Friday, May 13, 2011

90 Seconds to Release

“Despite our fear of certain feelings, it is feeling each of them all the way through that lands us in the vibrant ache that underrides our being alive. To reach this vibrant place is often healing.” -- Mark Nepo

Life has been crazy full lately with all sorts of brilliant and shiny adventures. It’s all good, as they say. My body, however, seemed to indicate otherwise. Even amidst healthy eating, plenty of sleep and regular exercise, last week my body declared a moratorium on health. I came down with an icky cold “out of nowhere.” So, I slowed down (sort of), paid attention (with soft focus) and listened (perhaps with one ear.) Actually, I kept going – only doing the “essential” things, of course – until my body said, “Excuse me. I’d like your FULL awareness NOW.”

So, Wednesday, I woke up and I cried. Buckets. I finally let go and quit trying to analyze things and figure them out. I pushed my favorite “should” to the background – (“You should know better.”) – and just let myself be. I slowed down and got quiet. I lit a candle, played the Cistercian monks on iTunes, raged in my journal for awhile, sobbed into my pillow, wailed a little more, then went to my scheduled spiritual direction appointment where I sat with a wise listener who let me cry some more. (I hope you’re not distracted by what might have brought me to this state, because that’s not really the point… but I do appreciate your concern.)

If you’re asking what is the point, well, I just needed to let my emotions be. While I have a general idea where some of the angst arises (e.g. my mother died on Mother’s Day seven years ago and I tend to mentally forget this), the point was my body was giving me all sorts of signals that I needed a little grieving time. Again? Yes. Still? Absolutely.

We are such amazing creations and my new favorite mantra is “The body doesn’t lie.” Who would have thought that buckets of tears, some lament music, a gentle hot yoga session and ultimately oral surgery would provide the prescription to returning to my normal-feeling self? Counterintuitive, huh? Nonetheless, my blockage – both nasal and otherwise – seem to be on the pathway to clearness after following just that plan.

Brain scientist, stroke survivor and author, Jill Bolte Taylor offers that it takes only 90 seconds for the chemical release and physiological response of an emotion to be triggered, surge through our body and be completely flushed out of our bloodstream. We have a choice as to whether we mentally hold onto the pain and allow it to further poison our system, or allow ourselves the cleansing benefit of fully experiencing the surge when it arises. Wednesday I allowed my grief to expand and flow through me. It’s definitely harder than it sounds, but one of the reasons I’m recording this memory is perhaps next time, I’ll mentally get to this knowledge sooner and my body won’t have to pull out all the stops to slow me down when an uncomfortable emotion arises again. I’ve come to learn there’s nothing linear about life. We don’t get to grieve or forgive or cry, be angry or laugh just once and then be done. Life is a cyclical process that turns back on itself again and again as onward we go!

Is there an intense feeling you’ve been avoiding? Will you allow yourself 90 seconds of pure emotion today? Go ahead, throw rocks into the ocean. Crank up the blues music. Dance with abandon until your toes tingle with joy. Think about it.