The Body as a Vehicle for Healing
Part of the work I do involves holding space and doing energy work in sacred psychedelic ceremonies in New York City. Helping people in this way and bearing witness to the unfolding of one’s healing through deep emotional, physical and energetic processing is, for me, beautiful and important work.
As diverse as these experiences are—the psychedelic experience is different for everyone—there are common threads that weave themselves through each ceremony. For one, the space we create engages heavily with sound: we use a range of vibrational instruments that either feel discordant or agreeable to the ear and body. Not only are these meant to guide one’s journey, but because we are vibrational beings, they can catalyze the movement of stored energy through the etheric—and physical—body.
In addition to the medicine and the sounds moving energy, I'm also moving energy in the individual's field. As energy moves, I've noticed how difficult it is for some to sit and simply be in their bodies. Of all the themes and patterns that arise in this particular healing space, this is perhaps the most common that I’ve witnessed. Over and over again, the psychedelic experience and the moving of stagnant energy can reveal strong resistance to simply inhabiting one’s body.
It’s no surprise. We live in an age that values intellect and cerebral knowing over emotional and physical knowing. It’s how we’ve all been trained and conditioned. Books that emphasize the ways in which the body stores physical, psychic, and emotional trauma (like Bessell Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score) are finally making their way into the collective consciousness of the west, but they are still books (thought forms on paper). Generally, getting in touch with the body’s knowing is something we have few templates for in the west. Movement and exercise practices help us to get out of our heads, but if these practices are too forced (i.e. overexertion of the physical body towards a specific physical goal) even these practices can create emotional and physical resistance. Women, with their bodily intuition, are perhaps more attuned to their inner, physical, and emotional knowing, but even so—over-reliance on intellect in conjunction with a history of traumatic physical experiences make inhabiting the body, for many people, a deeply uncomfortable experience at best.
I’ve witnessed people have extreme physical reactions to healing when they have emotional and physical resistance. It's not extremely common, but I have seen seizures, tremors, possession, unusual and unnatural breathing patterns, physical contortions, purging, and all kinds of forced physical freak-outs that all point towards the same thing: resistance to feeling. We think of the emotional body as separate from the physical body, but as an energy worker, I see them as practically the same thing. The type of energy work I do sees the body as one co-working unit: the body is physical, emotional and energetic. The physical patterns and reactions that occur in these healing spaces are often the natural result of suppression and resistance to emotion, or to simply being in the body. If we’ve neglected our physical and emotional needs for a long time, it’s natural that—like a slingshot being let go—we’d experience almost violent physical reactions (seizures, etc) to the psychedelic experience, which naturally moves stagnant energy through our emotional and physical bodies.
It’s worth mentioning that crying, in my opinion, is one of the most efficient forms of physical/emotional/energetic release. Crying is one way to fully inhabit one’s body, by allowing it necessary cathartic release. While anything can become imbalanced—crying too much is not healthy either—it’s sometimes necessary to cry. However, because of societal and/or cultural conditioning, it’s sometimes impossible for clients to be this vulnerable. In response, their bodies will do anything and everything not to cry, which can have very strange physical effects. For example, I once worked on someone who came in for a deep psychedelic session on the one year anniversary of his father’s death. He also had lost his two older brothers to suicide. He could not—would not—allow himself to cry, and therefore being in the body was extremely difficult for him. For hours, his face grimaced in pain, his body contorted, and his breathing was intensely labored and unnatural sounding: he was in a physical loop of resistance. All of this, though while it was what he was meant to experience in that session, were signs of emotional repression, and resistance to feeling intense emotional pain within the body. Sometimes, feeling that pain is simply too much to bear. However, long-held resistance like this only compounds on itself, and can begin to have detrimental effects on overall health - and especially physical health.
Traditional Tantra—which, of all religious philosophies and practices, I’m most aligned with—is about inward knowing that is arrived at through the body. The body is seen as a vehicle for the unfolding of the entire universe. The Sri Yantra (or Sri Chakra), a primary symbol of Tantra, is both a map of the body and the universe. The map reveals a path to Enlightenment, which is arrived at through the body (by working with the energetic architecture of the subtle body—chakras, meridians) and through the harmony and ultimate union between masculine and feminine in oneself. Tantra, in this sense, pushes against much of western thought—religious and secular—because the body is the vehicle for transformation and enlightenment, not the intellect. And the body is not sinful: when used properly, it’s the key to our deepest wisdom.
It’s just something to consider as we work our way through the 3D world, which is after all the physical and emotional world. It’s part of why we are here on earth. The emotional and physical experience is what makes us human. Though the reasons for refusing to get in touch with our bodies often are justified—especially when we’ve faced very real trauma—it’s important to embrace our physical and emotional knowledge, which is just as wise as the knowledge we store as thought.