Staying Close to Life

A note from Carl:
Before I begin this week’s writing, I want to remind you that there is still space in Erin’s  Women Embodied Online course that begins next Wednesday. This is the first time that women outside of Salt Lake City will be able to gather together in the intimate circle of  embodied learning that Erin has facilitated each year in her class. Women Embodied is such powerful and beneficial work, and has changed the lives of so many women who have been a part of it. Please feel free to share the information about the class with anyone who might benefit from it.

And for today’s reflections:

Last week, I had a client come in who has been experiencing chronic back pain for the last year. I have been there, and I know how much the world can seem to shrink when pain is such a constant companion. One of the things that was most frustrating for him was how to hold all of the advice he had received from the many different practitioners with whom he had worked, and how, often, the advice from one practitioner would exactly contradict the previous one. “Always do this” “Never, ever do this,” “Its all about psoas.” “Its all the piriformus-do this stretch”…The list went on and on, and he had no idea what to do with any of it.

I suggested that perhaps, the contradictory nature of the instructions was good news, and could be steering him back to his own inner-compass and guidance. If the instructions had all been coherent, he likely would have diligently followed the advice of some external authority about what was going on with his own, unique back. We all do this, right?

Most of us have outsourced our inner-guidance and direction around our embodiment and movement. We look to yoga teachers, PT’s, doctors, online experts, bodyworkers…to tell us what to do and how to do it.
Around pain and injury, we can often spend thousands of dollars, diligently repeat boring, repetitive excercises someone told us to do, take classes, buy all sorts of rollers, blasters, bands…The one thing we often miss, however, is pausing, listening, and bringing our curiosity and care to what is actually happening.

This capacity to pause, and bring our care and curiosity to our experience is not only helpful with pain, but with all aspects of life.

Matt Licata writes:

“You can count on those in your life to relentlessly remind you of what you have disowned in yourself. While this may appear to be bad news, it offers a unique opportunity to reconnect with the lost parts and provide safe haven where they can reclaim their rightful place in the landscape of your inner family. In order to reframe the activation in this way, it is vital that you cultivate the intention to know what is true more than anything: more than feeling good, more than appearing spiritual, more than being untouchable, more than being happy all the time, more than needing to keep up the appearance that you have it all together. You can make a commitment that each time you find yourself irritated, annoyed, triggered, enamored, or enchanted, you will stay close. Sacred data and information are being presented that are ripe for your holding and attunement, a rich opportunity to befriend and take care of yourself in a radically different new way.”

I love that commitment to stay close – whether annoyed or enchanted, there is sacred data being presented.

Reggie Ray describes the shift that can happen when we stay close:

‘When difficult things come up, we start tensing, we start freezing. In the past we had not been aware of that and it was completely unconscious. Once we have the awareness, we can let go of the freezing, and open ourselves to our own life, and to what is really going on for us right at this moment. Over time, the body becomes a kind of guide, the body becomes a teacher, a beloved mentor. We find that when we release the freezing, the tensing, and begin to relate openly with things that appear difficult, they turn out to be something really different. It is almost as if our preconceptions made us afraid, but the situation, or the person, or the emotion itself is 100% wholesome, 100% bringing something to us that we really need in our life. ”

We have shared this Felt Sense Prayer before, that I originally heard read by Tara Brach. I love coming back to it, because it suggests such a radical shift in orientation toward our life. How to lean in, how to stay close, how to be intimate with, and how trust what is unfolding in our lives…

The Felt Sense Prayer

I am the pain in your head, the knot in your stomach, the unspoken grief in your smile.

I am your high blood sugar, your elevated blood pressure, your fear of challenge, your lack of trust.

I am your hot flashes, your cold hands and feet, your agitation and your fatigue.

I am your shortness of breath, your fragile low back, the cramp in your neck, the despair in your sigh.

I am the pressure on your heart, the pain down your arm, your bloated abdomen, your constant hunger.

I am where you hurt, the fear that persists, your sadness of dreams unfulfilled.

I am your symptoms, the causes of your concern, the signs of imbalance, your condition of dis-ease.


You tend to disown me, suppress me, ignore me, inflate me, coddle me, condemn me.

I am not coming forth for myself as I am not separate from all that is you.

I come to garner your attention, to enjoin your embrace so I can reveal my secrets.

I have only your best interests at heart as I seek health and wholeness by simply announcing myself.


You usually want me to go away immediately, to disappear, to sleek back into obscurity.

You mostly are irritated or frightened and many times shocked by my arrival.

From this stance you medicate in order to eradicate me.

Ignoring me, not exploring me, is your preferred response.

More times than not I am only the most recent notes of a long symphony, the most evident branches of roots that have been challenged for seasons.


So I implore you, I am a messenger with good news, as disturbing as I can be at times.

I am wanting to guide you back to those tender places in yourself,

the place where you can hold yourself with compassion and honesty.

If you look beyond my appearance you may find that I am a voice from your soul.

Calling to you from places deep within that seek your conscious alignment.


I may ask you to alter your diet, get more sleep, exercise regularly, breathe more consciously.

I might encourage you to see a vaster reality and worry less about the day to day fluctuations of life.

I may ask you to explore the bonds and the wounds of your relationships.

I may remind you to be more generous and expansive or to attend to protecting your heart from insult.

I might have you laugh more, spend more time in nature, eat when you are hungry and less when pained or bored, spend time every day, if only for a few minutes, being still.


Wherever I lead you, my hope is that you will realize that success will not be measured by my eradication, but by the shift in the internal landscape from which I emerge.


I am your friend, not your enemy.  I have no desire to bring pain and suffering into your life.

I am simply tugging at your sleeve, too long immune to gentle nudges.

I desire for you to allow me to speak to you in a way that enlivens your higher instincts for self-care.

My charge is to energize you to listen to me with the sensitive ear and heart

of a mother attending to her precious baby.


You are a being so vast, so complex, with amazing capacities for self-regulation and healing.

Let me be one of the harbingers that lead you to the mysterious core of your being

where insight and wisdom are naturally available when called upon with a sincere heart.

-Author unknown

May you experience yourself as a being so vast, with amazing capacities for self regulation and healing,



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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.