How do you feel about your body? Is it a source of pleasure and pride? A burden to be borne? A matter of indifference? Does it feel like a ‘good runner' which always seems to do what you ask of it? Or is your body something on which you don’t think you can depend? I find that most men and women in the Western world feel uneasy about their bodies. The cultural models which our culture has inherited from the ancient Greeks separates ‘body’—our physical presence—from ‘soul', the so-called ‘real' person, creating a schizoid attitude towards ourselves. Often we treat the body as an object. Then we alternate between narcissistically indulging it and continually neglecting it. Sometimes, we seem to dissociate from it altogether.
QUANTUM RADIANCE NOW
The body is the medium through which we experience reality. This is a truth most people forget. Your sense of aliveness and vitality, peace and relaxation, joy, sexuality, power—even intellectual enjoyment—are all experienced through your physical body. The more vital it is, the more intense are your sensibilities, and the richer your experience of being alive. The right treatments carried out on the surface of the body using simple substances such as water, oils, clays—even doing dry skin brushing—profoundly influence your state of wellbeing, both mentally and physically. Some techniques improve lymphatic drainage, clearing away wastes stored in the system. Others pep you up when you're tired, or relax you when you're stressed. They contribute to an experience of quantum wellbeing. The body is a finely-tuned instrument. It becomes more sensitive and stronger as you use it. The radiant body feels comfortably in tune with the earth on which it stands, yet free to move, to dance, to feel, and to experience joy and pain fully. This is what being fully alive is all about, no matter what your age.
Ideally, the body should always have been this way. A child born naturally, without trauma or drugs, who enters a safe and welcoming world and has a good bond with its mother already has such a body. It moves fluidly, experiences emotions and physical sensations deeply. This makes it fully expressive both in shape and movements of the innate essence of the unique being. Sadly, for most of us, our natural aliveness and bodily freedom have become distorted or truncated. Traumas which we experience tighten muscles, damping down our sensory input. Some people find themselves oppressed and overwhelmed by living in a world which is anything but life-nurturing. This is a not-uncommon feeling for children and young adults. All of these experiences which are felt through the body leave their ‘scars' since they are held in the tissues. Then, instead of maintaining the sensitivity and responsiveness which is our birthright, the body gradually becomes ‘deadened’. This deadness can express itself in many ways—from rigidity or strange postural attitudes and gaits to flaccidity, muscles which seem lifeless and lackluster skin, even low self-esteem, depression, and a sense of impossibility about one’s life.
The most remarkable gift of the human body is its natural plasticity. It is more than capable of transforming itself. Unlike a machine, your body is continually in flux. It changes its shape and ways of functioning from day to day and moment to moment. It can collect poisons in the tissues which decrease vitality and promote illness, and it can easily be encouraged to eliminate these poisons, becoming more alive, strong and beautiful. This in turn improves your whole way of experiencing life. You can work with a twisted, strained body, or one without a great capacity for feeling physical pleasure. Gradually, over a period of months, you can help it reclaim its ‘aliveness' and its natural good looks.
There are a number of simple but powerful techniques for bringing this about. Regular exercise is one. So is the Alexander Technique. Yoga too can be useful—if it is practised well. And there are other professional disciplines which can help, like the bio-energetic therapies, touch for health, and Rolfing or structural integration. There are also many wonderfully effective practices which you can do for yourself day-to-day to help reawaken vitality, improving the way you look and feel. They can alter the way you move, as well as the way you feel about yourself and your life. For, when your body feels more alive, more responsive and stronger, so do you.
DO IT YOURSELF
The healing of our culturally inherited mind-body split is a slow but totally necessary process, in order to achieve the kind of integration which makes quantum wellness possible. Many of the techniques useful for bringing it about—such as the clay and sea-plant treatments, massage, water therapy, breathing exercises—can be a lot of fun and leave you feeling great when you use them, as well as the long lasting benefits each promises. Also, making time in your life to practice them can be an excellent method of de-stressing, allowing you to get away from any leaning towards becoming an `automaton'—a tendency we all have to some degree— and become more conscious of who in essence you really are, and where you are going. This is an important part of a quantum way of life.
TAKE THE PLUNGE
A simple thing like water, which you come in contact with every day, is ideal for beginning transformation and heightening vitality. Applications of hot and cold water used to be a standard therapy for aches and pains and for revitalizing. We know this thanks to the pioneering work of Father Sebastian Kneipp, the Bavarian parish priest who strengthened his own less-than-hearty health with the healing powers of water, and then went on to develop a whole system of treatment using it to dissolve toxic wastes while strengthening the entire organism. Many of Kneipp's techniques—which I wrote at length about a few weeks ago—are great for bringing you more vitality and a growing experience of aliveness. He insisted that the easiest way of ‘hardening and bracing the system' is to walk barefoot—on wet grass or stones, on freshly fallen snow, or in cold water up to your knees.
This may sound strange to someone who has never tried it, but it can be enormously invigorating—even on winter mornings. I do it at some time every day, come rain or shine. I learned of its power from doctor friends who use it to increase a patient's resistance to illness with excellent results. The secret is to spend only a few minutes (from 3-5) walking barefoot in this way, making sure that you keep shoes and socks dry, so you can put them on immediately afterwards. If they too are allowed to get damp you miss out on the stimulating effect of the contact with the cold dampness. This can deplete your body of energy instead of revitalizing and strengthening it. This, by the way, is the secret for using any cold water applications on the body. You must be warm to begin with and you must keep warm and dry afterwards. Contact with cold water under these circumstances first causes constriction of the blood vessels, momentarily driving the blood inwards. Then, the moment it is stopped, the blood rushes to the surface of the skin, warming it.
BRUSH FOR BLISS
The same principles apply to hot and cold showers or cold sitz baths. One of the best possible ways of waking up each morning and getting yourself going for the day ahead is to brush your dry skin down well with a dry hemp glove or a natural vegetable bristle bath brush. Then step into a warm shower. As soon as the warmth of the water has suffused your body so you are warm and comfortable, switch from `warm' to `cold'. Remain under cold water for only half a minute (no more), making sure that your body all over gets covered with the cold spray. Emerge from the shower, dry yourself briskly and dress warmly. It is important that the bathroom is always warm and that you begin very slowly with only, say, 10 seconds of cold water at first, gradually increasing it to half a minute as you become used to it. I think you will be surprised at how quickly this adaptation takes place. It will make your body feel alive and tingling, increase your stamina and, according to the European doctors who still use it regularly with their patients, heighten your resistance to colds and flu.
SITZ BATHS FOR SLEEP
Here’s a variation on the cold water theme that will surprise you. A cold sitz bath is one of the best ways of relaxing quickly and preparing your body and mind for sleep. It is another technique the effectiveness of which you won't believe until you have tried it several times yourself. It is a great blessing for people who suffer from insomnia because their minds race and they can't turn off mental energy when they go to bed.
Fill a bath with 3"-4" of cold water from the tap. Make sure the bathroom is warm and that you have done all of the things you need to do before retiring. Wrap the top half of your body in a sweater or dressing gown which you can tuck up so that when you sit in the water it won't get wet but it will keep the upper part of your body warm. Now immerse your hips and bottom in the tub for 30 seconds. You can do this either by letting your legs hang over the side of the tub or by sitting in the bath and allowing your heels to go into the water to steady your body. Get out, dry yourself well, then climb into bed. The technique draws the body energy away from the head and brings a marvellous sense of peace and relaxation.
Next week we’ll look at more simple do-it-yourself techniques for quantum radiance, such as the health-enbhancing magnesium chloride flakes and gifts from the sea. See you then...