Coloured portrait

Coloured portrait

Monday, September 4, 2017

Insomnia as Body-Awareness Practice

Insomnia is a perfect opportunity for body-awareness practice!

I woke up before dawn and practiced in the sleeping position until my usual waking time at 7:00. 

I began with belly breathing, inhaling and expanding in all directions like a balloon, then exhaling and contracting. The belly breathing is deep, slow, soft and satisfying, which shows me by contrast how shallow my habitual breathing is.

When the belly breathing became more or less automatic, I moved my attention to the muscle tension in various locations, and using the exhale for timing, I relaxed the muscles as best I could. Trauma and stress causes chronic tension (and congestion / inflammation) and relaxing by mere conscious decision is difficult and sometimes not possible for someone who has been traumatized. To be more effective in my relaxation, I play dead: I imagine being dead and having nothing more to fear, nothing more to protect (the greatest fear we have is the fear of death and of pain, so once dead, that ceases to be an issue!). I didn't invent the game; whoever invented the Shavasana (yogic corpse pose) invented it! (Thinking of your shirt, Genevieve Landry Herzog - "I'm only here for the Shavasana")

I managed to relax the lower body relatively easily, and went on with my attention to the upper body: head, neck, shoulders and chest, and Mamma Mia what richness of discoveries waited for me there! Hot head (moi?); tight, hot neck; tight shoulders, chronic frown and eyeball tension, and all this tension seemingly very stubborn and unwilling to go. When I did manage to relax bit by bit, I uncovered what the tension was hiding underneath: pain! Shooting pain down the arms, the kind of pain you feel after a blow. So as I learned from Paul Linden, as well as from my own body, we tense as a strategy to cope with pain, because the more we tense, the less we feel, which is an interesting coping strategy, but obviously not the most useful one in the long run, because tensing up only amplifies the pain and makes it linger.

And no, doctor, I won't take Voltaren, thank you! I won't replace one masking strategy with another one. 

Lying down, eyes closed, still breathing fully and deeply, I allowed my attention to follow the pain and let it linger over the pain's epicentre, which brought up mental images - memories from the past - and certain quality of thoughts. The body remembers everything, regardless of when it happened. I followed the pain with my attention, like following a dance partner, wherever it took me. At some point I felt a sharp pain in my heart area, like being stabbed with a sharp knife. I stayed present with the pain, relaxed into feeling it, in the comfort and safety of this place where I can persuade myself that there is no real threat for me, and that I can allow myself to feel what is.

The pain diminished enough so I could feel a warm glow spreading through my body, accompanied by images of beautiful swirls of fluid colours dancing in my mind's eye.

Living alone is less than ideal in many respects, but when I left a bad marriage behind, I chose to live on my own, without housemates, knowing very well it would take time and quiet space for me to heal. 

And thank goodness for this quiet time alone, and thank goodness for insomnia.

No comments:

Post a Comment