I am writing a book and I suppose this is the closest thing I have made to a formal announcement that I am writing a book. So let me try that again:
I am excited to announce that I am writing a book!
My book is a personal narrative and guide to using the gym as a place to create the conditions for healing trauma. As I write, I revisit different periods in my life, some of which are quite painful to return to. But, in order to write my own story, I need to go back, and not just in my mind. I have to go back in my body to remember what each moment truly felt like. My work in therapy and in the gym have made it so I can go back and I can sit in those feelings and study them, even when it is unpleasant. I can stay as long as I need to put words to the sensations and images that come. I am ready for this process, but just because I am ready does not mean it is always fun.
When we remember our most profound experiences we often don’t remember them just in our thoughts - we remember them in our body. We know how we felt then because we feel it now. And we feel it in our bodies. We feel the old butterflies in our stomach, tears welling, hearts beating, cheeks hurting from a huge smile or hot with embarrassment, as if those feelings were linked to the present. The old feelings can become hard to shake even though they are not relevant to the present moment.
I have seldom been as grateful to have a regular strength training practice as I am now, because I have been spending a lot of time remembering and writing about when I felt powerless and vulnerable. I sit in that sense of powerlessness and I feel it so I can write it. After I write and process some of those unpleasant moments, I go to the gym and I lift weights. In doing so I shake off the last of the cobwebs from those memories. I lift mindfully, feeling each muscle do its job. I feel powerful and resilient. I am powerful and resilient.
When you are transported to past moments that did not feel good, do you get stuck there - in the unpleasant feelings? Or can you shake them off with ease? How do you come back to the present? It is not always easy and if you get stuck in old feelings a lot, it is good to have a strategy in place to bring you into the present. I mindfully engage in an activity I enjoy. Since I cannot always train, I also come back by cooking mindfully, stretching mindfully, tending to my home mindfully, or walking mindfully. The mindful part is important because that is what brings us into the here and now.
I invite you to come up with a list of things you can do that you can do mindfully and with ease. This can be painting, gardening, puzzle-solving, walking, running, lifting, swimming, singing, dancing, cleaning - really anything enjoyable that you can focus on. Use this list as a resource when you are feeling stuck in an old feeling. Pick something off the list and engage in it in a way that really lets you feel what it is like to do it. Use your senses of touch, sight, sounds, smell - and taste (only if it is appropriate to eat) to bring you back to the present.
Originally published February 1, 2019