Living in the country, forty miles from the nearest town on a bumpy gravel road, it wasn’t always possible to keep milk cold till we got home and during the hot summer, the creek wasn’t always high or cold enough so that it didn’t turn sour. My Mom was taught that children needed to drink milk, so after that first summer of not being able to provide it for us, she decided she wanted a cow. She had met a man who was selling his land and just wanted to get rid of his Ol’ Betsy. She mooed and bayed as Grandad pushed her up the ramp into the back of the old school bus. For good luck the old farmer threw in a few chickens and a pig. Mom had to stop at the post office on the way home. She made it a quick one for the chickens were clucking and flapping themselves against the windows trying to get out. Grandad fed our Jersey cow lots of yummy oats as he talked to her, making sure she had lots of fresh hay in her stall until she settled down and could be trusted to stay near the barn without a tether. She loved being around children and had such a gentle disposition that Grandad renamed her Sweety Face, for it suited her much better than Betsy. Once when Mom was taking a family picture of us she wandered up the hill and included herself in it. This month’s front cover photo is her coming up to the front door and mooing. Her udder was full and she wanted to be milked. Grandad would answer back, “I’m coming.” Our door didn’t have the latch so it was easy to push on the door and have it swing open. As children we thought having farm animals as pets was pretty cool, but it wasn’t encouraged by our parents as it was annoying to step in cow patties or chicken droppings just outside the front door.
Learning to look at the trees and the clouds instead of looking at the ground whenever I walk takes practice. Letting go of my childhood programming of watching out for animal poop and rocks may seem simple but it is easier said than done. For example: my Mom always told me to stand up straight and I would try, but it took so much effort, and my shoulders would roll forward just as soon as I took my mind off them. Knowing that I had poor posture didn’t really matter to me until one day my arms started falling asleep when I was walking. By then my kids were in high school and I had some time to start educating myself. Reading books on alignment and nutrition helped me to understand the basics. Going to yoga classes, getting rolfed and becoming a vegetarian helped me put into practice what I was reading about. Changing myself is changing the way I perceive the world.
In the workshop I took this summer with Hermann Müller, we learned that the face and the body are a reflection of our soul and the work that it has chosen to do here on earth. He said, “The bones of the body and the face is the karma we have come in with and the flesh that fills in and around them shows us what we are doing with our promise to our higher selves.” To me that made a lot of sense as he explained in great detail how yin and yang (matter and spirit) are in constant motion to help teach us balance. As our ideas of ourselves change so does our appearance, it has to… to reflect our new belief system. One tool for self-awareness is observing the breath, which Hermann and many others have helped me to become more aware of.
For many years it was only when I swam or ran that I even noticed it. Then about eight years ago, after a Jin Shin Do session with Arlene Lamarche, I could feel a hollow spot in my left lung. After that session and for a good month I needed to suck in more air than I was used to. Several years later and after some very intense rolfing sessions my breathing shifted again, seemingly on its own. I awoke one morning gasping for air. I just couldn’t get enough air into my lungs, even though I was breathing the same way as the day before. My lungs demanded more of me. All day I yawned and yawned, allowing my breath to deepen. I put my intent on this aspect of myself and Ken Martin showed up. He is an Integrative Body Psychologist from Nelson who comes to Penticton once a month for private sessions, assisting people to dig a little deeper into their bodies, discovering and unlocking their emotional blocks.
Each session with Ken involves deep, rapid breathing: sucking in as much air as possible through the nose, then relaxing and letting the air out through the mouth, with a sigh. After ten or fifteen minutes, my body starts to tingle…everywhere. It feels like electrical impulses, as pins and needles send warm sensations to my toes and fingers.
As I practice the exercises that Ken gives me, I am learning what it means to stay present in my body. For example: I recently got myself into a situation where I felt pressured to hurry up and work hard to get a task done. As I went up and down the stairs I noticed that I was thinking about miscellaneous things that needed doing, anything to take my mind off the hard work. I went into robot mode. If I didn’t think about what I was doing the job got done easier. Even though I recognized the old pattern of hurry up and get the job done regardless of how tired I am it was hard to slow down. It was good to be the witness, watching myself. Understanding my basic programming is the first step, putting new ways into practice takes awareness and determination. I am finally realizing that when I am busy in the office, it is hard for me to slow my pace when I cook lunch. As I hurry through the preparation and then hurry to eat, I feel the coolness in my fingers and the lack of breath in my body. As I slow down and breath deeply I feel the tingles surge through to my finger and toes reminding me once again to breathe deeply and let go.
Ken says, “The mind likes control: as children we learned if we went into our heads, our feelings didn’t overwhelm us. Staying with the feelings and not allowing the mind to take us out of our bodies is the only way we learn to stay present.”
In my last session with Ken I accessed my emotional body once again. This time my body felt light, tingly and empty. After describing my body sensations to him I could feel a tightness in the back of my throat and my eyes started to water. Ken pried some more… “What is the feeling, Angèle?” I said, “Frustration… anger.” He said, “What needs to be said.” A scream from deep within released itself. He persevered, “What needs to be said?” I yelled, “Stop telling me what to do! Stop telling me what I can feel!” I could feel my face screwing up as I stuck my tongue out and hissed. It was clear to me I was screaming at my Dad. Ken then had me imagine my wiser-self assisting the younger-self in speaking my truth, even if it meant risking not getting love. My wiser-self said it was okay to get angry and tell Dad or my brothers to get out of my space. Stuffing those feelings from so long ago was using up lots of my energy reserves. It is tiring afterwards as the energy shifts but then I feel my shoulders and chest open up and my breathing deepens and the next day I feel stronger and more alive.
When I do the breathing exercises in the early morning I can sense feelings of anxiety or excitement deep in my belly, but to bring them to the surface on my own is difficult as is making the time to do it. Soon enough it is time for the day to start as my mind reminds me of all the things that need doing, so I stretch and yawn and get up.
Gerry tunes into these sensations in his belly more consistently than I for he didn’t learn to suppress them as well as I did. He uses them as a guide to what feels right and makes his decisions accordingly. He also learned to say “No” more easily than I. Paying attention to my body, my breath and listening to my higher self (a voice inside of my head) will help me do all that I have come here to do. Feeling good from the inside out tells me that I am on the right track.