My journey back into my body started about 13 years ago.
In late 2006, I was halfway through my bachelor’s degree in Psychology and deep in my struggle with an eating disorder. I spent my days counting calories and compulsively exercising. I loved moving my body -I did contemporary dance almost every day- but was deeply disconnected from it. I had no concept of what living in-the-body meant, nor why it was important.
One day, while surfing online, I came across a conscious dance/movement practice called JourneyDance. Everything I read resonated with me on such a deep level, and, within a month, I had signed up to the upcoming teacher training, without ever having tried a single class.
It’s fall 2007 and I’m with a group of women in the Berkshire mountains, halfway through the 12-day JD teacher training. We’re dancing at least 6 hours every day, but that’s a different kind of dance. There is no technique, no steps and no doing it “right”. Here, it’s all about sensing into your own body, following its cues, moving your emotions and telling your story to the dancefloor. It takes me time to get out of my performance-oriented mindset, but, eventually, I do. I start moving more freely, my (inner) body is beginning to wake up, I feel more. The free movement is slowly but steadily making all the holding patterns that have been created in my body over the years, as a defense against feeling -my body armour- melt.
I start going deeper. I get emotional during the dance. I witness other people’s expression and process. I start re-connecting, within and without.
The idea that everything is perfectly fine in my life that I’d been holding onto so tightly is beginning to crumble, as my body is remembering…itself.
On that Friday evening, our teacher, Toni Bergins 🙏🏼 has us write down on pieces of paper all our negative thoughts and beliefs about our bodies. We gather those pieces and go out into the woods to do a fire ritual of release. About 15 of us are standing side by side, singing songs around the fire, throwing into the flames the pieces of paper that hold our body stories and struggles -personal and collective at the same time.
“We are rising up, like the phoenix from the fire, brothers and sisters spread your wings and fly high…” -I’ll never forget the song we were singing.
Suddenly, emotion floods my whole body, everything I’ve been keeping down, all that I’ve been working so hard to starve and sweat off, without even knowing, gets unleashed, and I break down.
I get seen and held, physically and emotionally, by the women around me. Compassionate, understanding looks and warm, tight hugs come my way.
I spent the rest of the weekend crying, feeling, dancing, being held…on repeat. It was as if 5 years’ worth, and more, of stuck, stagnant energy was moving through my body. Needless to say, it was intense. And cathartic. And nothing short of life-changing.
It was in those moments that I realised, for the very first time in my life, that my body is alive. That it feels, everything. That it remembers, everything.
It was the first time that I experienced my body not as an object, a project or a prize, but as a source of knowing and guidance -as myself. The first time I stopped trying to shape it, and I let it shape, and change, me.
It was also the first time that I experienced first-hand how movement that is free from rules and aesthetic requirements, movement that is intuitive, instinctive and authentic can HEAL -everyone, but especially those of us who have had a difficult relationship with our bodies. How getting out of the mind and into the body is the fastest and surest path to the truth that lives inside of us.
There were many more ‘firsts’ that I experienced in that training; community, sisterhood, the power of ritual, the power of nature…but those are for another post, soon… 😉
I got off my path several times after that, until I fully committed to healing, but I had now found my way back; the body. And I never forgot.