Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Living A Succulent Juicy Life

Now that it is June, the supermarkets are starting to offer peaches, nectarines, plums and cherries--some of the delicious fruits that come with warm weather and summer. All of those fruits can be described as juicy and succulent. When you take a bite into a fresh ripe peach, the flavor and juice cascade out of the fruit into your mouth, bringing a wonderful sensation of joy and satisfaction.

What would it mean if the way we lived our lives was as juicy and succulent as a ripe, flavor-filled peach? Might we engage our whole bodies, our whole hearts and all five of our senses? Might we move beyond the limitations of our heads and brains, letting a sense of abundant sensuality drive us?

A succulent juicy life would never be boring. It might have quiet moments. Our minds might be clear of thoughts or worries sometimes. Or even pondering thoughts and worries sometimes. But full engagement in the moment, with our breath, with whatever is authentic, real and true would be the hallmark, more than idle busyness, running on a seemingly directionless treadmill or feeling pressured to do more rather than be.

I've always loved the phrase, "I've lost my mind and come to my senses." Ordinary life is too mental, cerebral, technological, time-lined and limiting. If we swim in that mainstream, we can become dead inside--numb to our hearts and disconnected from the rich landscape of our sensual experience.

The senses we embrace most comfortably, are in the words of anthropologist Ashley Montagu, our "distance senses," sight and hearing. Our "proximity senses," the ones that allow for greater intimacy and feeling, taste, smell and touch are "largely tabooed." Montagu notes in the preface to his book Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, that two dogs may use all five senses in their communication with a fellow dog. The same can hardly be said about two people.

It follows that if human beings are going to live a succulent juicy life, engaging all of our senses, and even our intuition, is necessary to feel a sense of joie d'vivre, of being fully alive. Finding emotionally safe spaces to take down our armor, to lower our defenses, first and foremost with ourselves and then with others is a critical first step. If we do not feel emotionally safe, we tense our breathing, and distance from the vulnerability of authentic feelings.

I find it very sad to discover how many people are truly numb to their hearts, their senses and their deeper experience when they first come to see me for EKP. After starting a session with a heart meditation, when I ask what is calling their heart's attention, many people answer, "I truly don't know."

Here are some steps we can take to open to the richness and fullness of what an embodied life can be:

1. Becoming safe within our own skin: Often we are uncomfortable with the feelings and sensations that emerge in our bodies and hearts as we go through the day. These feelings and sensations are like an internal GPS: they tell us where we are and where we need to go. Creating our own internal space, safety within our own skin, body and mind, to feel, hear and follow our hearts is a key step in opening to a succulent juicy life.

2. Learning to enjoy our senses: "Intensity" is often a scary experience. Sensual experience CAN be intense. If we feel strongly, we may find ourselves defending against the intensity of the strong feeling Learning to relax, breath and allow ourselves to just be is a practice that can help us enjoy intense sensual experience. Delicate sensual experience can also be joyful.

3. Becoming more embodied: I had a colleague years ago that said, "Whenever I feel the urge to exercise, I lie down until it has gone away!" Everyone in my office laughed. But I was actually sad for my colleague. If we don't move, feel our bodies active and engaged in life, feet firmly planted on the ground or even running or dancing, we miss a wonderful part of the human experience. Becoming more aware of our bodies, how they feel, and whether we are in them or out of them is part of becoming more embodied. The body really is the temple of the soul. And a lot of joy can be experienced in the temple!

4. Learning to enjoy our sensuality and sexuality: Sexuality and sensuality both allow life's energy force to fill and move through our bodies, hearts and souls. Both can bring pleasure and connection with self, the divine and others. Sadly, both "s words," can be the source of shame in our culture. Sensuality and sexuality can be extremely earthy and spiritual experiences. If we can embrace them with love for self and others, they are a magical force of aliveness.

5. Finding means of self-expression: The spirit really does seek expression to feel alive. We are fortunate to have so many different possible means of expression: singing, dancing, painting, drawing, photography, cooking, acting, touching, gardening…..That is only the beginning. Finding modes of expression that feel true and authentic enlivens our experience and helps bring balance to our lives.

6. Becoming touchable and comfortable touching: Our skin is the largest organ in the body. It also is sensitive and sensual. We can feel and know so much through touch. Sadly, our culture teaches us to be touch-phobic rather than touch literate. We learn that if we let someone close, they can hurt us, and sadly, often this is true. We are afraid to reach out and touch another person. Touch is too often taboo. Yet the word touch has emotional as well as physical connotations. When we are connected with ourselves we are "in touch" with our hearts. If someone touches our hearts, we may want to touch them with a hug. If someone offers us a literal helping hand, they also touch our hearts. Emotions and touch go hand in hand Having comfort and fluency in this language allows us more joie d'vivre.

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