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What My Body Says of the World

I regularly scan my body. And over the last year I have incresingly noticed more impacts from the external world on my internal experience.

I've found my shoulders slumping more than before - closing in like my torso is protecting itself, like it's scared. Like it's exhausted from holding the weight of what we're witnessing happening, what is happening to us. Like it's held down by the limits of how suffocating it is just to make basic ends meet these days. Fear.

My breath finds it challenging to be full, to be soft, to be open. As a freediving instructor, I'm constantly training my lungs for long and safe breath holds, Yet I am scanning day-to-day and finding that I have to work harder lately just to be able to breathe. Greif.

My heart feels a constant dull ache. Sometimes strong, sometimes subtle, but essentially always telling me it's hurting for the pain of the world. Saddness.

My stomach is in the habit of tangling into knots, and my hunger is suppressed. It tells me it doesn't know how to eat when there are so many hungry people and food is so expensive. My energy systems are trying to convince me that they are needed more for thinking and working ourselves out of this mess rather than relaxing to digest. Worry.

My nervous system continues to spike into stress mode because injustice is stressful and my body is scanning it's environment and finding so many dangers to fight, flee, and eventually freeze from. I'll crash into immobility, and numb from the pain for a while because it's too much. I shake, I run, I react. My autonomic nervous system is protecting me the best ways it knows how. And my efforts to keep myself from staying in over or under drive too long are unsure how long they can keep this dance up. Anger.

My cognitions are mobilizing to challenge myself that rest is neccesary to sustain the kind of capacity that is needed to not only survive, but also to support others to hope for a time when they can thrive again. But some days my brain is foggy. It can't think straight, or focus. Discouraged.

We do not always consider the ways we are impacted by our environment (let alone the ways our enviornment is impacted by us), but like a bruise forms from an accident, or our skin darkens from the sun, our body constantly shows us signs of these interrelationships. And they go beyond the physical, and much deeper than surface or skin-level. In fact there is so much more that effects us on a physical level - our cognitions and emotions are physical, and have physical impact.

I could go on and on about how my body has been experiencing its life the last year. But that is for me to constantly read, listen to, work with, be compassionate towards.

What is your body telling you about what it's like to be you in the world right now? How do you, as your body, support, sit, and move with those sensations?

So much of my work with my psychotherapy clients holds awareness of their context. They are not individuals in silos. The colour of their skin impacts their mental health. The economic crises we are facing are not a fault of theirs, but do take an incredible toll on their well-being. Their relationships direclty impact their health. Their housing situation is integral to their wellbeing. Global warming, generational trauma, and ongoing colonizaton are all impacting all of our physical, mental, and emotional states - whether or not you're aware.

Somatics is integral to our work together because mental health is not detached from our physical body, but actually is our physical body.

When I scan my body, I also find that it is resilient. I find muscles that I can appreciate having ability and mobility to help me move in ways that bring me renewed energy. I find organs that insist on continuing even when the world feels like its imploding. I find that I have tools to move through pain, and see that it can be processed. Again and again, and that there are also moments of laughter still, and that feels good in my stomach. It gives it a break from the aching.

Here's what I also sometimes find when I scan:

Laughter, stomach - joy.

Hiking, lungs - hope.

Running, muscles - strength.

Freediving, ventral vagal state - peace.

Hugs, heart - love.

Where do you feel these emotions in your physical body - how and where do they show up?

How can you foster situations, activities, or states that encourage these emotions come forward - to help your physical body cope with the challenges of life?

Scan your body. What does it tell you about the external world? What does it tell you about your internal world?

Our awareness brings us empowerment to be present and intentional with our experience. That kind of power brings healing - not only within but also outward to the world at large.

For goodness knows, our world is showing us it's own signs that mass healing is desperately needed.

~ Charlie Gray | Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying); Freediving Instructor & Coach


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