Getting out of my head can sometimes be such a challenge in the environment that surrounds me. The onslaught of information coming in at almost every waking moment often means my head is very, very full. Add to that the simple fact that I am a just a wordy kinda gal & I have a whole lot of life lived mentally.
In recent years, though, I’ve come to really appreciate the power, wisdom, and importance of the sort of information my body carries. Bone wisdom, blood power, mtDNA information. The collection of stories carried in my very flesh.
I have a scar across the fourth toe of my right foot where I knocked my father’s wood chopping ax off a backyard picnic table onto my foot when I was around five years old. It tells the story not only of that particular incident, but also of the screened-in porch that contained that picnic table and the summer dinners we ate there. Of the crepe myrtle tree that I could see through those screens out in our yard from that outdoor table. Of the hours spent enchanted by its feathery pink blossoms dancing beyond my small fingertips & annoyed by its prickly seed pods under my bare feet. Of the little garden patch on the side of that house I could see from that crepe myrtle where I first learned to garden. Of a dog named Heidi, of the chocolate brown shag carpeting inside that house, & of learning to play chess on its hearth while the fire crackled over the wood my father chopped with that ax.
I have another scar, a set of scars really– thin dotted parallel lines stretching between my ribs across my upper abdomen. Literal tracks left by a beloved cat who was startled from the nap she was taking on my pregnant belly when my eldest daughter gave her a swift kick from the womb. And there are the silvery lines licking their way up both sides of my lower belly and perpetual gap between my stomach muscles thanks to the blessing of full-term twins. There’s the small dot marking the place where I once pierced my own belly button in a teenage girl’s effort to be the coolest of the cool. And the vertical line etched deeply in the center of my forehead as a result of not wearing my reading glasses as often as I should. There’s a scattering of silver threads in my hair now, echos of my mother & my mother’s mother. And a half dozen or so snow white hairs in my thick, dark eyebrows– a gift from my paternal line.
Our bodies tell our stories. And not just our stories, but the human story. Each of us carries a synthesis of bloodlines, a tapestry of genetic experience that connect us to every single other member of our entire species. Get a group of women together- complete strangers even- and see how long it takes before you start hearing body stories being told. We live this physical life through our bodies. They are how we move through this world. There are no stories without embodiment. Physical form gives us the context needed for abstract thought. We cannot define “happy” without the image of another’s happiness embodied or an understanding of how happiness feels in our own bodies. We cannot perform ritual, receive communion, answer the call to prayer without our bodies.
Yet, it seems to me that this somatic foundation is largely misunderstood in the modern, industrialized world. Instead of being receptive to the stories our bodies are trying to tell us and honoring the gifts the body brings, we seem to seek dominion over the body. But what would happen if we took a breath, if we could find the space and time to truly look, to listen deeply to our bodies as they are in this very moment? And if we could not only listen to our own bodies, but respect and honor the stories of the bodies of others?
What stories do our very beings have to tell?
Kate M. Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon, studying at the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary. She is a somewhat nomadic American, homeschooling her children with the world as their classroom. She holds a BA from Tulane University, where she studied Economics, International Relations, & Religious Traditions. Kate is a presenter for Red Tents & women’s retreats. She also hosts seasonal women’s gatherings, facilitates labyrinth rituals, and leads workshops on an assortment of women’s spirituality topics. During 2016, she will be presenting at the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology Conference in Boston, MA, at the SOA’s first open online conference, AvaCon 2016, & at the inaugural Ninefold Festival in Orange, CT.