This week is more of a reflection through a particular angle of an experience.
The Gent and I experienced a second miscarriage, and below I am focusing
on my somatic experience of healing (with a note of the first), my Christian spirituality, and throwing
in a bit of academic stuff at the end (with a summary of the quote if it is a bit too academic,
which it might be). It all is tied together with the idea of caring for myself,
and understanding 'what that is' while exploring notions of deeper integration,
lived experience, and living into the pathway God illuminates for me.
By focusing through this lens, it does not diminish our own grief
or process that has taken place (or continues) in our own respective journeys
or the one we are forging, sharing, and building together
with Embodied Grace, the God of Love, his Divine Spirit.
I recently went through my second miscarriage and was fortunate to go back to my alternative doctor, much like the one I grew up with, and have my mind-body pathways reconnected and reset. As strange as that may sound to some, the body is its own universe with wormholes and dimensions that aid in clear thought, harmony, and muscles (and mind, and other things) so that everything truly works together.
I had held off making an appointment for a while this second time because I wanted to see if my body-mind connection would re-establish itself. (Plus, I was just trying to withstand the storm and what it brought up for me.) What I found was that my body tried: I strangely was craving cross-actions, like walking or an old exercise/drill I used to do in karate. While I gained my physical strength back, I found I was exhausted and sore all the time immediately following a workout (abnormal for my normal), not to mention feeling a very deep sense of disconnection during the movements, whether it was dance or Pilates. This may seem like it was due to grief, since grief resides in the body and can manifest itself in a variety of forms (and I was processing so much grief and sadness), but what I felt and seemingly knew was that this was related to the trauma, not the grief. In other words, the pre-grief. I felt as though I didn't even have the body connection to go through the grief. Because there was a disconnection, the grief felt stagnant. It just stayed, was stuck, and wouldn't, couldn't, move. Literally, I didn't have balance, I was spent before I could expend myself and more so after I did, I was exhausted and any movement that had to pass through the area lower than my ribs and above my hip bones didn't make it through to the other sides of me. Put differently, there was a hole in the middle of me with islands on either sides but no bridge to connect them to each other. Physically or mentally, there was no will that could will the balance and no strength to put things forcibly in place. It was the strangest sensation of all, I think. And new to me. After the first miscarriage, I had seen this doctor relatively soon after, but this time, I wanted to see if my body and mind could reconnect on their own, either through time and processing or via certain movements and breath that came to me. And maybe had I held off long enough, over a period of months, this connection would have gradually taken place. For some reason, though, I viewed it as a real act of love to make an appointment and take care of myself after five weeks of mayhem.
Last time I went, I felt a reconnection not just with my mind-body but with the mind-body-womb. That may sound really strange, but it was true. And after the appointment, when I walked around outside to the car, holding my husband's hand, I couldn't help but retort, "Oh my gosh, I can feel my third eye and everything is so clear. I feel like my old self." I never quite thought I would be the kind of person who would use those kinds of phrases like 'third eye', but after all of my dance classes and wonderful instruction, reminding me of the validity of the chakras (and having known about the third eye for a while through my childhood doctor and my father), and perhaps through becoming more acutely aware through emotional health and recovery, I could feel things more. Subtle things just like most people can feel the subtle change in the wind. That day, walking out of the office, I felt my third eye like I hadn't felt it before. I could go through things now, like grief, pain, or life in a way that felt healthy. Whatever it was I needed to go through and then take with me, I could because I literally was back to myself to go through it rather than be dispersed into a million pieces floating nebulously in zero-gravity.
This time, my grief experience was different (and still is). It seemed I was able to be present, lament, feel peace, mystery, openness, other things it brought up for me that had nothing to do with the miscarriage, but then I became stuck. I was in a cast, a mold, stagnant waters. After weeks of my own little experiment playing out, I felt the best way to love myself was to call it quits and call the doctor. Pick up the phone and call for an appointment. One may think taking care of oneself is an easy task, especially when the task seems so simple. (Even without feeling stuck and without feeling grief, sometimes, especially if I am out of the posture of living this way, I can find it incredibly hard to value and make choices that reflect a love and care, a nurturing posture of compassion for myself.) So, I surmounted the mountain in front of me--finding his number again and trying to remember his name and picking up the phone to make an appointment--secretly hoping that what I experienced the first time wasn't some kind of fluke.
But before I share about the appointment, there are certain things worth sharing about which I felt my body crave. I am using the word "crave" here quite intentionally. I noticed these cravings after having built up my strength with walking, first a block one day (which literally, that was all I could manage), then a couple of blocks after that, a few more blocks days later, and slowly but surely a walk I am used to that is quite a few city blocks over a duration of an hr or so. Somehow the cross-action felt good and I noticeably experienced my physical strength nursing back to life even though somehow I still felt off (apart from the grief). It was around this time or so that specific motions came to me to do.
One thing I just felt I needed was a head-to-toe twisting cross-action, like the kind you do in kindergarten gym class when you're five and the teacher says we're going to be starfish for the moment and touch our left hand to our right foot, then come up and touch our right hand to our left foot. On my walk along a riverbank, I would stand in a quiet spot on the water's edge and do that for a while. (I also craved being near as much nature as I could be, jogging this memory: when I was really sick on an international karate trip, the U.S. team doctor, who was my childhood alternative doctor, had me do chi movements with the plants nearby, bringing the energy from the leaves back into and around my body. It really helped re-stabilize me.)
Another exercise that came to mind was a drill I hadn't done in probably twenty years, and probably hadn't thought about actually ever doing because I just listened to the sensei giving the instructions, not thinking and initiating the drills on my own or thinking I was remembering them. This drill that I craved went like this: lift the hands and arms straight above the head, hit your lower abdomen and exhale forcefully before finishing the first half by bending all the way over to the toes where you exhale again only to inhale, then hit the lower abdomen with both hands, exhaling forcefully, before finishing the second-half of the drill exhaling with the hands and arms outstretched above the head, only to inhale and start the sequence again. Perhaps my body just wanted to move and it remembered this particular exercise from twenty years ago. But why this one? And why was a craving it?
I also began to crave other drills I used to do but these two were the main ones. However, I must have been really needing something. I even stopped an old Chinese lady doing tai chi and through our language barrier, we managed to do some together. I felt the energy in my hands it felt good, especially because the other strange thing about all of this 'stuckness' was the energetic severing between my hands and heart. Energetically, I felt my limbs were limp and numb; there was just no connection flowing. This caused grief and was caused by grief.
When I went for my visit, one of the things the doctor noticed, was that the walking pattern was off: the muscles that turned on in the cross-actions were off and so the juices in the brain, more of less, were not able to function properly (the cerebral cortex loves the cross-action stuff). I found it interesting that I had been craving cross-actions. In the midst of his working, and as strangely as this sounds, I was feeling a clearing happening, as if I was actually being reconnected with myself or myself reconnected with me one layer at a time and with each system re-established and re-integrated. This is not weird voodoo stuff simply because it falls outside the normal scope of scientific understanding and involves the body.
There was a point at which I noticed a connection from my mind-heart to my womb as if a chalk line had just been flung against the sidewalk, an all-of-a-sudden known, tangible connection on a rather illegible, un-alive surface. During this noticing, I couldn't help but hear myself say, "And that is why I came."
Something interesting I noted: he also told me that because what I was going through was really a heart matter, I may not have been able to feel my arms and that I may have actually encountered tingly-ness. To be honest, I had. It was energetic but also there was a tingling sensation. I chalked this latter point up to not stretching the past few days, but if I'm honest, I have never felt that before.
When I walked out of there, I definitely felt the presence of my third eye restored. But it wasn't just in that location, the restoration was everywhere and all throughout, and the third eye seemed to be oddly the pinnacle of it. I haven't done much research about the chakras, and I don't want to. I just know it through my experience and exploration of them. As my ballet teacher often comments, "Sometimes, knowledge gets in the way." And then she clarifies what kind of knowledge she means. The kind from books and studies. I get the oddness. I also can't deny the existence or my experience of it.
There were other things I noticed from my appointment that rang true for me and perhaps at a later time I'll share, things about neurological connections, eye patterns and sheer emotional exhaustion being released. For now, I think it's enough to be said that he helped turn my muscles back on and his observations and findings matched what I had come to the conclusion of based on what I sensed and experienced, craved and did. Oh, and all the muscle soreness and exhaustion? None of my muscles were firing properly because of the trauma. To me, this makes sense that I would be sore right away than the following day.
It has now been a couple of days, and I just feel great given the circumstances, the processing and healing I have already gone through, and the grief that is there. I enjoyed a Pilates class this morning and felt wonderful afterward. No soreness anywhere. In fact, I felt ready to begin welcome and experience the grief I knew was now dislodged. I saw a friend later today and she remarked to me how my hands seemed connected to my heart. Though she knew of the energetic limp feelings and the severing I felt, I hadn't told her about my doctor's appointment a couple of days prior. I believe this act of love towards myself, as hard as it was, was an affirmation of walking with God into the Light of life, like the psalmist David wrote about, delivering him from death, keeping his feet from stumbling so that he could walk with his God into the Light of Life.
. . . . . . .
One more word about this, and it abstracts this more qualitative-like editorial out to a theological/philosophical/scientific sphere for a moment, so stay with me. What I am essentially writing about is a different way of coming to knowledge than our modern scientific understanding allows for or rather supports, whether one is in an actual science lab or university setting studying a different subject matter altogether, or at least most subject matter. (Thankfully, I have found that the realm of theology still allows for this kind of "out of the box" thinking, reflecting, hypothesizing, and researching.)
This different way of coming to knowledge is essentially what I am highlighting and advocating for here--as well as in my PhD studies at the University of St. Andrews Faculty of Divinity, slated to start this fall--and is one of primarily somatic means, bodily means, that is, different than sheer mind, and is, I would argue, fundamentally bound up with a theological understanding of, orientation to, and doctrine of creation. This is not new (after all, this actually gave rise to modern science; see below) but what is relatively new is that it is absent in our modern frameworks for understanding ourselves--and the relationship between ourselves and knowledge, what knowledge is, the meaning in knowledge, and the orientation found in the relationship between knowledge, self and environment. This matters because our institutions are shaped by these social and societal contours or in other words, this is part of the air that we breathe. Anyone who has dared to breathe differently will understand the marginalization that has taken place around this and in the context of the contemporary world's priorities and values around knowledge and our fundamental relationship to it.
All this to say, there is something to coming to knowledge through our sensual bodies, that is our senses--which here I also include our spiritual senses--and it is simply a matter of listening to them, caring for ourselves in an integrated way (which for me, the full manifestation is in Christ), and finding circles that foster and encourage varying degrees of this in a world that marginalizes either the somatic or theological aspects, or both.
I'll wrap up for now with a quote from an article that really helped me see the connection between theology, Greek thought, and their relationship with modern science written by Michael Foster called "The Christian Doctrine of Creation and the Rise of Modern Science" published in 1934! (Disclaimer: it is a bit high academic even though a wonderful read, so try to stick with me here and as you read the words, let them simply wash over you).
"Now if natural objects either are artefacts (according to the theory of the divine Demiurge) or are (according to the Aristotelian theory) in this respect analogous to artefacts that they are nothing but an embodiment of form, then the unavoidable element of contingency which they derive from their matter is nothing but a defect of their being. It does not make them something more than an embodiment of form, but makes them only a bad embodiment of form; just as two inches more on one leg of a table does not make it more than an artefact, but only a bad artefact...
...That in them which constitutes them objects of sensation is no increment, but only a defect of their intelligible nature; and therefore sensation can contribute no evidence concerning the nature of the thing which should be additional to what is perceived by reason. As the being material is a defect and not an increment of being, sensation is an imperfection of knowledge, not a way of knowing. The absence of an empirical element in Greek natural science follows from this. But the will of the maker can be subordinated to his reason, as the will of the Demiurge is, only so long as "making" is identified with formation, because form alone can be the object of reason. In the creative act the will must exceed any regulations which reason can prescribe. That is to say, the 'insubordination' of will to reason, which could be only a defect in God so long as God is conceived as Demiurge, becomes essential to his activity so soon as he is thought of as Creator. It is what constitutes him, not a bad Demiurge, but something altogether more than a Demiurge. The voluntary activity of the Creator (i.e., that in his activity which exceeds determination by reason) terminates on the contingent being of the creature (i.e. on that element of its being which eludes determination by form, namely its matter and the characteristics which it possesses qua material). If such voluntary activity is essential to God, it follows that the element of contingency is essential to what he creates. So soon as nature is conceived to be created by God, the contingent becomes more than an imperfection in the embodiment of form; it is precisely what constitutes a natural object more than an embodiment, namely a creature.
But the contingent is knowable only by sensuous experience. If, therefore, the contingent is essential to nature, experience must be indispensable to the science of nature; and not indispensable merely as a stage through which the human scientist must pass on his way to attaining adequate knowledge by reason, but indispensable because knowledge by reason cannot be adequate to a nature which is essentially something more than an embodiment of form. This 'something more', the element in nature which depends upon the voluntary activity of God, is incapable of becoming an object of reason, and science therefore must depend, in regard to this element, upon the evidence of sensation. The reliance upon the senses for evidence, not merely for illustration, is what constitutes the empirical character peculiar to modern natural science; and the conclusion follows that only a created nature is proper object of an empirical science."
In other words, it was awe and mystery found in Christian theology and a way of life that gave rise to modern scientific understanding and empiricism because it allowed for the sensuous, which didn't fit into the Greek mold of thought and what constituted true being.
As time has continued on, my view is that this modern framework has edged out any true concept of awe in which it was founded and inspired by. For my purposes, I see this awe residing in aspects first and foremost in the Creator, out of which then is manifested in ourselves and in our bodies. There are a variety of ways coming to knowledge that are rich, informative, healing, and deeply helpful. My hope is that more people can move through their own life in a more integrated fashion, whether that is valuing sensual knowledge or incorporating a theological understanding back into everyday life and existence for, what I perceive to be, greater wholeness and an integrated way of being. xo Jessica