Welcome back to Restorative Grief with Mandy Capehart. You are listening to episode 68 titled “Shaking Off the Dust.” During the month of January, I shared a brief daily reset email series with subscribers titled the 31 Days of Clean. While each day included a small cleanliness task to complete around the house such as decluttering, window cleaning, or attending to our houseplants, they also invited us to consider these 5 to 10 minute activities as an invitation into contemplation. In doing so, we are clearing internally – in our homes and bodies – for a fresh start where we can dust away the cobwebs, clear old thoughts holding us back, and release the settled discomfort we’ve accepted as fate.
I recently learned how many of you are listening to the podcast while you were working out and I love this for so many reasons, but primarily because your body is so involved in the grief process. When you are working out, there are many different processes occurring in your body that allow you to become available. Your body is made available for new experiences, and being physically active brings alignment into the body in a way that we just can’t experience otherwise.
If you’ve never worked directly with me, or participated in the Restorative Grief Project, you may not know that much of the work we do around grief support is chasing alignment in our minds, hearts, spirits, and bodies through core value work and connection to our stories, in a way that we can begin to integrate the experience of our grief into our present self and daily life.
One of the most powerful ways to learn to integrate is through working through the concept of embodiment. Embodiment is a fancy word to say learning how to become present and experience our body with compassion, no matter the way it is carrying us through our lives. I don’t really love the metaphor of the body as a vehicle, because I believe it gives us a very minimal perspective toward our physical selves. Sometimes this is where you hear that “food is just fuel” and any other relationship to food is bad. Sometimes people will minimize the importance of our bodies by saying it is the least interesting thing about us – which may or may not be true. We are defined not by the shape or the capabilities of our bodies, which is crucial to remember. But we are also not living fully present in our bodies when we perceive our physical selves as simply a means to an end – as a vessel to contain the spiritual self. Our bodies are necessary and so much more than the way our minds and thoughts exist around us.
Embodiment work in grief support allows us to acknowledge where our body is communicating with us and what we’ve overlooked. If our ultimate goal is to become present with all the truth of our reality, that includes engaging our body in a way that we may not have in the past. It’s easy to overlook the holistic importance of our bodies, especially this time of year, if we’re hyper focused on the mental and emotional impacts of grief and only the size of our physical selves.
Plenty of us engage our bodies from the physical health perspective, ensuring we eat well, move consistently, and give ourselves the rest needed to recover before the next big event. But some of our bodies don’t feel safe to occupy, whether we carry trauma or chronic illness. And some of our bodies aren’t a piece of ourselves we’ve ever been allowed to engage or explore, dismissing our bodies as bad or wrong in some way.
No matter where you fall in this, I want to invite you into a new way of considering your body. More than a vehicle, more than a bag of bones to be overlooked, more than the current space occupied simply for your soul to have a place before running off to an afterlife – your body has been with you since the moment you came into existence. Since before your first breath. It will be with you until the last.
Your body is a metaphorical library, telling the story of everything you have experienced through aches and pains, and even through growth spurts that literally leave their mark your body.
Our bodies hold on to so much for us that as we learn to revisit our old wounds, we would be naïve to leave our body out of the intentional experience. No system in your body works alone, gets injured alone, or heals alone. We might act on behalf of our muscles but let the immune system receive only side effects. Maybe we run, but never stretch. Maybe we eat healthy foods, but absorb chemicals through our skincare products. Maybe we read helpful books, but listen to toxic people about our character. We are whole people, and yes, we can break that into our parts to care for them, but we need to engage the body in a way that also accepts the parts of our whole and is willing to read every book in our own library in pursuit of restoration.
So this week I want you to shake off the dust. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been working out for 25 years consistently every week or if you have mobility issues and can’t do a lot of physical fitness activities. You can participate in many activities that create embodiment safely and intentionally. Like I mentioned before, maybe you’re disconnected from your body because you are not (or previously were not) physically safe in your body. If that describes your experience, please check the show notes for a few resources.
If you are ready to clear out some metaphorical cobwebs, you don’t need to stop what you are doing in order to gain another tool for your grief support. For the last month I’ve sent out a weekly email with a cleaning challenge for each day of the new year in January, and yes, we had tasks to complete each day that were accessible and 5 to 10 minute activities that brought cleanliness and order into our physical homes. But I tricked everyone into thinking all we were doing was cleaning. OK so, obviously they knew what was going on because the emails were willing to spell it out. The way we engage the atmosphere around us is similar to the way we engage our bodies. If we are dismissive, or ignoring the needs, communicated by our home, or our vehicles, or our family, and we are likely doing the same thing to our own bodies.
Embodiment practices can include meditation, movement, chakra work, attachments, polyvagal engagement, acupuncture, EMDR, bilateral stimulation, and more.
But since this is a podcast, and probably one you’re listening to on a drive or a treadmill, I’m want to offer a simple movement meditation challenge for the month of February. Between today and the end of the month, there are 31 days ahead. Let’s build a silent, walking meditation practice together. Starting today, set a timer and walk for one minute without music, podcasts, or other intentional thoughts to occupy your mind. It’s okay if your brain is thinking about the timer. Allow that thought to exist and then kindly dismiss it. You might appreciate keeping your attention on your feet as you step, watching each one as it falls. You can also extend your gaze to the horizon, lengthening your sight and giving your eyes a break from a short focal distance like a screen or book. Each day, work your way up by adding one more minute to the walk. By the end of the month, you’ll have a 31 minute walking meditation practice. If you miss a day, don’t add multiple minutes to make up the time; simply add one more each day that you walk. As you walk, you might even tap your hands on your hips or each side of your body in an alternating pattern, bringing another layer of embodiment and present mindedness to the practice.
If you want to take this a little further, you can use a journal to write a quick note about how you feel before the walk, then revisit those bodily feelings afterward. Make a note of one place in your body that has discomfort, and be sure to make a note of a place that does not have tension or discomfort (even if it’s as simple as the tip of your ear).
By engaging our bodies without additional noise, we invite ourselves to be present. There are fewer distractions, keeping us from awareness of our body. We start out slow because we are building muscles and we don’t want to exhaust or overwork an area of our whole self. Giving ourselves permission to move slowly and with intention is how we develop a new practice of bodily awareness, engagement, and helpful embodiment strategies to heal.
Thank you for listening to episode 68 of Restorative Grief. I’ll be the first to say that embodiment work is a challenge but ultimately, it’s the way forward for most of us as we find healing. Body work can feel intimidating our out of reach, especially if you’re someone working with chronic illness or an unsafe physical environment. If you are, that is all the more reason to start noticing what is going on in our bodies in response to these uncomfortable situations and to find strategies to allow ourselves to create safety within. Your body is beautiful, your body is important, your body is worthy of compassion and consideration. No matter what anyone else says, your body matters.
If this is your first time listening to Restorative Grief, I’m so proud of you for trying something new! New can feel uneasy and scary, especially when you’re facing down a loss. But since you’re here, I hope you found something encouraging to the point that you’ll hit subscribe and stick around for a while. Our weekly essays alternate with brilliant interviews from authors, grievers, experts, and average folks like you and me bringing a little more insight and compassion to the grieving process. If you’re interested in extra content, consider becoming a Patron of the show or a Premium subscriber via Spotify for bonus interviews and a live monthly grief chat. And of course, please leave a shiny five-star review, because you know that helps others find the grief support they need here as well. Don’t forget to check the show notes for support as well as other Restorative Grief resources mentioned, too.
And as always, one last thing. Please remember, the only solution for grief is to do the work of grieving. Thanks for listening. I’ll see you next week.
Links + Resources for this episode: