We cringe on the inside, trying not to let others notice.
We feel something, and not knowing what it is, don’t let on to our discomfort.
I see this dynamic all day, every day. I see it at the grocery store, walking down Pearl Street, out at night at our favorite establishments, at almost every table at every restaurant—no matter what day or time of day.
Women are holding back. Men are holding back. We’re all doing it. And we’re often doing it without noticing. Yet we all feel the pain of our closure. The discomfort of our resistance. The constriction of our kinks.
This post is about that moment.
That moment that happens whether we’re aware of it when it happens, or if we’re only aware of it after it’s passed. Or maybe we’re not even always aware of it? But we all know that moment. That moment when we feel the water spout of emotions open fully, or maybe just a trickle, and we kink and close our heart—constrict our body and mute our mind until that moment passes.
The worst thing about it is that we’ve become good at it. We’re so good at it that people don’t even seem to notice anymore, but we feel a little bit different to others than we used to—they can’t quite put their finger on it, but they feel it.
They can feel it because they feel their own closure through our closure. Slowly, so slowly that we may not even notice something within us is withering away—until one day we wake up, look at ourselves in the mirror, and don’t even recognize ourself. And not in the way we probably want, we see that we’re just not us.
We’re not the us that we know we are. We feel less alive. Our shine feels dulled. Our radiance, clumsy. Our flow, kinked.
I’ve written before about this before, but that advice is only helpful if we can recognize that moment when we hold back.
What if we don’t recognize it?
What if we only feel our lack of flow like a clogged pipe, all gunked up from years of residual blockage at each point where the pipe is kinked?
It is as though nothing can go in—our vulnerability is blocked. And nothing can come out—our radiance, withering to a dull matte finish, our colors camouflaging like a chameleon, receding unseen into the background of life itself.
So what do we do?
Where do we start?
If we can’t take it any longer, if when we look in the mirror we see a person who isn’t us. If we make a firm commitment to change this thing we can’t see, but undoubtedly can feel—well, what do we do?
If we can feel the residual backup of emotions like our shower drain, clogged with years or decades of soap, and hair, and shampoo and all of those other shower products us men are clueless about, it will take some work just to get things unclogged.
But this isn’t the kind of work that we force.
We might put a flexible rod through our pipes to force things through our shower drain, but our bodies don’t work like that.
We can’t force experiences into our body unless we want to bring trauma into our neurology.
Instead, the real work is dissolving.
In personal growth we often take the path of thinking with our mind (learning a new concept, a new asana, a new idea, etc), with it gradually becoming embedded it into our heart and feelings. And finally, if we are lucky, we learn to fully embody it in our body and emotions. (Literally, to emit means “to move out.” When we emit, we let our feelings move out through our body.)
In other words, we often learn through the process of:
Mind -> Heart -> Body
Thinking -> Feeling -> Emoting
Usually though, our body is the last to learn, but we know this isn’t a problem we can think ourselves through. We know that this blockage we feel so deeply can’t simply be worked through first by unthinking it.
As the quote goes, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
And I’d say, similarly, “Thinking about our emotions is like dancing about architecture.”
To work on our emotions we must go into our body.
Dissolving the Gunk in Our Kinky Pipes
Yes, I simply wanted to get kinky in there. Really, though, who wouldn’t want to get kinky with us?
If our flowingness feels blocked to the point where simply acknowledging it, and practicing opening up a bit more won’t solve the problem, we must go to work on the emotional residue that has built up inside our body.
First, practice simply relaxing our body.
What I mean by relaxing is letting go of all the tension that is there. This is our emotional closure. Remember, emotions are feelings that move out from our body. This is our kinkedness. This is our resistance.
Once we’ve relaxed our body by letting go of all the tension that’s there, relax it some more. Go through a full body scan to feel what’s there. How do our fingertips feel? Our hands? Our forearms? Our shoulders? Our neck? Our throat? Our chest? And so on.
I’m sure we know the drill on this one.
And don’t just go to our toes, go to our toenails, and better yet, see if we can feel all the way to the tips of our fingernails and toenails, and to the tips of every strand of hair on our head.
Once we’ve become as relaxed as we possibly can, imagine that we just had the best, most exhausting massage we’ve ever had, after the longest, hardest workout we’ve ever had, after the best hot yoga session we’ve ever had, after getting only three hours of sleep the night before.
See? We can let go even more.
The difference between the moment before we first relaxed until the very end of that practice is the difference in the feeling of emotional tension and closure we carry within our body—this is our emotional residue. And if I were to guess, this is probably, maaaaaybe, 10 percent of it.
Once we go out into the world and worry about our day, stuff will come up. We’ll tense up even more. We’ll see our parents or our children and something else will tense in an area we didn’t know was there. We’ll get in a disagreement with our partner, or a friend, and something else will close off a little bit, or a lot, something will come up at work and our body will create resistance to it.
And this is the practice—Release. Let go. Relax. Unkink. Unclench.
Remove our resistance. It’s our resistance, not anyone else’s. We put it there. We can take it away.
Opening Deeper and More Fully: Unkinking Our Radiance and Rage
Many spiritual practitioners tell us about “opening” in some way, shape or form. The thing is that we cannot open without unclenching.
If we try to open, while also holding resistance around our heart, we will find ourselves dangerously contorted—like if my janky body tried to perform with the contortionists at Cirque du Soleil. And nobody wants that, not me. And certainly not you or your feelings. And we find that once we begin to unclench our bodies, that our bodies will naturally begin to open.
That is the result of relaxing—opening.
We don’t beat the Chinese finger cuff game by forcing it, only by relaxing and loosening the resistance does the cuff begin to open.
Relax our body. Relax our shoulders, our neck, our chest. Focus on the physical parts of our body first. And after we do this, after our resistance subsides, we’ll notice something new.
It will be subtle at first. And it may not happen for days, weeks, months, but it will come.
We will notice that our heart begins to open.
Our feelings will flow more freely.
Frustration will become replaced by patience, anger replaced by compassion, and hate replaced by love—and soon we will find our mind and thinking change as a result.
Body -> Heart -> Mind Emotions -> Feelings -> Thoughts
But our body must do it first.
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Assitant Ed: Laura Ashworth/Ed: Bryonie Wise