On finding personal freedom through the multi-layers of our somatic being; our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual body.
Finding Freedom : a Somatic POV
Are there times when you feel a sense of frustration?
A sense of stuckness in your life that also feels tangible within your body?
Summer is in full swing, and as England is buzzing full of events and festivals, it is almost as if lockdown was just some distant memory, some displaced recollection of a very strange time, that has all but disappeared like a puff of smoke.
Are you enjoying your newfound freedom? After months of confinement when we could not even meet up in small groups (remember that?), we are now free to go as we please.
Sometimes when we have too much freedom we can feel overwhelmed.
I have never felt as utterly free as when I was travelling. I had given up my job in a film company and had bought a one way ticket to India.
Growing up I had felt bound by cultural expectations of how to be, what to do. Suddenly I was catapulted into the unknown, where each free floating day could roll blissfully into the next.
The sense of wonder and possibility was incredible, but in being given a blank canvas we can find ourselves temporarily getting lost. When we are too free, perhaps we can feel a lack of self-control, a sense of losing the threads that hold us together, familiar things that give us security.
The irony is that sometimes we have too much freedom and we have to pull back in, to find our focus. I am a single parent to a son, and when he was young I asked a headteacher of a boy’s school what was the best advice she could give me - the answer was ‘boundaries’.
Freedom in the Body
When our outer world is uncertain, we need to find an inner strength and support, and we can do this by dropping into our primary sense of being, our body. When we are able to relax into it, sense and feel it with awareness and knowing, we can get a grounding that supports us to then go out and explore  Our bodies give us a central locus of power, a sense of structure and holding, and clear boundaries of what is possible and what is not. When we have this sense of the solid foundation that is us, it can give us confidence. Our body gives us literally and metaphorically an internal strength, will and sense of purpose. That is, if and when we are able to accept it and love it.
Yet so many of us deny our own freedom. Our first gateway to freedom is through our breath and through giving treatments I have discovered that many of us do not breathe properly. When we are fearful or anxious we deny ourselves life giving breath. It is almost as if we are fearful of allowing too much in, as if holding our breath will somehow keep us safe. Then in excitement, trepidation or anticipation, we hold our breath almost as if we withhold the possibility of failure.
If we are lacking in self-worth we may deny bodies nourishment by withholding food. When we feel a sense of rejection of ourselves, we may deny ourselves the basics we need to survive, or self-harm in some kind of distorted self-validation. Do we allow ourselves the freedom to give ourselves all the essential things that we need to flourish and thrive, to connect, to be frivolous, to laugh and make merry? For years I created my own mental prison of what I believed is possible or not, what is allowed, what is accepted, what will be welcomed or rejected.
Freedom through Movement
It is the same with movement. Some of us are so stuck in our habits of inertia that it is almost as if we have forgotten how to move. According to Moshe Feldenkrais,
‘the way we move is the way we move through life’.
A physicist, engineer and judo expert, he had a chronic knee injury that he healed by finding new ways to move, with playfulness and curiosity.
Through our bodies we experience our first taste of freedom. Do we allow ourselves the freedom to move freely in lives?
And on a macro level, do we allow our bodies to move freely and with ease?
I used to wonder if the way Africans and Brazilians moved so freely and sensually was in part due to their warmer climates. But having experienced a heatwave recently I cannot say that I have observed such sensual freedom in the bodies of our British counterparts. I am Chinese and Asians in general can be timid. In fact it is respectable to be shy and reserved, unless you are officially an artist or performer when the rules are bent. Ironically, in Western cultures which are often perceived as more open and promiscuous by conservative Asian standards, there can equally be holding and restriction in body movement and expression.
Have you experienced true freedom in your body?
For some reason it seems that as we age, it is the norm to become less overtly expressive, unless you are someone like Mick Jagger or Madonna. For example since when did we decide what is considered acceptable or not on the rather innocuous playground of a dancefloor?
Why do we restrict our own freedom to find joy and pleasure through the celebration of dance?
In general as a nation, why do we feel inhibited, or judge ourselves for being embarrassing if we don’t look like Jennifer Beals or John Travolta when we do our shimmy? Who decided that it isn’t ok to have free expression? We are not living in the deep south of America or in a strict Islamic state. Yet if a dance is given a label eg Russian Cossack, Irish Jig or Morris Dancing waving handkerchiefs and wearing knee bells, then that kind of dance is perfectly acceptable and fine. But to move freely in wild abandon? Steady on now.
So, what does freedom mean for you?
Even the word freedom in it's clarity and simplicity can evoke and mean different things in all of us. This is why I love and sometimes get frustrated with language. Through our bodies we can perceive and feel in a way that language can enhance or distort. Our bodies and our movements are a universal human language, and is the last and ultimate freedom we have (which is why the politics around covid meaures have been so divisive). Here I am abstaining from labels around gender fluidity and identities. I am championing the idea of finding freedom, simply as humans in our bodies.
Are you making the most of what you have?
Do you love your body..?
Do you appreciate its ability to move, express and celebrate?
Or are you in some denial of life?
I am hold a FREE Dance Challenge next month: Finding Clarity and Focus through Dance and the Niio Dance lens which you can join here:
In the meantime, you can learn to breathe better (amongst other things) in the FREE mini course Finding Presence through Conscious Dance which you enrol on here:
To your freedom…
1 We may not all find our bodies a safe place of holding. If we have been through some traumatic experiences, then learning to feel, sense and trust in safety within our bodies may be a journey in and of itself, which may require work with a trauma specialist first.