The Art of Living Body First
Our birthright is to feel wholly and vibrantly alive. From the moment we came into this world, our bodies guided us to express what we needed to feel complete and well. When we were small and helpless, it was our cries and our body language that cued our caregivers to meet our most basic human needs for food, safety, touch, and love. But the moment we began to be able to exist a bit apart from our caregivers – when our expressions of our humanity began to evolve and we moved beyond basic physiology and safety needs into more complex human needs such as love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs à la Maslow – we received the message that the expressions of these needs were problematic. Our joy was too much as was our sadness, and we were forced to limit and contain our range of expression to that which would not displease our caregivers, forcing them to confront their own deadness and incapacity to tolerate the sensations in their bodies. We began to live in a very narrow and confined space within ourselves. This was a matter of survival. In response to comments, punishment, or reinforced subliminal messaging, we began to disconnect from the signals that guided us to seek the satisfaction of them. We could not complete developmental cycles. We never blueprinted the full expressions of our robust and intricate beings. The result is that we are not experiencing full aliveness, not connecting fully with our sadness and our joy, and unaware, consciously, of our full capacity to FEEL. But we have been experiencing intimations all our lives, and that’s why this book exists and that’s why you picked it up. You are tired of not living the full expression of you, of being stuck, of feeling sick and tired.
You were deprived by your upbringing and by current social structures of your own agency – the right to self-governance, to determine for yourself what was most supportive of your development. You never knew you had a choice to feel fully alive. You were never offered the opportunity by attuned, emotionally mature caregivers to complete your own cycles of development and explore the full potential of your feelings. This is nobody’s fault. It’s simply where we are, individually and collectively. We are out of relationship with all that is, internally and relationally, and we are paying a big price for this. If you don’t know you have a choice then deadness becomes non-optional, the only way to be. Deadness becomes normal. Through the pillars of The Art of Living Body First, we begin to see choices where we thought none existed, and we can begin to choose AND normalize aliveness. And with choice, we can reclaim and exercise our agency. Agency is a fundamental pathway to experiencing our own aliveness – where we can move from mindless reactive states in response to stimulus into conscious responsiveness. We learn to use the binary nature of the data held in our bodies at any given moment to inform us as to the intentions of the world around us and our intentions regarding it, and we can co-exist with the external rather than enmeshing with it. We move from the parasitic to the symbiotic. We begin to live our lives from a place of integrity, from wholeness, from what is true for us, simply because we know we have options. We understand we can no longer afford to live under imposed conditions that do not prioritize our wellness. We come into full understanding that agency is the direct route to reclaiming what was rightfully ours.
The biggest risk for the walking dead is illness. The greatest outcome of learning to live body-first is that we move into deep states of sustainable wellness, and stay there with little effort. Wellness is, interestingly, incidental to the process of reclaiming agency and living from our aliveness. It’s the most obvious expression, on every level, of living in integrity, of operating from your whole self and from wholeness. Your body will no longer have to fight to get your attention because it will have it, unconditionally. It won’t be put in the awkward position of having to signal more loudly, more urgently. You will notice symptoms earlier, and attend to them faster, not as medical issues but as messengers. Ignoring or dismissing them will no longer be an option as you begin to prioritize the sensations of wellness above all else, understanding that this is your most important service to everyone in your life, including you. Your mind will be freed from the heavy lifting of safeguarding your wellness, something it is not designed to do, and you can begin to enjoy it at its best – through pleasurable thinking, imagining, creating, and engaging. No more drasticizing and catastrophizing, no more anxiety or depression, no more hypervigilance and vague nigglings that something is wrong. You will move out of chronic fight or flight into short engagements with your activated nervous system when appropriate. You will begin to notice which situations in your current life do not support your wellness, and the strength to exit them will be immediately available. You will valourize your aliveness in a way you didn’t know was an option, and you will set the stage for the rest of your life. You will prioritize your joy AND your sadness. You will do this by mastering the Art of Living Body First.
The Art of Living Body First is a practical guide to returning to your birthright of aliveness. Based on my own process, as well as the results of walking many clients back to their bodies and their sensations, this method will plunk you firmly back in the driver’s seat of your life, regaining agency, and subsequently returning you to deep, abiding wellness and vibrant, full-spectrum aliveness. You will deep dive into your value system, distinguishing between aspirational and lived values, using the body to validate, to reconsider, to move into precision. Through an ongoing noticing practice, you will learn to relate to your bodily expressions from a place of value neutrality, interrupting the habit of relating symptoms to self-worth. You will expand your capacity to be with uncomfortable symptoms long enough that you can understand what they are communicating, develop a deep reverence for your very own body barometer and its wisdom. You will develop a mastery level understanding of what is yours and what is not yours (boundaries), and begin to move into intentional relationships, focusing on concepts such as interdependence, resonance, and the third. What no longer serves will begin to fall away when you begin to decide where to place your attention.
The 7 Pillars
The 7 Pillars are the structure of the underlying philosophy of How to Be Well In the World. The goal is to assist the individual to develop a new story of value about the body through novel experiences of being in their bodies. The 7 Pillars relate to and establish the vertical axis of the BodyMind, locating us in the present moment.
- Value Neutrality – You within you in the context of you
- The Body Barometer – You within the context of the world
- Personal Core Values/Core Orienting Principles – Activating The BodyMind Highway
- Identifying the Dialectic – The both/and path to agency – Letting the new story emerge
- Orienting Towards Ease and Meaning – Establishing A New Story of Value
- Outsourcing vs. Resourcing – Boundaries – Where do I end and where does the world begin? The Story of Me in the World
- Being Well in the World – The Integrated Bodymind living in the New Story of Value in the world.
The 3 Practices That Establish the BodyMind Interface
The 3 Practices are based in action, allowing the individual to begin to establish an autonomous and internal locus of control that orients them on the horizontal axis of the BodyMind, in time.
- Noticing – Identifying the presence of
- Attending – Learning about from as many directions as possible without moving into any action. Simply being present with. Focusing attention on.
- Choosing – From an array of options, which choice most supports your wellness?