Part Two: The Body is the Subconscious Mind
Probably the most valuable thing I learned from my hypnotherapy training is the depth and power of the subconscious mind. We come into this world wide open, and like sponges absorb everything that we see, hear and learn.
We don’t even to begin to develop a filter for what we take in until at least the age of 7.
Unlike the conscious mind, which can only acknowledge about five or six pieces of information at a time, the subconscious mind makes a mental impression of trillions of bits of data in any given moment.
It is the storehouse of our past—everything we’ve ever observed, overheard and been told is filed away in this limitless database.
And the body is the subconscious mind.
The patterning found in the body—how we hold ourselves posturally, where tension is stored and to what extent, and to a degree how illness manifests—all are a result of the beliefs held in the subconscious mind.
So it, too, is the storehouse of every belief; empowering or disempowering thought; and unresolved, unacknowledged emotional confusion or even trauma—big or small. It’s all sitting as energy in our bodies.
Everything we need to know is in the body. And the body doesn’t lie.
Most people wear their past hurts like body armor, their posture revealing so much about their past.
The body is the subconscious mind, and houses the memories of everything that has ever happened to us. Unless the emotional charge of those memories has been acknowledged and released, that energy remains, showing up as emotional holding patterns.
I’ve seen lack of self-awareness, esteem and confidence show up in the slack posture of countless men and women; their lack of inner conviction showing up in the way they hold themselves, and in the way they move.
You can see rounded shoulders closing in around the heart to protect it from further pain, or indicating that someone is holding the weight of the world on their shoulders. What starts out as poor posture usually worsens over time, even crippling some after enough years of buckling under the weight of their past.
But it shows up differently depending on the conclusions one draws from life events. For example, one rape victim retreats inside of herself, safer residing behind the walls she has created to protect her from the outside world, putting on more and more weight as a way of insulating herself.
Another determines she will never be victimized again; her aggressive, forward-tilting posture indicates her willingness to now push her way through obstacles; unstoppable in her strength; her body locked up; muscles and joints hard so nothing can work its way into her without her consent.
Yoga is an integral part of my work with people, because it gets people in their bodies. Rather than getting them further into their heads by exhaustively exploring their life story, I seek to get them out of their heads, and into their bodies, where they can start feeling again.
And since the body is the subconscious mind, and the subconscious goes so much deeper, and is so much stronger than the conscious mind, true healing and liberation must happen on that level. All too often we can get caught up in paralysis by analysis, never really moving beyond an old outdated storyline and returning to the truth of who we are, free of any story.
By moving and breathing slowly and consciously, we rediscover parts of ourselves we disconnected from long ago.
Bringing our awareness back into our bodies in a gentle, compassionate, curious way allows so much to be revealed about where energy has gotten stuck; it’s those areas that we have difficulty connecting with, or where we are so restricted and tight energy hasn’t flowed freely there in years.
Emotions are energy in motion, and show up as physiological sensations in the body, be it stomach flips, heart palpitations, increased adrenaline, sweating or even posture changes. Learning to tune into your body is a powerful way of accessing the nature of the emotional energy moving through you.
In my yoga and yogassage sessions, because there is such a clear intention to be in the body and connect with it, to reestablish a dialogue with ourselves through the body, it is not uncommon for people to be moved to laughter, or to tears, as emotional energy that has been hung up for years is finally set free.
I guide clients to notice and relax those parts of themselves that are most contracted and closed. Dozens over the years have dissolved into tears as we opened their body up, the stretching and opening allowing stuck emotional energy to surface that they didn’t even know they were holding.
One man broke down four times in the course of one session and realized that up until that moment, he had never given himself permission to grieve the loss of his father and his brother.
A professional businessman and CEO of a large corporation with lots of responsibility, he never took the time to allow feelings to fully register, and all of the unresolved energy of his life had accumulated up to that point to an overwhelming degree.
That energy had made him so restricted and so tight that he had already succumbed to two deeply invasive surgeries in order to open up his range of motion and relieve the pain and discomfort associated with that.
That day he discovered how much emotional energy he had been holding in his body and how the accumulation of that was affecting him physically, mentally and emotionally—and in all areas of his life.
Another man rolled over onto his side at the completion of his session, laughing hysterically and crying at the same time, stunned at what he had been holding onto, unbeknownst to him.
In order to be able to set ourselves free and liberate ourselves from the emotional holding patterns of our past, we must be brave enough to acknowledge that they are there. Yoga is a powerful way of developing that deeper, more honest level of awareness of ourselves and our bodies.
Since the body is the subconscious mind, it is only by creating a space and opening to the moment with curiosity and compassion that we can transform some of the old, outdated programming that no longer serves us.
Meditation is another powerful way to develop a deeper, more honest relationship with ourselves. Here we have an opportunity to discover what is waiting to surface. When we learn to notice, without judging or acting upon, what comes up for us, we have the opportunity to gain true insight.
I am reminded of some of the wall-sized paintings hanging in museums I have visited around the world. Have you ever stood before an enormous piece of art, be it a painting, or a sculpture? The closer you stand to the masterpiece, the harder it is to see it.
Only stepping back to give ourselves a more panoramic view of the work of art provides the space to see the story, the details, the very essence of what the artist was trying to say. When you stand too close, you simply can’t see it.
It is too easy to become overwhelmed by the image and miss the whole point of it.
True intimacy with ourselves is not found in our heads. This is why mind control techniques, without true understanding, are so dangerous—using techniques to reprogram the mind, while the subtle undercurrents are not addressed.
It’s like shoving all the clutter and dirty laundry into the closets and under the bed. There is a mess going on behind the scenes we are pretending isn’t there, and when others arrive we must strengthen that charade, convincing ourselves enough to be able to convince others.
Now a lot of energy must go into avoiding opening those doors, even to the point of pretending the doors aren’t there, out of fear of the mess that would come spilling out.
At the very least, this makes us defensive; at an extreme we start to believe our own lie. But everyone feels it on some level; other people sense it in you—your body language, your mannerisms are not as relaxed.
Simply becoming more convincing doesn’t make the truth less so, and no matter how convincing you may be to the world around you, in the recesses of your own mind you know what’s true.
Yoga and meditation allow us that space to step back and observe our own thoughts and feelings long enough to learn something from them. Our feelings always have a message for us, but if we are overwhelmed by them, or denying them altogether, we are missing the point.
Only stepping back and becoming the witness allows us to establish a vantage point from which we can observe ourselves.
Another analogy is sitting in a theater watching a movie playing. No matter how the movie may move you, you don’t get out of your seat and step onto the screen. You are an observer, in spite of any emotions that get stirred up within you.
Stepping back from the composite picture in this way allows us to gain true insight into ourselves, and is the only way we can ever attain any level of true self-mastery or inner peace.
“[Body Awareness] Reveal Your Authentic Self, Part One: Feel Your Way to Real” was published on massagemag.com on May 19.
Erica Boucher is the author/creator of the book and life coaching program, Showing Up Naked; and founder of Empath Yoga, a 200-hour yoga teacher training. She also hosts annual yoga retreats around the world. For more information on Erica’s book, life coaching program, yoga teacher training, and upcoming yoga retreats, visit www.EmpathYoga.com. This article was excerpted by permission from the book Showing UP Naked: Peeling Away the Layers to Your Authentic Self, by Erica Boucher (Earth Harmony Publishing, 2012).