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The Body as Teacher

samuel-austin-omeaSFHIxYk-unsplashphoto by samuel austin

In Leaving it All Behind by Ayya Anandabodhi and Ayya Santacitta, Ayya Anandabodhi writes:

THE BUDDHA SAID that everything we need to awaken is right here in this fathom-long body, but most people I know have a lot of difficulty being in their body. That presents a bit of a problem. If the main teaching is here in the body, and we can’t be with our body, how do we access that teaching? How can we start developing a relationship with our body that is kind, friendly, and curious, so that we can learn from it? — Ayya Anandabodhi

How is your relationship with your body? Is it one that is kind, friendly, and curious? Do you consider your body to be a teacher?

Is it one with much discomfort and challenge? Please know that that’s okay. Our bodies hold so much history. They remember what our minds cannot. They hold the vibration and experiences of our ancestors, our traumas, our wounds, our lived histories. They are a perpetual beacon and anchor for the present moment.

I can really resonate with a relationship with the body that is kind, loving, and curious. I have that relationship now but I didn’t always. Growing up, it felt like something was always going wrong with the body whether it was chronic pain which I experienced in my adolescence or feelings and emotions that showed up so vividly in the body that I wanted nothing to do with, and not to mention the physical appearance of my body and how that landed for me.

It was the chronic pain which led me to say, “There must be another way.” That pain led me to a doorway of mindfulness consisting of an ability to be aware of and to be with what is present with a sense of acceptance, allowing, and friendliness. Mindfulness practice allowed me to soften and expand where I would reject, relentlessly judge, and try to control. I made space and welcomed whatever showed up in the body and it changed my life.

If chronic pain led me to the doorway of practice, finding movement teachers who could not support me without needing to fix and change me developed the embodied practices that are the guiding light of many of my offerings. I went to teacher after teacher and class after class only to find there was something wrong with me and that the teacher could not help me as I was. They didn’t know how to work with someone with a body like mine and instead taught me how to be with and work with a body like theirs. I experienced a violence in the perpetual rejection and shame this dynamic caused which resulted in continual injuries and a heavy ache that persisted for some time.

It persisted until I was able to listen, allow, and nourish rather than to push away; I was able to do this by trusting the mindfulness practice that I cultivated in sitting practice to also be a practice that could support and guide me in moving meditation. I slowly began listening more until over time a deep listening began to be present for the body. I began to trust the wisdom of my own body to guide me. I began to see the futility in elevating the guidance of external authorities who did not love or listen to their bodies. I began honoring the way my body wanted to move and the way my body wanted to rest. In turn, I then began offering those practices to those who came to my movement classes.

In the end, I really want to help everyone I work with create this space to be able to listen to and trust their own bodies to be their true guides because everything we need to awaken is right here in this body.