myself back to wholeness. And at the core of every single one of those practices, philosophies, and modalities?


I had to invite my awareness back into my body. I had to invite myself back home.

And yes, it really is an invitation. You can't force it if it's not time. That's another thing I've learned. Timing is a real thing. And if you haven't allowed yourself the time, it ain't happenin'.

So, I began to invite my awareness to rest in my body. To notice simple things like how my bones move when I breathe. To notice if I'm even breathing. To notice how certain herbs interact with my body. How foods make me feel. How emotions feel in my physical body and where I feel them.

What happens when I don't get enough sleep, and what if I allowed myself to take a nap? 

You see, our bodies are always there, always advocating for us, always talking to us. Always. It's the thing we have that ties us to this beautifully alive Earth. Our bodies inform us about our experiences. And that's what I was so desperately craving: to have an experience. To live. To feel. Because I had cut myself off from feeling for so long. 

As I began to invite it all in, I did feel it all. I cried (and still do) about the smallest things. I cry out of joy and grief. In moments of ecstasy and despair. A lot of the things I was afraid of feeling and the memories I was afraid of remembering have come back, and I'm still alive. So, I've got that going for me. 

Sometimes it does feel like too much. Sometimes the memories I've blocked come back and I remember the pain of that moment in life. Sometimes I still find myself taking on the things that feel like too much for others. (Yep, I'm still working on my own boundaries.) 

Its a practice. 

Sometimes it's easy to navigate our emotions and those of others around us, sometimes it's not. But the more I allow people to have their experience, the more I allow myself to mine, the more I build trust in myself. 

And I've found moments of joy. Lots of them. I've felt more alive, connected, vibrant, and part of the world again.

Photo by  Jordan Whitt  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

The other day we went to pick out a Christmas tree. In the midst of the festivities of the tree lot, families, kids running around, people having a good time, I realized it was a moment in which I would have checked out. But it felt different. 

I felt HERE. I could feel the cold air around me. I could feel my feet firmly planted on the ground. I could feel the rain drops on my forehead. And I could feel the simultaneous wave of joy and grief at the same time. Joy at the simple tradition of picking out a tree with my love. Grief that I had missed out on moments out of the fear of feeling anything at all. 

Slowly, gradually, I've invited myself back home. I've invited my awareness back into my body to notice the simple things, and then the not-so-simple things. And yea, I still feel A LOT, but I'm beginning to see what a gift that is too.