Photo courtesy of Gratisography
I think I’ve shared here from time to time that I am reading My Grandmother’s Hands in my Abolitionist Book group. We are proceeding through this book very slowly because the premise of this book is working with unmetabolized trauma within each of us, perpetuating racism. Each chapter includes a set of exercises that are meant to constitute a practice.
Every time our group meets, we do at least one of the practices and when we do, I never cease to be stunned at some quiet realization. The exercises are all physical because we store trauma in the body. In order to process the trauma, we have to work with our bodies.
This week, we did a body scan. I know, I know, y’all there’s nothing new about that. Probably many of you have done this in a yoga or meditation class. I usually HATE them and now I know why - which I shall reveal to you later.
Our facilitator (we all rotate in this capacity) led us through a pretty standard scan - although with her beautiful and deliberate voice and slow pace. First, we got a little settled, feeling our feet on the ground, the chair beneath us. Then we were instructed to begin with our heads, and slowly scan our bodies from top to bottom. Here’s the different part - The instruction was “Pay attention to each part of our body as you slowly move your attention downward. Notice where there is pain or discomfort, where there is constriction, and where there is relaxation or expansiveness.
The purpose of this exercise is to learn to soothe ourselves and be able to settle our bodies. In time, you practice these exercises after recalling an uncomfortable or even traumatic experience. So, it’s like a trick, to learn to tap into that settled feeling even when you are triggered.
But, first, one has to get in touch with one’s own body, right? Otherwise, there’s no baseline. No foundation.
And that brings me to what I’ve always disliked about body scan exercises. I was minutes into this exercise before I could actually feel my body! I’m literally just a walking, talking head. Because there was the instruction to notice places of discomfort or expansiveness I noticed that I got all the way to my hips before I caught on that I wasn’t really feeling anything! Mostly, without thoughts, I’m just numb in the body.