The belly represents vulnerability. If you are holding there, you cannot be vulnerable. This creates complications in life, because tension or holding blocks the flow of energy moving through the system. It cuts off the upper from the lower. Disease will eventually manifest somewhere. More importantly, relationships suffer, because one can only go so deep with someone who is half present. As love is the most healing force we know of, soften and let yourself be loved.
And if you’re cut off from the lower half, how stable, grounded, secure, and safe can you feel? Rulers of empires feel ‘wobbly’ without feet.
Breathe deep into the belly. Let the belly expand with the inhale, and shrink with the exhale. Discover whatever you have been holding on to, and release it with the breath. Words help. If you don’t know exactly what you are holding, sound helps. Sometimes a sighing sound is more powerful than specific words, because it allows the body to release what is being held unconsciously. What you think is the problem may not be the problem at all. The words may miss the point entirely; but the sound cannot miss the point.
We live in a culture where we are trained as men to suck in our gut until we are red in the face, so we look like those guys on the covers of magazines; or their pale reflection. This is programming designed to keep you from your essence. While I studied Tai Chi, I learned that if you are holding the energy, the chi (or vital life force) can’t flow. If you appear fit, and your life force is stagnant, you are like the beautiful facade of a building, that is going to ruin within.
Not that presence and beauty can’t coalesce. They will and do. It is just not a standard of beauty that is implanted from without. Deny externally imposed paradigms of beauty, and rediscover the truth of what you are. Truth is beauty. Let your hair, your eyes, your skin be what they are, and they’ll shine in new ways. Makeup is a mask, which isn’t needed when the skin shines with vitality. Your hair is beautiful the way it is. Come into alignment with the human system, and you’ll realize the ‘miracles’ you are already capable of.
We’ve been holding so long, that we don’t often know we’re holding. I touch some bellies that are as stiff as a board. Usually, there is a flinch when I touch, because the armor is up. Someone noticed our belly once, or we noticed it in a mirror, and it jarred with our perception of ourself. So we picked up that clenching habit somewhere. Everywhere, in every photo, this self consciousness is carried.
What I do is I touch with some pressure, and the belly resists. I touch again, and it resists again. I remind the client that it is safe; that even if I reached through, all the way to the psoas at the spine, it would be safe. It might be intense, and it would still be safe. Once that occurs, the realization often surfaces of how much holding there actually is.
Softening may seem ambitious, because every explosion on the news comes with a tightening of the gut. Eventually, we see it so often, we disconnect entirely. Oh, another explosion. This many people died. Bummer. The tragedy becomes an abstraction, piercing a dream.
Soften the belly in interactions with the lover. Soften the belly in interactions with the ‘enemy’. Soften the belly in interactions with the crushing ocean or the dark forest. Something interesting happens… they soften too, as if on cue.
John Muir said he always felt protected in the bosom of nature, so it seems that he was protected. He would walk off into nature, with hardly a provision, in any season, and come out not only unscathed, but more complete than he went in.
Xu Yun, a chan (zen) master, spent years meditating in the forest, eating nothing but grass and pine needles. He wrote that while he was sitting in meditation, otherwise vicious animals would walk up to him, and live peacefully around him. He had given up the fear and resistance, so the loop of the ‘viciousness’ was not even ignited. His monasteries were bombed in various wars, too. As he sat in meditation, he remained unharmed while the shells exploded and the world crumbled around him.
Your softening impacts the ocean, not because the ocean compromises her fierceness, (that would be to give up her nature), but because her fierceness was a projection of yours; and now the two of you are free to meet in an entirely new world. Now her vastness and serenity can surface (also projections of yours).
I think of the ocean a lot, because after I broke my neck in a wave, I had to learn to kneel again, and be fluid… to roll with the rhythm of the waters. Before that, I tightened my abdomen, and from this rigid place, I was broken. I do this softening as a metaphoric and a literal practice, when I visit the ocean, and when I visit a friend, and when I visit a client.
What would the world be like if you moved through it without any holding at all? What would you be creating with the leftover energy if you no longer needed to brace for an impact?
That is something worth imagining.