How could I know that what Gail Larsen shared would change me so profoundly?
She said to speak from the body; that the body remembers everything that ever happened to you; that it knows every detail of your stories. When you speak from the body, what wants to be said will be said. She said,
â€œThe body has all the details. Just move and youâ€™ll know them.â€
Standing in front of the group on the first night of the retreat, I let her words sink in.
The body remembers. Everything.
There was a subtle sinking down in. The mind relaxed just a bit, realizing that something else knew â€˜howâ€™ to do this, how to speak truth, experience, and wisdom in the moment.
I began to tell a story from my life. I could feel the words coming up from the body, as if they were ripe for the picking. The body was ready, willing and able. The words wanted to be said. Thatâ€™s the best way I can describe it.
As I relaxed into the process of speaking in this way, the story flowed. Laughter came, tears trickled down, meaning arose, and synchronicity happened. The story happened in two parts, seven years apart. But in the telling of it, these separate instances, and the third instance of now (the moment of telling) merged together into one fluid river of experience. As I spoke of time being a fluid river running together, time showed us, in the room there in Santa Fe, that there is no time, there is only now, a fluid coming and going of experience.
Beginning at the beginning
On a Friday afternoon, I landed in Albuquerque, and headed up to Santa Fe by shuttle. Iâ€™d never been to New Mexico. I was there to attend Gail Larsenâ€™s Transformational Speaking Immersion, along with five other women brought together by Danielle LaPorte. I knew this was going to be a powerful time, a time of transformation, but I couldnâ€™t even begin to imagine just how much I would change from my time in Santa Fe.
When I received the invitation from Danielle, I didnâ€™t hesitate one moment. I had already read about Gail, and had known I would work with her at some point. From what I knew of Danielle, I knew the five other people she would bring together would be those who are interested in truth-telling â€“ my kind of people. And, I wasnâ€™t wrong.
In anticipation of the time in Santa Fe, I thought a great deal about what I wanted to come away with. Iâ€™ve had a vision for some time of speaking in front of large audiences about women and their worth, about the sacred feminine and how women are the embodiment of this sacred presence. I knew I wanted to learn how to speak in the moment.
This day in mid-January was cold with a bright blue sky and clear air. I settled into my room, and then went down to check out the lodge. I decided to get a workout in before dinner. I know that deep inner-work needs a healthy dose of body movement. I would make sure, over these four days, that I moved my body a lot, through dance, yoga and walking.
Over the four days together, Gail would lead us deep into speaking from the body. In a beautiful and supportive container, we learned so much about what weâ€™re here to say, what our â€˜original medicineâ€™ is (that which others experience from being with us), and the structure from which to create any talk that will captivate and hold an audience.Â Gailâ€™s work brings you to the intersection of â€œyour authentic self and life experience â€“ where your power as a speaker emerges.â€
The first time I stood in front of the group to speak, what had been high-flying nerves became a smooth, deep source of power. I canâ€™t begin to explain how that happened, other than I trusted my body to know what wanted to be said. Yes, it was that simple. Itâ€™s not as if there were no nerves. I was still a bit nervous, but I stood in front of the group and listened deeply to what was right there inside me, right there all around me, right there wanting to be said.
In my experience, speaking this way is about telling the stories out of which wisdom naturally arises. The body remembers the story and the story offers up the wisdom. And that is what I experienced.
This is exciting. To have experienced this, means I now embody it. Any time I speak, or write, or share in front of a group of people, I now know, deep in the bones, that everything will emerge from the truth the body holds; and, even more important is the truth of what I experienced. In the moment, in any moment, all of what is needed is already here; and, it is found by way of the body. The body holds our instincts, our intuition, our power and our wisdom. The body is the vessel through which the soul expresses.
Sharing Here What I Shared, There
So, Iâ€™ll share that first story with you here, just as I shared it in Santa Fe.
On a warm day in 1991, my husband, my daughters and I, arrived on the Stanford University campus. We were there to help my older daughter move into her freshman dorm. All of seventeen, she was arriving at Stanford to begin her studies.
As we walked across the campus, we happened to pass by the clock tower as it was striking on the hour. We stopped to listen, and in that moment I felt an overwhelming urge to be a student there, at Stanford. Now, at this time, I was 34. I had my daughter at 17, and had consciously chosen to not go to college while my children were young, so that I could be there completely for them, and so I could enjoy my years of motherhood.
Once they were a bit older, I had started courses at the local Jr. College, taking one class a semester at night. Iâ€™d been doing this on and off for four years at this point, and I knew I would eventually transfer to a four-year college. But of course, the dream to attend a prestigious university such as Stanford was just that â€¦ a dream.
So here we were, the four of us, standing at the clock tower listening to it chime. I spoke my urge aloud to my husband, Gary. â€œHoney, what I would give to be a student here, someday.â€ And his reply? â€œThen, I bet you will be. Just trust that it can happen.â€ I responded to his positive image, with a somewhat more futile one, â€œAs if that could happen. Iâ€™m 34. Thereâ€™s no way.â€
As the clock finished its announcement, we began to walk on, arriving a few moments later at her dorm. We dropped her off to begin her college life, and left for home.
Seven Years Later
Iâ€™m walking across the Stanford campus, alone. No longer do my husband and daughters surround me. Gary died, suddenly, three years before, my older daughter has graduated and is in graduate school, my younger daughter is away at school on the East Coast.
As I walk, I hear a clock chiming. I look up and there it is: the same clock tower chiming the same bells. Iâ€™m stunned into silence. You see, Iâ€™m there to attend new student orientation as a non-traditional transfer student.
Suddenly, time conflates and I am both here and there: here as a student, back there as a mother. In this moment, there is no time. It all meshes into one fluid river, punctuated by the striking of the clock.
Back to Santa Fe
Here, in the same fluid river, Iâ€™m standing in front of these beautiful women in a small, sacred container in Santa Fe. As I reach this part of my story where time conflates, just yards away from where I stand, the clock tower in the historic chapel on the grounds of The Bishopâ€™s Lodge begins to strike the hourâ€¦with bells.
There is a palpable sense of presence that takes my breath away. In this moment, there is no moment. There is simply the fluid all flowing together. I’m stunned into understanding.
The body is the portal to all experience. From within the body, we have access to the totality of life.
The body breathes.
The body knows.
The body awaits.
I’d love to know your experiences of the body, of its wisdom, and of how it speaks to you and through you. If you feel called to, please share here in the comments.
This is part two of a three-part series on embodiment. You can read part one, here. I look forward to sharing the last part with you.