the body as refuge

DSC_0378Photo by Pam White

How can we make a difference in this strange and unpredictable time?  How, while staying apart, can we express our caring, our love for each other?  My answer (or one of them) is to offer this somatic meditation.

My intention is to suggest some ways to support ourselves  (and others) by deepening bodily awareness and ease as we navigate this unknown and unknowable space that we are in together, even as we are intentionally physically apart.

In my experience, when we encourage a deeper consciousness of the body, we can find ourselves and each other in meaningful and new ways.

My hope is that this meditation can offer a sense of connection to the collective body – the body of US – by focusing intentionally on the personal body as a place of refuge.

Next week I will offer a movement meditation.

I am “seeing” students and clients virtually at this time.  You can find out more about that work HERE.  If I can be of help, please contact me at pjj@paulajosajones.org.

 

 

 

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sanctuary

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I was listening to a podcast the other day and someone mentioned finding comfort in the Monterey Bay Aquarium live jelly cam.  Now I have that floating on one of my screens basically whenever I am in my study.   Something about the pulsation, the flow, the grace, the every-changing landscape is mesmerizing, soothing, Jellyfish is one of the transformational, basic neurocellular stages that human embryo passes through in its development.  Perhaps I am having an embryonic memory, a yearning for a more womblike, oceanic experience right now.

The title “sanctuary” came to me last night, but as I began to write, I was overwhelmed by the vastness of the  embodied experience of sanctuary. Last night I enjoyed a Zoom class on embryology with Lorelei Bond.  As we began, she invited us to settle into our cellular beingness.  Sanctuary!

I have been cleaning, moving precious objects, wiping down shelves, treasures, photographs – everything that creates the sanctuary of my study space.  Yesterday I began my movement practice as a jellyfish, undulating, pulsing, nourished by the profound refuge of the moving body.

I have a large mountain laurel in full bloom outside my study window. I walked outside to see it more closely and realized that I had never smelled the blossoms and found that they are delicately fragrant. Sanctuary.

Pam and I are meditating together every morning.  Sanctuary.

So is sanctuary aligned with pleasure?  I think so.  With comfort?  Yes.  With place? Of course.  With people?  More than ever.

I am making more calls, writing more letters, hanging out in more Zoom rooms than ever.  I am filled with an incredible sense of connectedness and appreciation.  Sanctuary everywhere, all around, holding us, together apart.

How are you discovering and creating sanctuary in this time?  Tell me.

Just a reminder.  I am working with students and clients virtually at this time, with both movement and talk.  If you would like to arrange a Somatic Experiencing or Somatic Movement Therapy Zoom session, you can contact me at pjj@paulajosajones.org.

breathing in breathless times

DSC07608Photo:  Paula Josa-Jones

Saturday evening, the barn where my horses, Capprichio and Amadeo live, called to say that Capprichio, my 28-year old Andalusian stallion, had a swelling on his jaw.  It was warm and tender.  I called the vet.  Since he had no fever and was eating, we decided to wait and see how he is today (Sunday).  This morning it was more swollen, more tender, but still no fever.  Because he has almost no teeth left and has previously had some dental concerns (I have two of his lost molars on my desk), and because he has a significant heart murmur, the vet came. After X-rays, ultrasound and looking inside his mouth, she decided to put him on antibiotics and continue to observe him.

All of this happened without my being able to see him. Covid19 has effectively shut down all the barns in the area. And so I find myself in another breathless time, feeling the penetration of this absence of breath and presence through my whole body.

Focusing on breathing can feel activating.  I remember having a panic attack during my first silent Vipassana meditation retreat when we were instructed to follow the breath.  What breath?  Suddenly this autonomic, and at the same time, voluntary function was terrifying and unmanageable.  I couldn’t breathe.

Many years ago, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen came to my home in Connecticut to give me a Body-Mind Centering session.  I don’t remember what we were intending to explore, but my time with her that day became a lesson on embryonic breathing.

Last week, Bonnie sent out an email to those of us in the Body-Mind Centering community with some links to videos that she felt might be helpful at this time.  Rather than try to describe them, I include them here, for your pleasure.

I have returned to exploring embryonic breathing as a practical, palpable way of settling body and mind.  In the first video, she speaks of this more subtle, cellular way of breathing as like ripples widening in a pond, rather than the larger waves of chest or belly breathing.  I find this subtle practice deeply nourishing albeit challenging and elusive.

In a recent webinar, dance therapist Amber Gray referenced a quote she had found about the relationship between chaos and creativity.   I found the reference, by Dr. Betty Luceigh:  ” Perhaps what we call chaos is actually creativity in the process of birthing new ordered forms.”

That is my experience in the pandemonium of this pandemic.  I feel myself pushed and pulled into new creative expression and experience.  I am fascinated by the differences in how this shows up – sometimes as wild movement, other times as deeper stillness and reflection.  A study in contrasts. It feels a bit like riding an intemperate and unpredictable horse – be calm, be ready, and most of all stay in the saddle.

Enough for now.  Enjoy these videos, and the exquisite presence and generosity of Bonnie.

Sending love and prayers for all.

 

finding movement in the freeze

170908_DanceNow_Paula_Josa-Jones_003Photos from FLUID by Paula Josa-Jones at the DANCENOW Joe’s Pub Festival

What happens in the face of terror is that we narrow our vision, close down our bodies, shuttering them like stores and restaurants in the face of the fear of contagion.  Maybe it will pass me by.  Maybe it will not find me.  The impulse is to close in, close off, retreat, hide. To try to find protection somewhere, somehow.

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But what if instead, we find ways to expand, even in the face of the contraction that we collectively feel.

Start small.  Begin with letting the eyes to widen to include the periphery, rather than narrowing your vision in a focal tunnel.  Look up from the computer and notice what you see with your peripheral vision.  Steve Paxton, the dancer and choreographer, says that when we engage the peripheral vision, we can feel our bodies more clearly, almost as if we had closed our eyes.

Then let your eyes meander, letting them go wherever they want.  As you do that, notice how the movement of the eyes cascades through the head and neck and the whole body, even if the movement is very small.

Allow the body to move, even if you are sitting, Let small, exploratory movements bubble up from the body, perhaps beginning with awareness of the spine (that three-dimensional column connecting head and tail), and then letting those movements percolate through the rest of the body.  Little movements, almost as if the cells themselves were initiating the movement, or as if your effortless breath is sliding through the spaces between the cells.

The term ‘kinesphere‘ was coined by choreographer Rudolf Laban and is defined as the sphere around the body whose periphery can be reached by easily extended limbs.  With trauma or fear, we tend to shrink our kinesphere in an effort to protect our boundaries, or in an attempt to limit or suppress bodily or emotional feeling. 

Wherever you are right now, notice if the body feels contracted or expansive. Now gently widen your elbows a little away from your sides, and then let them settle back.  Do that a few times and notice any shift in how you feel in body and mind, as you invite a bit of expansion in your body.

Next, let the elbows float out to the sides, and then let that movement flow through the arms until they are softly extended out to your sides.  Stay there for a moment, seeing your hands with your peripheral vision, and then let the arms come back to your sides.

Then slowly float one arm upward toward the ceiling, and then the other. Feel that lengthening though the whole torso and at the same time notice the support from your feet if you are standing, or your hips if you are sitting.  Slowly let the arms come down.

Take a little time each day to play with your kinesphere – gently letting the body explore your near, mid and far reach space.  This can help to restore or encourage a greater sense of spaciousness and ease in body and mind.

I am working with students and clients virtually at this time.  If you would like to arrange a Somatic Experiencing or Somatic Movement Therapy Zoom session, you can contact me at pjj@paulajosajones.org.