It is officially January in New York, which begins the season of hopelessly longing to one day expose my bare skin directly to the sunlight yet again. The other day, my friend told me he had made a poster that he hangs up on his wall every winter that simply says, “It’s not you, It’s February.”
It’s funny, because it’s true. You Northerners totally know what I’m talking about. You kind of lose a bit of yourself during the winter months, like your body goes on energy saver mode, balking at the copious layers you impose on it.
Coming from Austin, I’ve often wondered why people deliberately choose to live here. The cold is cruel and unrelenting and there is a noted sense of depressed emotion, ennui and general tendencies toward hibernation. I myself have clocked four 11-hour-sleep nights in the past week. And yes it’s delicious and yes I celebrate it and honor the cycles and all that, but this year, something brilliant happened.
I went on a women’s dance retreat in San Diego in the middle of January. Hells yeah!! That decision was freakin' phenomenal. Who knew it’s a steady 70 degree paradise in Southern California? Okay, maybe everyone, but, somehow it had slipped my mind.
By the second day my dormant body had reawakened and the energy was ecstatic. No doubt the dancing had something to do with it… the stunning beauty of the beach, the moon, the gorgeous women, the campfire drumming, the gigantic candlelit bathtub in my room… and (this is important) nary a ping, email, text, or TV screen in existence.
I had forgotten how good it felt. And how scary and difficult it is to be severed from the comfortably numb bubble of technology that I fall back on when I don’t want to deal with my realness. Realness meaning: fear, vulnerability, life calling, deep emotion, self mastery, life issues, money issues, doubt, stepping up to being the kickass person I know I could be if I just did the work already, etc.
Remove those digital tethers and Whoosh! The realness rushes in. Colors are richer, smells are more potent, everything tastes either a lot better or a lot worse, and basically I start crying tears of joy and/or sadness at everything that passes by. Senses on crack. (Not real crack. That’s just dumb. I’m talkin’ high on life baby.)
And that gets me thinking… Our culture is at an interesting crux right now. We are simultaneously blessed with the most incredible technological tools, and yet we have chosen to use those tools to repeatedly and ritualistically disconnect from our bodies. It is true we are “more connected than ever” and yet, we have never felt so alone.
What is that about? Actually, there are loads of other people writing and theorizing about this very subject, but the insight I’d like to offer deals specifically with our systematic dissociation from the physical body.
My own personal story as an offering: I worked as a graphic designer for years and loved loved loved the work and how it challenged my brain and engaged my problem-solving faculties. Then, after 7 years of sitting on my ass all day, I woke up to the realization that my body was literally dying. If movement is life, then I was flatlining.
And really, when are we ever truly in our bodies anymore? In sleep? In play, in sports and exercise, but even then— I was next to a girl at the gym the other day plugged into her laptop, iPhone, and the treadmill’s TV. No joke. As my 92 year old PaPa says, “We used to work. Now we workout.” But we’re not even working out consciously anymore. Which is weird.
So many of us are glued to a screen for most of our lives now. The technology has moved so fast that no one is able to catch up with the implications of how this media might affect our lives, our bodies and our world.
What’s interesting to me is that our bodies are where we store our emotions. If we work it through our bodies, say with a good wailing sob, then we allow it to release. But if we neglect the pain and decide we’ll get to it later, then we lock that emotion away– rage in the stomach, sadness in the chest and hips, shame in the pelvic floor… or wherever you prefer, so that we don’t have to experience the pain or shame of expressing it. So ultimately, whereas maybe before Instagram and Pinterest and Twitter et al, we may have been more apt to connect to our bodies in order to process this emotion– now we are so distracted by this boon of technology, that we choose to stuff away our emotions to be processed at a later date. The problem is, we hardly ever get around to it.
Which is why I believe that taking the time to get to know your body is important. Facebook is awesome. Google is amazing. But if they stop us from paying attention to our bodies, then we rob ourselves of one of the most exhilarating, heroic, and vital connections we have as human beings.
It’s heavy. I get it. But we aren’t doomed. Not even close. We just have to develop a practice of reconnection. So how do we begin to build the bridge back to our bodies? The simplest way is an ancient technique that many of us forget from time to time called breathing. Breath is a direct connection to your insides. This is why meditation centers around breath, as does yoga. Those old timers were super smart. They knew what we’re finally coming around to knowing– the mind without the body is hell and the body without the mind, a disaster.
Yoga, meditation, mindful exercise, all good. But the bridge to the body for me has never been so pronounced as it has been when I dance. I do a form of improvisational dance called S Factor that allows me to move directly from the body, virtually bypassing the brain. Thank God for this. It has honestly saved my life. Dance is my joy and my salvation, it is the song of my soul and it is my truth. It is my way to heal, to transcend, and reconnect.
My Facebook friends are darling and lovely, but my S Factor sisters are my f-ing lifeline. They see me in the Realness and they shepherd me through expansive growth without judgment or criticism. And they doubly strengthen my vitality as I witness their aching beauty, stumbling vulnerability, and courageous surrender. ‘Liking’ someone on Facebook cannot even compare to the deep connection made by seeing an emotion expressed truthfully through subtle movement.
So here’s the thing, Big Tech is not going away anytime soon, but neither is your sweet delicious kickass bod. So whatever it is that feeds your body, whatever reconnects you to your conscious Being, start labeling it a priority. FOMO be damned! You make the rules here. Seek out the connections and tools that serve you, that make you whole. Build your own bridge that will sustain your body and foster your authentic expression.
I promise you that your body cannot wait to dance with you again. And she doesn’t care if your moves are wack. She freakin’ loves you to death and she’s been missing your touch. So put down the phone for 2 minutes and get your groove on. Or sit and breathe. Whichever bridge you feel like crossing today.