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Reflections from the Lab

It was 9:15pm in a suburb of Colorado Springs and I was waiting at a Smash Burger drive-thru window for my double classic Smash Burger to be delivered to me. Not an uncommon scenario for many people these days but for me this was an anomaly. It was the result of a "glitch in the matrix" of being in my body which I’d come to accept as the norm. That of being in pain, uncomfortable, incomplete, disjointed, distressed, worried, or whatever term would fit to describe something in need of relief.

Just twelve hours prior to my burger run I was staring directly into superficial fascia and running my hands all around the section on which I was attempting to differentiate from the rest of our donor/teacher who came to be known as Grace. Without her skin the yellow of her body glowed and drew my eyes in like the sun. Though we say not to stare directly into the sun for it’ll burn your retinas. I think we could say the same for someone’s superficial fatty layer. Staring directly into it for an extended period of time causes other types of burns. Some of these burns feel physical, such as feeling energetically drained or wired, like how you feel after spending all day staring into a computer screen. Some burns are emotional, such as the feeling of being completely vulnerable…skinless in relation to the rest of the world. There’s no limit to the ways in which this can burn.

Interacting with Grace’s insulation in this way of course brought about thoughts around how I myself interact with my own coat, as well as the coats of others. I can never stop asking “What am I touching?” when I’m touching something on the body. The question never gets old and the answer is ever elusive. I can only consider what is in my mind and the extent of what my sensory filter permits. What is wonderful about this is that this filter is an organism in its own way. It grows, it changes, and it adapts. The more of what I can embody in myself then adds to what I believe to be my filter’s potential to adapt and distinguish more of what I touch.

As an exercise in this process I decided to try integrating the experiences of the day with my daily "discharge". In hindsight I learned it is probably best for the discharge activity to have little to no conscious relationship with the events from which you are attempting to discharge. I instead learned how to actually further overwhelm my system. It was an insightful lesson nonetheless and led to me wolfing down my first fast food cheeseburger in years.

After the end of the lab day I thought about going to the athletic center and play but with the intention to embody my adipose layer as much as possible. It would be a challenge seeing as though gyms are shrouded in a fat-free mentality. Many people are at the gym to disconnect from their fat and embody their muscles, not the other way around. Earlier we began removing that adipose layer in order to reveal deep fascia. As we removed it I could see how much of Grace was being passed into the can so quickly. Each slab felt like a little death requiring a little mourning. I don’t think it was a coincidence that our group was taking the longest time to move onto the next steps. We seemed to be all feeling more sentimental with what we were touching and experiencing. Gil even used the term “preservationist” to describe our work. How much of Grace could we keep while still being able to see deeper into her? That question seemed to be in everyone's handling of their scalpels.

I guess I was attempting to preserve the memory of Grace’s tissue by having my own embodiment experience shooting a basketball at the gym with the image of my fat doing all of the work. Any other day I would dive deep into the movement of my muscles and joints. It would be so much easier for me to go into the pain of my knees and the pleasurable burning of my calves as I hopped up and down. I found the alternative focus much more difficult to connect. The closest I got was imagining myself like a yellowish "Flubber" character bouncing a ball and tossing it towards a net with no recognizable shape or form. I tried the same trick with a few traditional exercises on the weight room floor. Again they were things where I’d typically go deep into the musculoskeletal for information and depth. This time I tried to feel my butt fat and the whole abdominal fleece allowing the movement of my body up and down a step. My efforts overall felt unsuccessful. I was still more in my muscle than in my fat. More in my hardness than in my softness.

Things took a dramatic turn when I finished my gym session with time in the spa. I stepped into the locker room’s whirlpool and immediately melted into the bubbles formed by the air jets. Within a minute I finally got what I was looking for in terms of embodying my fat layer. The buoyancy of this tissue is activated when it is immersed in water. It stands in stark contrast to the density of bone and muscle. Suddenly I softened just about everywhere in my body. My knee stopped hurting when I bent it and my lower back reduced in stiffness. My belly bulged and my lungs inflated. My pelvis dropped and my shoulders floated. I was in a rare state of no tension. The only stress I felt was that of the heat from the whirlpool. I remained in the tub for fifteen minutes before taking a break and stepping into the sauna.

After a brief sit in the sauna I wanted to take another dip but this time in the pool. I walked around the back of the locker room to find an unoccupied four lane pool. There was hardly anyone within the whole pool room and I had the lane pool all to myself. I eagerly took off my glasses and climbed into what I found to be a very cold pool. I had to stand in place for a minute at one end of the pool in order to assess how my heart was handling the dramatic change in temperature. As my heart rate slowed I began taking slow strokes to the other side of the pool. As I was moving I noticed how incredibly peaceful this whole experience was. I had no phone, there was nothing to do, there was no one around, there was no stress, and it was quiet. I was just floating to the other side with no intention aside from enjoying the act of floating to the other side. When I got to the other side my brief nirvana had began to grow into disorientation.

The combination of not having my glasses to see and jumping from one form of hydrotherapy to the next had me feeling wavy inside. I tried to shake it off and take a couple more crosses to the opposite ends of the pool. After three more passes my vision began to waver like the ripples in the water and I felt as though I was going to pass out. I knew I needed to get out because it would be at least a few minutes before anyone would’ve seen me passed out in the water. I stumbled back into the locker room and into the shower to help reintroduce some heat into my body. I was expecting immediate relief but the disorientation grew stronger and I felt little to no boundary in my senses. I felt as though I was feeling so much more of myself and the water. As I ran my fingers into my hair they drifted onto my face and felt all of the different tissues I was earlier differentiating on Grace’s face. I began to contort and cry because the sensations were so overwhelming but I kept a sense of where I was, a public gym shower. There was part of me which wanted to follow that experience to its depths but at another time and in a more private location because I had no idea where it would lead me. However, I felt like it was a journey I needed to take...just not at this time.

Each time I closed my eyes in the shower I’d just see nothing but Grace’s tissue. I had to keep them open until I got out of there. I started to get my bearings while getting dressed but then felt a strong desire for a burger and I wasn’t shy about where I could find one. I saw that Smash Burger was still open and the closest place I could go to get a quick burger. After satisfying this intense craving for some greasy cheesy fat I started to wrap my head around what was going on and it hit me like an atom bomb. I had no tension, I didn't hurt. There was no pain for me to respond to at that time. I started crying because for so long that had been the norm. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t feeling the need to do something for my pain. All of a sudden I was without it and it started in the whirlpool. The fact that I had no pain as a reference for my stability and movement was in itself discombobulating. The time swimming in the cold lap pool just drove the message home for me.

What would it be like to move from a place of no pain? No worries? No fears? It’s funny how you know these things but you don’t feel them. It’s kind of like knowing that an oven burner is hot but it’s not until you actually touch it do you really know how hot it is. Then you know in your body what hot is and it's something that you just have to experience firsthand in order to know. It’s been a very long time since I’ve known what it is like to move from a place of no pain. The process of removing pain as a source of orientation is analogous to a break-up from a long and toxic relationship. It hurts and the other side of it feels strange and disorienting. There’s a chance that I may relapse and go right back to feeling uncomfortable in my body because that it what I've known for a very long time. Maybe embracing a potentially nauseating metamorphosis with no clear pathway is just what has to happen though for me to live an even better life. It was just shocking to me how, despite all of what I know in this world, how much I’d been living my life in response to pain and not in response to something else, like the Line, the loved, the sacred, or the joy within my heart.

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