With the passing of Mary Oliver earlier this year, I loved seeing all the posts sharing her body of work. There were so many favorites I was reminded of that just speak to my soul, but one that has stayed with me over the past several months is this one:
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
-Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”
While the whole piece is exquisite even beyond that excerpt from above, the line that keeps playing over and over in my heart and mind is:
…the soft animal of your body…
I just love this so much!
I once trained with a physical theatre company who’s methodology was all about letting the body of the actor move and feel and react in the instinctive way we would if we weren’t so… for lack of a better word… “civilized”. To allow the physics of our body and the gravity of our world be the guide. To allow our animal roots and instinctive reactions come out to play. So when we are angry, we allow the body to pulse and feel the fire of energy radiate from the inside out. When we feel grief, we allow the well of sadness to overflow from each cell so that it is palpable to an audience. When we feel ecstatic joy, we allow the body’s shape and form to be just as expansive and electric.
Training in this form of art-making was very healing as it gave permission for the body to communicate the way it does best, which is not through words necessarily, but through feelings, images, expression, energy.
It provided a structure and an understanding of it being okay and normal and actually quite NATURAL for the body to be messy and complicated and soft and instinctive and evolving with desires, needs, wants, cravings, yearnings.
We are come into the world being that way and we are trained to hone it in and tone it down.
And I think this is one reason why I love breathwork so much. In the sacred container of breathwork, we give the mind a job to do (breathe) so that the body can communicate in the way it does best (feelings, images, expression, energy). With the movement of our oxygen, we have movement of our emotions and energy. With the permission to express, we have the safe space to make noise, to yell, to shout, to moan, groan, wail, sob, laugh, and give the warrior cry that is being held in our cells while we are being “civilized”. With the power and invitation of our breath, we let our bodies be soft and the animal that it is, without judgement, limitations, or the perfect box it’s “supposed to” fit in.
So if you’ve breathed with me recently or if you join me for breathwork sometime in the next several months, you may hear me use this phrase!
Of course, breathwork isn’t the only way to allow the soft animal of your body some space for healing, if that modality doesn’t resonate for you. You can dance it out, shake your body, break things, pelt a pillow, bash a kickboxing bag, belt at the top of your voice in your car or your shower, have sex, make art, play in the dirt, break a sweat doing some sort of physical exertion to help move that energy through your body, giggle or laugh hysterically, move through a yoga flow, walk in nature, etc etc etc, trust that you will know what you need to give yourself!
Most importantly, just L I S T E N to your body.
No matter how silly or un-logical or strange or quiet or simple the request, can you give your body what it loves even just for a moment?
This springtime full moon, as we continue to awaken and rebirth and get messy through the growing phases of the season, my wish for you is to honor the fullness of yourSELF. The fullness of your spirit. To honor the whole spectrum of emotions that you feel as a human being in this physical form, no matter how big or small.
Happy Full Moon radiant being!