“Like dreams, body symptoms present information of which we’re unconscious. In a dream, this information comes as symbols. In the body, it comes as symptoms. Both mean the same thing: signs!…They mean something. They have wisdom, metaphoric power, method in their madness. They are one of the languages the soul uses to get across to us something about itself. The word pathology, in fact, means the speech of suffering, the logic of pain, and in order to understand that logic, in order to speak to the wild imagination at work in symptoms, we must bring to it a certain supple and symbolic imagination.” — Gregg Levoy, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life
The art piece you see above is a representation of my “speech of suffering,” of my “logic of pain.” The symbol of a circle, a very common symbol used by many cultures (and often the first symbol drawn by most children, I just learned), is also my symbol to represent the pain I have felt and continue to feel in my heart area in response to the loss of my father.
I imagined this symbol while receiving a potent and emotional CranioSacral session with Ella Nacht in Kirkland, WA. We were investigating the tightness in my chest and diaphragm area, and the knot near my heart, just to the left of center.
Ella asked me, “What does this area feel like?” Tears streamed down the creases of my eyes, filling my ears, and she gently took a tissue to them so little tear lakes wouldn’t form there.
I told her, “I feel like I am alone. That everyone has forgotten I lost my dad, just over a year ago. I feel neglected in my loss.” Ella placed one hand on my heart and the other on my back near my left scapula, cradling me with her touch.
“And what does this area look like,” she asked?
“It’s a circle. There is pink and red in there, but the area right near my heart, where I feel pain is black and brown and scarred. It’s sticky and deep. I feel open and loving in the world, but that dark part remains hurt, maybe even angry.”
After some breathing and more of her CranioSacral work, I felt I could breathe more fully. She then asked, “What does this area need?”
I didn’t use my mind to answer, but rather my heart itself spoke: “Light, it needs light. It needs to be seen. I need to give it a life through art…and it’s okay if it’s not pretty.”
So that was the beginning of this art piece. It emerged from my body itself as I was guided by a gifted practitioner who created a safe place for me to explore the sensations and images in my very own being. I left the session so grateful, and with the lovely realization that I often do this very process with my own clients. How powerful to receive what I often give.
During my second session with Ella, I shared my art piece with her. She noted that that dark area looked like a healing matrix, the criss-cross pattern tissue makes when it has torn and is now healing. I hadn’t noticed that before, and suddenly I realized that not only was this art piece one of expression of sadness, anger, and damage, but also of healing. That aching part of me was actually healing itself. My body and mind were working to heal it, just as my body would work to heal a torn hamstring muscle.
I was inspired to share this art piece — and my story — today after reading a chapter called “The Language of the Body” in Levoy’s book Callings. I was struck by the way Levoy described the power in tuning into pain — whether physical or emotional — and almost amplifying it to understand it as I did in my session with Ella. Levoy writes, “Draw your attention to it [the pain]. Forget what you think is going on, why you have it, what it means, and again, just focus on the experience of it.”
When you do this, you may find that your body has a message for you. Perhaps the message is an image or word or metaphor or feeling. Perhaps it is something concrete and very specific. Whatever it is, what you see/feel/hear/taste/smell/touch is a sign from your body. You are being given a gift when you tune in to the pain, listen to it, and give it light. You may even find that you are in the process of healing your pain by just acknowledging it and giving it the room to express itself.