Writing to Connect to your Body
Photo Credit: agsandrew/Thinkstock
A major aspect of my practice has always been about coming home to my body. We live in a culture that doesn’t always honor the body; we tend instead to objectify it as this thing that’s in the way of our minds. We believe the mind and the body live in two battling camps—and root for our minds to win. My practice helps me to unlearn that split, to remember that my body is not something to be tamed, controlled, shaped, or starved to the point of disappearance. I want to feel myself as a whole, including my flesh and bones. I want to learn to be embodied. One of my best tools to do this is through writing.
Many of us think of writing as a purely intellectual exercise, that it belongs only to a certain class of people. It can be intimidating to put pen to paper. Writing has often stood for the work of pure thinking, a realm away from the body or the emotional self. For writer Audre Lorde, this separation is not only a false dichotomy, it’s a disempowering one. We are taught to believe that “there is an inherent conflict between what we feel and what we think—between poetry and theory,” she explains. This is a dangerous thing to believe: “We are easier to control when one part of our selves is split from another, fragmented, off balance,” Lorde warns. We are always more powerful when we are free to be whole.
So how do we reclaim the connection between our minds and our bodies? Write, of course. Helene Cixous, another writer and philosopher, believes that writing is the way to reclaim the energy and intelligence that lives in your body. “And why don't you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it,” she exhorts. When we don’t write, we are actually cutting ourselves off from that powerful source of energy: “Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time,” Cixous insists. If we can write from the body, we can begin to reconnect the frayed wires between body and brain, between heart and mind, to see ourselves as whole again. “Write your self,” Cixous goes on, “Your body must be heard. Only then will the immense resources of the unconscious spring forth.”
So we must write. But we must write for ourselves, not for anyone else. We must create a space, not to write some argument, but simply to articulate to ourselves what’s living inside of us. We need to be able to do this in private, to know that no one else is ever going to read what we write—unless, of course, we want them to. Sometimes I’ll come back to my writing and edit it into a poem or an article, but I can’t get to that step if it isn’t okay in the first place for my writing to be ridiculous, nonsensical, emotional, or poorly punctuated. I need the space for it to express what’s still inarticulate in my bones.
One of my favourite ways to begin this practice is by writing a long, honest letter from my heart to my brain. Even if the separation between them as conscious selves is false, we certainly have the experience of our rational brains overriding the desires of our hearts. If given the space and encouragement to speak freely, what would sing out of your long-silenced heart? Start with the words “Dear Brain.” Then pour your heart out.