Thursday, April 14, 2011

Orissi, Polka, Hora, Tango- whatever...

"Hard times require furious dancing."

There are billions of cells in the human body, constantly adapting to the temperature changes, the changes in acidity, the pains that come and go, the memories that flood the body, the sensory stimuli, and all manner of things going on throughout the body, mind, spirit, and external environment. We are constantly engaging with new experiences, be it internally or externally. We experience our environment through our bodies; sounds through the ears, visual stimuli through the eyes, taste through the tongue, etc. All these
stimuli are perceived by chemical and electrical signals in the body from one cell to the next- from sense organ to brain. Now, let's make a distinction here between mind and brain (and you know how much I hate distinctions). The brain refers to the anatomical, physiological gobbley-gook of neurons that looks like gray spaghetti. There is a general consensus in the scientific community that the brain is one of the most complex areas of study in the human body. The mind, however, is not as simple. There is an old story in Zen tradition where a student tells his master that he has no peace of mind. His master responds by saying, "Point and show me your mind and I will pacify it for you." Confused, with one finger extended, his student, doesn't know where to point, and says, "I can't find it!" He realizes that the mind is intangible, the master responds, "Then it is already pacified."

The mind is not a physical entity, it is without boundaries, and it is outside of the realm of space. The mind is the capacity for connection, it is the act of connecting image-to-image, image to feeling, person to person, and it is the network of those connections. The mind is the composite of maps made by the brain of images from our environments, signals and messages sent and received in the body and between body and environment. These maps incorporate the information of the raw stimulus, the way in which that stimulus was received, and the other maps with which this map overlaps.
The chemical and electrical signals that communicate the external world to the brain are simultaneously or sequentially being sent to the rest of the body. The body responds to these signals with alterations in cell structure, responsiveness, and release and/or absorption of certain specific chemicals. These cellular adjustments to the information of stimulus cause further adjustments in other cells, and etc, etc, until an equilibrium has been regained. The subjective experience of those cellular responses is the emotion. The emotion is drawn into the map of experience of that stimulus.

One of the things included in that map is the position of the body when stimulus struck. Now obviously
, for most experiences, that is not a static image (we move), and those movements, from the cellular level are mapped into the mind's image of our experiences. The cellular adjustments to stimuli also influence our body's physiology (tension in muscles, change in metabolic rate, temperature, etc., which are also mapped. So in the future, our mind can re-engage maps or parts of maps and does, all the time. However, in -re-engaging maps, we may also be re-engaging emotions, as well as physical tensions that become tendencies, and then become habits, and then become a part of our personalities. We develop chronic tightness in the shoulders, for instance, after a particularly traumatic experience that we keep reliving in various situations, until one day, with mindful awareness (and possibly under the guidance of a professional), we can slowly allow the tension to dissolve, as we rediscover the roots of the tension, and work towards a mental and emotional equilibrium. This is often referred to as the “memory of the body” (for more information seen The Body Remembers by Rothschild), and this kind of therapy is often engaged in somatic psychotherapy, and also in trauma therapies.

Alice Walker’s collection of poetry is titled, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing
, and in her recent work, Overcoming Speechlessness, she refers tells the story of working with CODEPINK and being in commu
nity with Palestinian women in 2006 on the Gaza Strip. She testifies to the stressful and heart-wrenching journey even to get there, and then she takes the reader through the pain, sorrow and incredible connection to women in tragedy. After sitting and listening to these women recount their suffering and supporting one another in the fact that they have survived it, all the women “went across the hall to a big common room where music was turned up full volume… Sitting didn’t last. Without preamble [Alice Walker] was pulled to [her] feet by several women at once, and the dance was on. Sorrow, loss, pain, suffering, all pounded into the floor for over an hour. Sweat flowing, wails and tears around the room. And then, the rising that always comes from such dancing; the sense of joy, unity, solidarity, and gratitude to be in the best place one could be on earth, with sisters who have experienced the full measure of disaster and have the heart to rise above it. The feeling of love was immense. The ecstasy, sublime. [Alice Walker] was conscious of exchanging and receiving Spirit in the dance… this Spirit that knows how to dance in the face of disaster, will never be crushed. It is as timeless as the wind. We think it is only inside our bodies, but we also inhabit it. Even when we are unaware of its presence internally, it wears us like a cloak.”

This is a testimony to the power of movement to awaken within us that Spirit which we inhabit, and that heals. It is the power to unlock the maps in the brain that allow for emotions of love to flow through the body, and which are a necessity in the exchange and in the receiving of Spirit.

We are constantly dancing. The cells within our bodies dancing with each other, with other substances, dancing in a balance with the maps of our minds, our minds dancing with the brain, the brain with the body, and body with environment. So really, all times require furious dancing.

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome Soph! What a wonderful philosophy (: