"Tuning into the physical
sensations that accompany
our thoughts can help to
clarify that feelings are generated
from within as a response
to our own thoughts and feelings,
and mobilize our ability to respond
creatively to life's challenges."
to Life's Challenges
Clearing and Centering
Lubbers, ATR, MFT
The interplay between. mind, body, and spirit in health and well-being, and in particular how our emotions affect our physical health, is gaining more attention and study in recent years here in the West. In Ayurvedic Medicine, which emanated from India over 5,000 years ago, a model for healing and preventive medicine was built on the paradigm that matter is the epiphenomenon of consciousness. We have "extended", "causal" and "subtle" bodies from which our physical bodies are created. Health is maintained by bringing harmony to each of these levels of existence, which in turn dramatically influences the others.
In this model, the inter-connection between our thoughts and emotions, and our physical body is very important. The "subtle body" is composed of the mind, the intellect, and the ego, and is a continuum of our emotions, desires, ideas, concepts, beliefs, and self-images. It exists only in time and not in space, and has a longer "shelf life" than our physical body. The subtle body gives rise to our physical body, which is made up of matter and energy, and exists in space and time.
So who are we? Deepak Chopra, M.D., a noted Ayurvedic expert, states that we are each "a holographic focal point through which the whole universe is expressing itself as a series of space/time events." It is the loss of the memory of our wholeness that brings disease in its wake.
Unless a higher state of consciousness has been reached, human behavior tends to be motivated by either the avoidance of pain or the pursuit of pleasure. It is in the measures that we take to avoid pain that we interfere with the flow of nature's intelligence as it flows through the subtle body, and the result is accumulated stress. Pain as well as pleasure is an important part of the holographic continuum of human experience. And until painful experiences are fully metabolized, expressed and released, they are held both in the subtle and in the physical body, with a resulting build-up of toxicity. Remembered pain resurfaces again as anger and hostility, anticipated future pain may manifest as fear and anxiety. The energy depletion resulting from holding onto these emotions in our physiology is experienced as depression. In refusing to become intimate with our pain, we continue to build up toxicity in our system, accumulating free-radicals which interfere with the functioning of the immune system, muscle tensions that become chronic, and eventually more advanced disease processes.
Learning how to metabolize and release our emotions can help to bring us more fully into the present moment as we live our lives. As the 12th century poet Rumi stated, "Where the past and future meet, there is only you". By interrupting the accumulation of toxicity in our physical and subtle bodies before symptoms of disease have manifested, we can practice true preventive medicine.
What follows is a step-by-step cleansing process for the emotions. Allow yourself time for this centering process, as processing emotions occurs at a slower rate than cognitive, analytical thought. You may find that some of the more powerful emotions that arise require utilizing each step that is presented in an in-depth manner, and you may move back and forth between the steps. Other feelings may require less processing time. Let your own intuition and body-wisdom be your guide.
1. Writing in a journal requires only paper, a writing instrument, and your attention. After observing your thoughts and sensations, and acknowledging your responsibility for them, it can be very helpful to write in a freely-associative manner, without censoring yourself. Allow thoughts to flow easily while describing the situation and your feelings, and any memories that have emerged.
2. "Non-dominant hand" writing provides a variation allowing for more unconscious, intuitive material to emerge. Using a large sheet of paper, to accommodate larger hand movements, either continue to free-associate, writing with your "non-dominant" hand, or else you can "interview" yourself, using your dominant hand to pose questions, and your other hand to spontaneously answer. One possible line of questioning is to "ask" the sensation in your body, which is related to the strong emotion, how long it has been there, what does it want to communicate to you, and how could you best help it to feel better?
3. Art expression allows for the catharsis, i.e. release of feelings, present and past, in a safe way. Anger, for example, when expressed through the art, moves from inside to outside, without any of the destructiveness we associate with other modes of angry expression. Art expression forms a bridge to the part of ourselves that has remained out of our awareness, by bringing our inner images to light and allowing them to be understood. With new conscious awareness, we can then make connections between these inner images and our outdated belief systems, which we then have the opportunity to bring current. Deepak Chopra, M.D. has stated that "our physical bodies are an objective record of our life experiences, while our mind is a subjective record of our life experiences". When we can update our beliefs to what is currently true for us, our thoughts (held by our mind) will then change, influencing the way we feel, and positively affecting our mind/body physiology.
3a. To warm-up and connect with your intuition, you may want to do a "scribble drawing". This you can begin by choosing a color that you like, then allowing yourself to scribble freely on the page. Let your hand and arm do the "thinking" for you. Have fun with your drawing, without judging it. It doesn't have to look like anything in the outside world. You can then free-associate to it, and add any details that you like.
3b. Next you may wish to draw your feelings. This is similar to the journal writing process, but utilizes drawing instead. After observing the physical sensation and accompanying thought simultaneously, begin to draw a symbol or representation for the emotion you are having. Let your intuition guide you. The symbol may be a color and a shape, or a drawing of the situation that triggered the feeling, or a "body portrait" which includes a representation of the sensation that is occurring within the body. You may continue to draw images for other feelings that emerge as related to the first feeling. You may also draw images representing other memories connected to this emotional event. When you are finished, you may choose to add healing imagery to your drawing, or a symbol of how you would like to feel after releasing these feelings.
When you have finished this process, again tune into your body. Notice what your body is feeling now. Notice your thoughts as well. Congratulate yourself! You have given yourself a tremendous gift in moving through this emotional clearing process, a gift of cleansing and healing for your mind, body and spirit!