Story Telling Can Change the Story’s Meaning

A chameleon changing to meet her environment

I was told that telling a story while you’re still bleeding from it puts the audience in the seat of the therapist, or at least, not the receiver. And while I fully hear that and can’t disagree, I was determined to tell the story that prompted my book: The Art of Strength.

After many practice sessions through tears, my coach said I may not be ready. Maybe you should pick another aspect of your story? But he stood by me and guided me through the maze of my emotions finding the places that would anchor me.

When in my final preparations for my book’s signature talk, I passed it by a director friend of mine. His response after listening was, “Beautifully written and beautifully spoken, but I don’t think you want to be pretty. You want to have authority so people take action.” He continued with this instruction, “Underline every verb and pop those verbs whenever possible.” So, I did.

This note was incredible. Accenting the verbs changed the meaning of the story from something that happened to me to something that I owned about me. The ownership peeled back another layer of the proverbial onion of healing.

Without challenging myself to speak the story with authority, rather than as a victim/survivor, this layer would not have surfaced. The surfacing, was messy; but cathartic. In that last 24-hours of preparation I was so blocked I was forgetting the entire talk, not just lines here and there.

My body needed to scream it out of its muscle memory; cry it out of its mental beliefs; laugh it out of its heart’s survival strategies. So, I did.

I screamed, cried and laughed so hard I thought I may not have a voice left for the talk! My body let go of so much emotional tension that I literally felt transparent. As if you could have waved your hand through my body.

“One feels as if One is dissolved and merged into Nature.”
Albert Einstein

My personal tension template had become fragmented. And for the next day’s talk reorganized; and for future talks restored.

I had to own my story FOR my audience, something I had not yet been able to do for myself.

There may be more layers? In fact, there’s no doubt in my mind that there are. But speaking was a prompt to heal myself for the world.

In this way, my audience was my therapist.

Thank you.

Do You Want to be Tough or Strong?

Chase the Carrot or Eat the Carrot

The choice between being tough or strong is a conversation about what you want running your life, tension or strength.

I’ve come to realize that tough is protective gear masquerading as strength. So, when training folks, I work to keep it honest. Challenge their strength’s potential AND learn its limitations.

When a client was failing in his workout due to exhaustion, not muscle failure, he averted his gaze.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“You’ll be mad if I tell you,” he replied.

He was in the middle of a digital fitness challenge where he had to have his heart rate elevated for a certain number of minutes within a month’s time. He was over-training. Rejuvenation time was shelved until the challenge was over.

It was clear he was disheartened. His tension pooled in his chest muscles; broadening the protective shield of his back.

Looking at the floor he mumbled, “I’ll be fine. I’ll just walk everywhere today instead of my peloton run.”

Can you see yourself in this?

Use minutes to meditate was my advice. Use the time for active restoration versus active progression. But the digital minute-counter shutoff when his heart rate stabilized.

Penalized for self-care. Hmmm?!

  • We look away when we know in our body that we’re hurting ourselves, but in our mind, we have an insatiable need to progress.
  • We look away when we believe that we would lose our strength––be traumatized––if we didn’t triumph over a challenge.
  • We look away, when we know, deep down, that some nonsensical belief has triggered our tension into the driver’s seat.

What is our tension chasing?

Survival––Survival of the fittest! (richest, skinniest, smartest…)
We’re chasing a carrot on a string. That carrot is the belief that we’re not the fittest.

Here’s the truth of it. Chasing will never change the belief. In fact, the tension that keeps the belief running is getting stronger by the act of chasing it.

Stop being strung along and eat the carrot!

We feel most balanced when we can look life straight in the eye. Balance asks us to look in both directions. What if we stopped chasing? What if we just dropped into our bone’s stillness and reevaluated our habitual chase to prove ourselves?

What is in our body’s stillness?

Neutral Attention––Neutral to life’s flow. (truth, unfolding, evolution…)
When we eat the carrot, we reassess what we want to align with. An outside expectation or an inside truth. A distorted judgment or good sense. A past trauma or your present realness.

“Trauma is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.”
Peter Levine, PhD & author, Waking the Tiger

Trauma is a physical experience. Any level of trauma––disappointment, judgment, expectation––lives in the body as tension until it’s resolved.

The mind forms beliefs to make sense out of the body’s sudden invasion of tension. Very often, self-damning beliefs that are mis-taken.

The body’s tension template and the mind’s twisted beliefs are locked in with each other, until the body’s tension can surrender its grip.

When we bump into this chase, we feel like a wimp and feel we need to toughen up!

But what if I were to say, when we bump into this chase, we need to feel into its vulnerability––experience our inner-wimp––until we are introduced to our strength.

  • Experience your body as a wimp. Don’t focus on your mind’s judgments or your emotional reactions. Feel for your bone’s perspective. What is under your judgment and reactivity?
  • What are your bones hungry for? What does your inner-wimp need, to feel cared for?
  • Be that care-giver.

This is self-care not self-indulgence. You know this because you’re not perpetuating Self-denial (with a capital “S”), nor are you ignoring the chase. You are reassessing who you are, and what you need, to feel aligned with your deepest, richest, wisest Self.

When we chase the carrot on a string, we lose our selves. When we eat the carrot, we find ourselves. This is strength.

 

Please share this with anyone you feel could use its message. Thank you.

When You’re Aligned, You’re Never Alone

Search For Nothing and Find Everything

 

Do you experience your body as a spiritual instrument or a mechanical frame?

If we recognize “spiritual” as a connection with the greater whole––Creation––and the body’s relationship with gravity as a connection with the Universe, then our physical relationship with gravity is a spiritual practice. Our physical posture is a part of Nature’s spiritual artistry.

This has been my experience since childhood. When I’m aligned I’m never alone.

As a young girl I was traumatized regularly and would regularly disassociate—leave my reality without warning—into an altered-reality. I would find my self rescued from my tension-filled curled up body and suddenly be ease-fully stretched between Earth and Sky. I experienced myself as an energy-body, bones in a relaxed stretch and muscles surrendered to accommodate this stretch.

This altered-reality felt safe, connected and relevant. So, when I realized chasing those feeling in my reality was futile, I set out to find them through my body’s ease-filled stretch between Earth and Sky.

Embodying, what I now call, Neutral Alignment became my life’s mission.

Alignment asks our bones to be neutral—central—in our muscles’ intricate cocoon. Neutral by definition is resistant-free and the absence of resistance is sensation-free. Because of this we experience Neutral Alignment as nothingness.

But in this nothingness there is an energetic exchange that makes us whole.

Our bones, when aligned with gravity, become an energy antenna that channel’s gravity’s force through its structure, conserving and strengthening our energy’s flow. This channel of force is Source energy that recharges our resources––our mind and body––and it connects us to all that is.

This energy exchange is the REAL World Wide Web!

This energy exchange introduced me to a spiritual life without setting out on a spiritual quest.

Strength training has been the most influential game-changer in establishing Neutral Alignment. Even more than ballet class! I witness how my physical relationship with an outside resistance mirrors what I emotionally resist in my life story. This emotional resistance being the root of my body’s tension and misalignment.

For example:
• When I catch myself trying to dominate resistance in the gym, I realize I’m trying to trump uncomfortable feelings with physical aggression, in the hopes of restoring my self-worth or rightness. I may be able to dominate a dumbbell, but I’ve lost myself in the process!

So instead:
• I connect to resistance like a handshake. Rather than focusing my attention on dominating the challenge, my primary concern is to align my bones ease-fully between Earth and Sky. This connects me to me first! Then, to maintain my alignment through a challenge, I connect with the outside resistance with equal degrees of muscular contraction and muscular release. The places I struggle to release muscularly make me aware of the places I’m reactive, so I can break the pattern. Strength training challenges become tension releasing opportunities.

Weakness is not the opposite of strength, tension is.

Strength is a willingness to feel into the tension that obscures your body’s posture, and to trust the inherent wisdom urging you to surrender it. Strength training is using as much conviction to connect with resistance, as you have strove to dominate resistance.

To dominate—to value only our end goal—is to miss out on what could be learned from our vulnerability. This curiosity about vulnerability is the undercurrent of our strength and unravels the tension causing our pain.

Neutral Alignment introduces me to the resilience and wonder of my strength. It unmasks underlying beliefs so I can consider them and create positive change.

This is why we feel better when we workout. It’s not just about endorphins and oxygenation of red blood cells. It’s about shifting the tension template of our life story into greater alignment with our present lives.

Your workouts can teach you to be competitive and tough; or they can give meaning to your life.

 

Learn more about alignment and strength in The Art of Strength: Sculpt the Body ~ Train the Mind

 

Pain is Wisdom’s Cry

Find love, freedom & compassion through pain.

Let’s face it, pain S-U-C-K-S! It robs us of our vitality.

But I trust my body’s wisdom. And pain is it’s only way of letting me know I’m out of alignment. It’s my body asking me to listen to its message. And I’ve learned it will continue to escalate until I face it’s insistence.

Trauma, overexertion and tension are the culprits of my pain. While trauma requires therapy and overexertion requires rest, tension requires that I listen.

What you may not consider when listening to your tension is, it’s often rooted in another time and is multidimensional in its nature. It simmers unnoticed until something triggers it into expressing; and when it does, your mind and body unite in its tantrum.

On the day I gathered my courage and composure to utter for the first time about dad’s nighttime visits in my bedroom, mom’s reply was, “It’s not MY fault, I didn’t know!” My body had been holding onto this sexual abuse story in silence for 25 years!

The anger, fear, confusion and sadness that plagued my body as tension, was trying to find a pathway out by voicing my longstanding secret. But the pathway out was blocked, so now every cell became engorged with rage! I felt like I was being annihilated by electrical shock waves. My body shook as my mind ranted! “It’s still all about you and your needs––I don’t really matter?!” From my view at the time, I wasn’t worth protecting, I wasn’t lovable, not then and not now.

Sometimes it’s just too painful to listen to our feelings, so our mind steps in to reason with the pain—blame it away. But we can’t think (or blame) our way out of tension, we have to feel our way out. And here’s the clincher, allowing the body to feel goes far beyond its physical tweaks, it’s crying out our emotional wounds.

Here’s how the mind and body relate:

  • The body’s soft tissues (muscles, sinews, organs) archive every emotion you experience, while the mind remembers the details around the emotion. Your body feels; your mind thinks.
  • When a disappointment or trauma happens your body’s soft tissues tense up and your mind creates a belief to help you make sense out of the happening or survive its immediate danger.
  • This belief, though useful at the time, was made under duress and its usefulness is likely short-lived. But there you are unknowingly operating under a misaligned belief well after the incident. At least until you’re triggered back into it, like a time warp!
  • The physical tension and emotional distress that lives in the body reactivates. Its painful grip is either out of per portion with real time events or creeps in as a low grade persistent whine. Meanwhile the mind spouts its misaligned belief with so much certainty that you miss its lie.
  • Anger, worry, sorrow, fear plague your body causing dis-ease. Pain in the form of poor posture, emotional distress and sickness follow, until the mind’s belief and body’s tension change the story—together creating a new experience.

It took another 15-years to address my nighttime story again out load. Mom went into denial, forgetting what I had shared, and I set out to unravel my body’s tension and mind’s unlovable belief using posture and movement, and changing my relationship with resistance inside and out.

I found ease through mind-body alignment.

I listened to the layers of trauma when challenged, experienced as tension’s pain. I then decreased the challenge intensity to where the pain wasn’t triggered. This gave my tension space to expand, express and exhale. As the tension disentangled itself, my strength was renewed and redefined.

Strength is now an alignment between my inherent innocence––mental curiosity—and my wisdom––emotional/physical truth––keeping me genuinely interested in each moment of connection and discernment. It is a posture of wonder.

Once we recognize our body carry’s our emotional baggage, our pain becomes our teacher. What we feel, physically and emotionally, becomes meaningful to our future and we are inspired to listen.

Our body’s posture is our first defender against chronic tension; and, it’s crucial to being proactive in our search for happiness and well-being.

As we deliberately improve our posture we learn to distinguish between our strength and our tension. And we unravel our tension and unlock the misaligned beliefs that hold us hostage to the pain of our past.

 

Click for a FREE Video to Surrender Tension in 8-Minutes!

Toughness Is Tension

I know when my body’s tension is leading the show. I feel insatiably reactive.

My muscles grip the need to succeed or survive. And when successful, I experience this toughness as strength.

The harder I push the tougher I get. I applaud my toughness in one moment… but judge it’s limitations in another. Problem is, I can never be tough enough.

You know those moments when, no matter how hard you try, you can’t satisfy. Maybe it was a punishing or needy parent, perhaps it’s now a demanding boss or client? Through my years of dance training my ballet teachers’ tough-love approach would riddle my body with tension. The more I tried to be perfect the more my body’s natural precision was lost. I realized, I don’t want to be tough, I want to be strong, and their toughness need not become mine.

Toughness is an internal sinewy web built on tension. It shrinks the empty spaces in our physicality; it’s like being deflated from the inside out. It misaligns us physically and misdirects us emotionally.

Our web of tension carries the weight of our life’s story. It’s been blindly woven from emotional disappointments or trauma, as well as, deliberately constructed to chase success (physically, mentally or emotionally).

The latter—chasing success—thought to be the drive that motivates you into your greatness, is often mistaken as prized ambition. But chasing isn’t a drive to thrive, it’s a drive to survive… it’s a fear-based reaction.

When the fear of failing is driving me to exhaustion I use this exercise:

  • Lie horizontal. Let gravity blanket you. Breathe.
  • Feel the Earth under you and sky above you together cocooning you.
  • Let your muscles surrender their grip, give your bones their weight; continue surrendering until you experience your bones and muscle as separate systems.

The former— emotional distress—is a fear-based distraction. Emotions cause our body to concave and contort into frozen pockets that we are often unaware of. This distorts our posture and disorients our perspective, but we experience it as normal.

If confusion and uncertainty are blocking me from being my best I try this exercise:

  • Stand erect. Let gravity flow through you. Breathe.
  • Feel your feet and pelvis heavy on the Earth and your heart and crown open up toward the sky.
  • Motionlessly let your bones extend out from your center of gravity (low abdominal) into a relaxed stretch between earth and sky. Experience muscle tension easing as gravity aligning you; continue this quiet stretch until you begin to feel held up.

In both these exercises you are unraveling the web of tension that lives in your compressed joints.

Strength is the flow of energy; tension is the stagnation of it.

To experience your strength’s inherent flow be still, breathe space into your body and feel strength’s force irrigate your sinews. Only then can you truly connect with it.

To go beyond surviving and thrive, stop chasing and stand in your fear!

When we do, we experience the strength we already have. We experience being strong enough!

 

Please accept my free video: How to Surrender Tension in 8-minutes, as an introduction to my book/3D-video package: The Art of Strength: Sculpt the Body ~ Train the Mind.

I’ve Mistaken Myself As My Book

Why a difference of opinion feels like conflict

My book’s purpose is to share tools that have helped me to take responsibility for the quality of my own life. It uses physical posture to relax emotional triggers so that the comfort of underlying truths are realized.

The effectiveness of these tools is unquestionable to me. But for someone else, these tools may be viewed as contrary to their existing beliefs.

At face value, opposition is a wonderful foundation for a growth provoking and intimate discussion!

Why then do I (and maybe you) hear opposition as criticism?

Criticism that touches on that which I hold sacred feels like having my sense of self uprooted. Not only is my work in question, but so is my personal integrity by association.

A difference of opinion doesn’t shake my belief in the work, it shakes my belief in myself. What morphs opinion into conflict is the internal criticism I interject toward myself that measures my value by how safe and content someone feels around me.

From this stance, any opposition feels like a personal failure rather than a comparison of experiences, information or understandings. (Not to mention it being a bit narcissistic!)

I’ve come to realize that sharing one’s wisdom challenges someone else’s. To push back is to consider, not deny, what’s being presented. (No matter what tone of voice they’re using.) They would simply disregard it otherwise.

Sharing deeply is an intimate exchange that asks us to be fully seen, and where we must allow our rightness to be in question.

I experience intimacy as a gentle probing into the mysteries of our inner guiding beliefs. As a verb it’s an act of vulnerability; as an adverb it’s a demonstration of strength. The art of strength is the grace of allowing strength to be vulnerable.

The tools shared in my book, The Art of Strength, have always questioned my emotion’s rightness. Now the book itself continues to do the same on an even greater scale.

Is It Tao or Dao?

Is it Tao te Ching or Dao de Jing? The spelling of Chinese words is confusing and inconsistent. Here’s an explanation.

Chinese writing consists of simplified images called pictograms, which represent words. Many Chinese pictograms combine two or more images. So the word for forest is simply a few trees combined into one pictogram. The choices within a pictogram can say a lot more about a word than what Western letters communicate.

A good example of this is the word Tao, the Way (seen above). It combines the image of taking a step and that of a head. You walk using your head – both when choosing a direction and in learning from the walk. One could say that it’s a way for mind and body to align. A spiritual path, if you will.

Pictograms illustrate the meaning of a word while analyzing the history and origin of the word. But it doesn’t help much in pronunciation or spelling.

The Western alphabet is all about pronunciation. In Western language, there is pretty much a consensus about how each letter is pronounced. Chinese pronunciation isn’t based on the Western letters and their sounds; in fact, the Chinese have sounds that differ slightly from the ones we are accustomed to. Again, Tao is a good example.

The sound for “T” is pronounced somewhere between a “T” and a “D” in our ears, somewhere between the unvoiced and voiced consonant. It was translated as “Tao” in the late 19th/early 20th centuries using a Romanization system called Wade-Giles. “Dao” was later transcribed into the Western alphabet using a Chinese adaptation called Pinyin.

The “unvoiced T––voiced D” is far from the only difference in transcriptions. Here are other differences in Tao’s transmutation:

Wade-Giles

Tao te Ching

Lao Tzu

Chi

I ching

T’ai chi   

Pinyin 

Dao de Jing

Lao zi

Qi

Yi jing

Taiji

English

Scripture of the Way

Founder of Taoism

Energy

Book of changes

Great art of boxing

And the list continues.

The mystery of pictograms lives on.

 

 

The Body Logos Journey

People always ask me: Tammy, how did you get into this work?

Today I’d like to share with you that story:

To learn more about the Story of Body Logos Click Here

Aflame with Sensations

BODYLOGOS = The Body’s Divine Wisdom

It is a Practice and a Lifestyle outlined in  The Art of Strength: Sculpt the Body ~ Train the Mind

Aflame with Sensations

by Hiie Saumaa – BodyLogos Instructor

“Just thinking about exercising makes me feel tired.” This is how a handsome, stylish, and strong looking man in his late 40s, with an arresting smile and a magnetic personality, answered my question of what he does for exercise. “I run to catch the bus,” he added. I had just stepped out of a joyous dance class where we had moved to jazz, hip hop, pop, and waltz rhythms. The choreography was easy, with plenty of room for free expression and play. There was structure and there was freedom. Just how I like it. My whole body felt invigorated, my muscles were humming with pleasure, and my bones felt relaxed and elongated. I felt sensual and strong, energized and present. I was alive to the vibrant reds, yellows, browns, and greens of the fall trees feeding my eyes outside the window of the small café we were at; I sensed the rhythmic pulse of New Yorkers going about their Sunday business and the enticing smell of cappuccinos in the making. My mind felt fresh and ready to tackle the next writing project. “Why would you not want to feel this alive, this clear-headed, this animated by movement, and this much in love with life,” I wondered, wide-eyed, in response to his answer.

I deferred judgment. There are many ways to feel alive, many ways to be present with the body. We have different needs for movement and exercise at different times in our lives. After more than 15 years of taking dance, fitness, and strength training classes and working as an instructor, movement has become such an integral part of my life that “to exercise or not” is not a question. The question is, sometimes, “when” and “where” and always “how” – how to work with the body with awareness.

But his answer did make me pause. He probably would not join me in the dance class that I had just taken: convincing men to express themselves through free movement in a class full of women merits an article in its own right. But perhaps strength training, lifting weights? In my mind’s eye, I traveled back to the weight room of the gym I had left a few minutes earlier. Grunts, wrinkles on the face, bared teeth, weights slamming to the floor, bulging veins, huffing and puffing, collapsed chests, rounded shoulders. People building tension in the body. As if we are at the gym trying to conquer the weights. To show we can do more. And more. Push harder. Stronger than the metal. Smarter than the dumbbells. Or, perhaps fearing boredom, we surround ourselves with words and images – screens, phones, movies, and magazines. The mind, after all, should not be idle. Especially on the treadmill or in the midst of yet another set of bicep curls. Indeed, just thinking about all of this makes me feel tired too.

“Strength training can be a study in sensation, imagination, and deep connection to the self,” I wanted to tell my attractive acquaintance, as he rushed out, careful not to spill his coffee. We live in sensation but are not very aware of our sensations. Our awareness of sensations heighten during times of romance: your fingertips tracing the contours of your loved one’s skin, her exhale touching your cheek, the weight of her head on your shoulder, the density of her thigh muscles meeting the pressure of your palm, time standing still for the two bodies locked in a tight embrace, the rhythm of her quickened heartbeat clearly felt through layers of fall clothing, yours and hers. We carefully listen to, decode, remember, and luxuriate in physical sensations during these times. Injuries also heighten our sensitivity toward sensation – we feel the pain at the back of our heels for months after Achilles tendonitis and the newly inserted metal aid in the hip after a broken femur disrupts our graceful movement for quite some time.

My friend at the coffee shop was long gone but I wanted to sit down with him and tell him how working with dynabands, the pulley system, weight machines, and free weights can be pleasurable, mindful, and relaxing. I see strength training as a time to cultivate my understanding of the language of the body. I have learned this approach through the technique of BodyLogos, developed by former Broadway dancer and Tao Minister Tammy Wise since 1997.

I imagined that my coffee shop friend was still there, sitting on the other side of the table from me. I imagined that he was willing to take 20 minutes of his time to listen to me. In my imaginary dialogue, I tried to conjure up some scenes from my exercise practice. “Let’s take a simple abdominal crunch, for example. So much to learn about sensation here! As I lie on the back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and lift my torso, I try to feel the weight of my head in my hands. This takes practice. Instead of my head leading and my neck pulling, my abdominal muscles take over. Once I allow my head to become a weight that the abdominal muscles carry, I begin to feel how the murmur of my thoughts quiet down. My mind starts to relax. Trusting myself into the care of my own ‘gut’ feels good. I start to hear the distinct voice of these muscles – they quiver and make a sound, like a purr, as they contract. It feels like an awakening of an inner engine. I discover the immense strength of these muscles – I can continue the crunches for a while. But I also discover the immense tenderness of the trembling of these muscles. It feels like witnessing the vulnerability of someone showing themselves fully, being naked, and speaking with honesty and truth. As I stop the exercise and move back into my world outside the gym, I continue sensing these muscles’ presence, their support: they hold me up.”  

Or perhaps I could tell him about how I experience a chest press? I continue my imaginary conversation: “I lie on the back again, knees bent, feet flat. My arms are out to the side and I am holding weights in my hands. I lift the chest and extend my arms up and carry them down. This exercise happens in the region of the heart, a powerful area for emotions. Can I take an imaginative leap and picture that I am lifting my heart toward someone or something I love as I am doing this exercise? This ability for the chest to lift and go ‘outward’ is embedded in the English language, in phrases such as ‘my heart goes out to you’ or ‘I sing my heart out.’ As I keep reflecting on this, an image of a particular person emerges in my mind’s eye. I keep holding on to that vision as I feel my heart moving toward him. I realize my heart is asking that I apologize in front of him for being neglectful. After a while, another image occurs – my current writing project. In my imagination, I see that instead of the weights, I am holding in my hands the book I am trying to write. The writing might be in a muddled phase – I still do not see the arc of this book clearly – but underneath it, I know, is my love for writing and what I do. As I lay the dumbbells to rest, in the tingling of my chest muscles, I feel my heart open. I feel more connected to myself but also to my work, the people I love, and the world outside of me.”

I wanted to convince my friend that the dumbbells are not “dumb” – they can teach us how to relate to ourselves and to others more deeply. Strength training does not have to be boring or depleting – it could be a life-long education in sensation and in awakening compassion toward oneself and others.    

I had finished my chai and it was time to move on to my next experience of the day. I stepped out of the café. I felt the ground underneath the soles of my feet. I felt my ribcage expand as I inhaled the crispness of the fall weather. I felt the freedom in my throat as I lifted my eyes to marvel at the dramatic interplay of the dark blues, whites, and pinks in the evening sky. I thought back to my charming friend who dislikes exercising so much. “Maybe one day he’ll give it a try.”

 

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