I spend a lot of time in my head: reading, writing, revising, and thinking.
Case in point: last weekend I woke my Sweetheart up at 4 a.m. by mumbling “Hmmm…Mhmm…” in my sleep because I had been working on my dissertation in my dream. If you’ve been reading since January, you know that one of my central focuses for The Tending Year is learning to heal from trauma. That work can be challenging, so I can see why even my subconscious mind would want to get out of my body to focus on organizing paragraphs and analyzing rhetoric!
In all seriousness, the more I search for solutions to my pain, the more I open my mind to healing that relates to energy. Just as I use physical therapy to untwist my sacral torsion and to re-position my bunched up nerves over my tailbone, I use EMDR, EFT, and mantras to untwist and release energy that blocks my chakras and tenses up my body. (See the loop of emotional to physical to emotional again?) Since April is all about habits, I focused last week on diving even deeper into healing the energy in my body through movement.
Leaning in to Movement
I called my movement practices Three Queens in my Todoist app because I wanted to bring some powerful, feminine energy to my healing practices. I focused specifically on meditation, dance, and stretching.
Even if you are a newbie to self development, I’m sure you’ve heard about the benefits of meditation. According to the American Meditation Society, meditation “is a simple technique which allows the body to experience a profound state of rest while the mind becomes quiet and alert. Deep-rooted stresses are released in a completely natural way benefiting all aspects of health and well-being.”
To be honest, I used to be afraid to meditate. I worried that repressed memories would bubble up and take over my life, and I hated the idea of not feeling in control over my own mind. Even though I had positive experiences with guided meditations in therapy and in guided trances in witch classes I had taken with the brilliant Miel Rose, I was nervous to meditate on my own. What finally eased my mind and encouraged me to give it a solid try was that self development experts whom I trust and value were positively jazzed about it. Brooke McAlary did a month-long experiment in meditation for her Slow Your Home podcast, and Kate Snowise talked about how much she enjoyed it on Here To Thrive. Enough people were singing meditation’s praises, so I gave it a go.
I really resonated with two different meditations:
Sarah Blondin’s Live Awake podcast. Sarah’s podcast episodes begin with her talking about the topic and then guide you in a meditation, but to me they feel like one long, beautiful meditation. They tend to make me cry, but in a good way that releases energy. Sarah is very heart and energy centered. You can listen to Sarah’s Live Awake meditations on Soundcloud, YouTube, or on the Insight Timer app.
Lisa A. Romano’s “Help Heal Inner Child Shame and Guilt.” You can listen on YouTube or on the Insight Timer app. Honestly, this podcast broke me open. If you struggle with shame or other emotional distress due to negative childhood experiences (ones that you remember or not), this meditation can help you to release shame, guilt, and labels that you put on yourself. I had never thought about my inner child as divine, but this meditation broadened my thinking. It’s long (47 minutes), but it was immensely powerful and effective.
I recently began seeing a Reiki practictioner who informed me that I pull in energy from my crown chakra. Because my root and sacral chakras are unbalanced, the practitioner encouraged me to try dancing once a day to pull energy through my solar plexus chakra towards my sacral chakra in order to allow my sacral energy to move more freely.
I used to go dancing all the time…before I got sober. I loved the feeling of moving my body, and being drunk upped my confidence and sensuality on the dance floor. Since I got sober in 2013, I’ve only gone out dancing a handful of times, and I have yet to relearn how to connect to my body that way. Also, since I developed my tailbone pain I have often resented or feared my body. But, I truly believe that balancing my chakras will aid in my healing, so I leaned into dancing once a day as a healing practice.
This was really fun. I had forgotten how much I love dancing! Being an Obliger, I was open to dancing because the Reiki practitioner told me it would help me to move energy down towards my sacral chakra, and I wanted to report back that I had tried. I’m so glad I did. I danced when I was feeling stuck or grumpy about work, and it cheered me up and helped me feel more energized. I even danced once when I was feeling really sad, and it helped me feel more compassionate towards myself at the same time that it helped me process and shake out my sadness.
I’ve been learning about chakras from Tie Simpson and DJ Townsel’s As Above, So Below podcast, specifically Episodes 10-16. Tie and DJ are both yoga teachers, and they talk about which moves specifically help with balancing chakras.
I’m kind of a newbie to yoga, so I didn’t know what they meant. (Bow pose? Like, a bow that you tie or a bow that shoots an arrow?) I did a little yoga back in college and some mat pilates last year, but I have yet to go to a yoga class at my gym. I know that I want to, but I’m nervous and shy about adjusting the practice to my needs (note the fear I mentioned above). So, I allowed myself to try some yoga at home last week, and I focused especially on stretching and posture.
I tried a short yoga video specifically for working with the solar plexus chakra, and it was fun, but I found that if I was tired or in pain that I preferred to focus on my physical therapy stretches (I do 5 or 6 different ones). I did my stretches earlier in the day than usual, which made me feel like I was starting the day off well, but I also did them when I was feeling pain. Stretching to alleviate pain after long walks really boosted my mood: I felt more hopeful about my healing and I felt more kind and loving to my body. Instead of thinking “I am broken and will never heal,” I thought “I am thankful to my body for walking and I commit to caring for it afterwards.”
Lucy the chihuahua “helped” me stretch after our walk around town.
After a week of moving my body with care and intention, I feel calmer and more grounded. Specifically, I find myself breathing deeply more often and taking more breaks to get up and move around when I’m working.
I love having spontaneous dance sessions with friends, but dancing is a powerful solo act, too. It cheered me up when I was feeling grumpy, and it allowed me to feel more grounded when I was feeling dissociative or anxious. Humor me and the next time you’re feeling out of it, stuck on a problem in your revision, or lonely or bored, pick a song that you love (Beyoncé is always a good choice) and dance. Don’t worry about what you look like, just allow yourself to move. You might flail your arms around or stomp your feet, but you’re in your body. Last week I danced in my kitchen, in the office at my sweetheart’s, and in my office at work.
There’s an added benefit to this, too. I tend to only listen to podcasts and audiobooks, which means my brain is always doing the work of processing information. When I put on music, I move my energy from my brain and mind down through all of my body, which feels like a treat.
Take Breaks to Breathe
If you’re not quite ready to commit to meditation, but you’d like to try small ways to focus on your breathing, I recommend an interactive gif such as this one, developed by psychologist Robert Duff. Duff’s example is designed to help calm our bodies during anxiety attacks, but you can use it any time you want to focus on slowing your breath.
Here are some times when I take breaks to focus on my breath: when I’m in the waiting room before an appointment, when my students are doing peer response work, when I’m walking to work from my parking lot. You can pair it with another activity, or you can set a reminder for yourself.
*Please note that the original version of this blog post was published here.
newsletter and free resources
Sign up below to access six free resources and my newsletter, tending.