How The Body Keeps Score

In Self Care by Richard Klein

March 29, 2018

I woke up Monday morning, unable to hold a cup of coffee in my left hand or pull a zipper. My wrist was swollen and immobilized and I had no idea what had happened.

My mind thought, “Perhaps at 58 you just wake up in the morning not knowing what part or appendage is  going to be falling apart?”

I was back in Montreal attending the funeral of a close family friend, someone who had touched the life of my parents, my kids and myself. In a way I could not fully understand I knew it was important for me to be there to honour the difficult endings and not turn away.

It was not until I got home two days later, wrist still sore, that my wife Yogita’s searching questions helped me piece together what had transpired.

At the cemetery I had grabbed a spare shovel to help shovel dirt into the grave site. The dirt was a mixture of wet clay and small stones and the two men hired for the job were struggling. In five minutes of rigorous shovelling we had buried the casket, which meant in the Jewish tradition of the funeral, that the mourners could return back to the warmth of their cars and get out of the falling snow.

There was no moment when I felt any twinge of pain in my wrist that grey and somber afternoon and yet what I had come to see is that I had unknowingly hurt myself nonetheless by being out of touch with my own body. I realized talking to Yogita how easy it was to treat my body, especially as a man, in a machine-like way. As a vehicle for getting things done. Putting dirt into a hole. Getting it done.

I realized how far back this way of being traveled into my past. How many thousands of times that wrist had pushed forcefully on a shovel in my years of tree planting, grabbed tools and lifted timbers on construction projects, always focused upon speed and efficiency, the very things we expect from our machines. 

But not learning to listen to the more subtle signals coming from my body about “how” to best “do” all this with more care for myself. That involves slowing down and paying more attention to the feeling sense within the body, noticing the signs of fatigue, the feedback loops of sensation that call us to adjust and notice what is happening inside ourselves.

It has been four days now since the funeral, and while still sore, my wrist is slowly getting better.  

Our bodies are like the winter snow pack with all of its many layers, a snowfall, a suncrust, a long cold snap, a blizzard, each event etched into the hidden layers affecting the strength of the whole and carrying the history of what has been experienced.

We too carry the history of all we have experienced. My left wrist, given all that I have asked it to do, in often robot-like ways, is now like a fragile layer in the snow pack. A place in my body that asks me to pay a different kind of attention. 


Searching for the Insta Fix

In Mindful Living by Richard Klein

September 7, 2017

Creating change on the inside is a lot like walking into the wilderness.

If we’re honest, there is a part of each one of us that just wants things to be easy. For our problems to be taken care of, for our investments to grow, for life to show up on our doorstep just as we ordered it.

(If you want to jump ahead to the bottom you’ll find a 10-minute meditation for awareness and being in your body)

Self-help books and internet ads promise quick results to many of our problems and feed the belief that the change we want can be had with very little effort. When illness strikes, we go to the doctor in much the same way we take our car to the mechanic and say – “Fix it”.

As a culture, we are so “busy”, and have developed such short attention spans, that any solution not corresponding to the time we have available right now, quickly falls off our radar.

Changing the self-limiting habits that we have practiced and ingrained over our lifespan is not something that happens in an instant.

Even the “aha’ moment, those brilliant flashes of insight, occur through the wiring up of a whole new neural network to support a new habit and realization. This rewiring happens over time and gets stronger with repeated use. There is a word for that: integration.

I have someone who helps me with my marketing. We were discussing what to offer you this month and she suggested I write one of those lists you see on many internet sites of this kind… 7 things you can do today to de-stress your life, or some such thing, but my reaction was to push back and say No.

You see, I believe change on the inside is a lot like walking into the wilderness. It takes a few days for our domestication to fall away and to feel more comfortable in unfamiliar terrain. After a couple of days, you find your legs, your balance, and new resources come to the fore.

That’s why the work, and the change opportunities that are offered here at Mountain Waters mostly happen within “retreats”.

Retreats happen over a number of days. Only with sufficient time and intentional practice can we drop beneath the conditioning we carry and explore how change unfolds from the inside out.

A retreat becomes an act of self-care and deep noticing, where the ground is prepared for something new. The Sufi’s call this work “tending the inner garden”. Weeds are pulled and new seeds planted that, given the right conditions, grow into the bounty and nourishment we wish to harvest in our lives. This process is the very opposite of what gets normalized in our fast food culture of the instant fix. For real and lasting change to occur it requires time, commitment, patience, and practice – the very things required for any new learning.

If you have been struggling or searching for a deeper connection to life, you may want to consider joining me and a group of like minded individuals looking to create lasting change in their lives with The Hero’s Journey retreat starting Sept 24th.

And as a gift to start you on your path or to continue to support your efforts, I’ve prepared a 10-minute meditation to share with you. Listen to Meditation on the Body here.