Speak from your body, not your head
18/05/2011 § 1 Comment
“The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression.” John O’Donohue
A friend, a regular reader of this blog, told me last week that she couldn’t connect to my last two posts. I wasn’t surprised. I couldn’t connect to them either. Somehow I had it in my head that because I had described this as a weekly blog, I couldn’t let my readers down and had to post every week, whether I had something to say or not. Rather than reaching into myself to find something authentic to say, I chose an easier option. I wrote from my head. I gave little of myself and so gave little of value.
The funny thing is that I was aware of this as I wrote the posts. I can’t describe how I knew – it was a feeling, subtle but clear, located somewhere in my body. I am familiar with this feeling. When I ignore it, it nearly always turns out to be a mistake. Still I am stubborn and so sometimes do ignore it. When will I learn!
I was reminded of the wisdom of my body this evening at a dialogue session at the Hub in Islington. The idea of the session was to use the technique of dialogue (as described by physicist David Bohm) to get beyond our customary thought patterns and, as a group, to access higher wisdom. The subject was sustainability.
Whether we succeeded in our mission is hard to say. There was a good quality of listening amongst the 12 or so participants (this was aided by a speaking stick that reminded us not to speak over each other). I enjoyed the interaction and exploring with others issues that I give a lot of thought to. The initial question I posed (“If we are interested in sustainability, what is it we are trying to sustain?”) led us down interesting paths.
Someone observed that humans cope very well in crises, and that until a crisis comes significant change rarely happens. So maybe rather than unsuccessfully trying to change things now, we should focus on the things that we won’t be able to do at the last minute and leave the rest to be dealt with when the crisis comes.
We talked about “the system”, understanding this in some way to be what drives humanity to behave in this crazy way, systematically degrading our life support systems on earth. Someone reminded us that we are all the system and the system is us. Someone else introduced the metaphor of a game, that we can choose to play or not. People like Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela refused to play the game and had a very hard time. I mentioned the essay “The Power of the Powerless” by Vaclav Havel that I quote in my very first blog “Living in truth“. Havel says, in essence, don’t try to change the system, but focus on being the best human being you can be. There wasn’t a smooth flow to the conversation, but we did manage to avoid the tennis match debate that you usually get when exploring this subject in any sort of depth.
Discussing the experience afterwards, I agreed with one participant that some of the dialogue felt rather analytical in nature, a common trap in this work, rather than being real. She talked about the importance of speaking from “I”, relating what you say to yourself rather than making it abstract. Of the things that I had said in the session, the ones she remembered were those where I shared my own experience or when I told a story of a friend (someone who claims to understand the challenges we face but nevertheless recently bought himself and his wife two shiny new gas-guzzling cars!).
To me, what Debbie was talking about is the same thing I described earlier – the feeling I have which tells me when I am being authentic. If we want to give the best of ourselves, we need to constantly check in with our bodies. We need to ask ourselves if what we are saying, or doing, is congruent with what our body, our “house of belonging here in this world”, as John O’Donohue calls it, is whispering to us. Too often I find it comes from the space between my ears, nor really connected to the rest of my body.
I am starting to feel that the real work of an activist (I consider myself as such) is simply to focus on speaking and acting from that feeling, of listening to, being mindful of, my body and doing nothing, saying nothing that fails to honour the truth that I find there. I promise not to post another blog entry unless it passes that test.
Goodbye. I am just going out and may be some time ☺