Sunday, January 10, 2021

Feeling from the Inside Out

There's a Korean Women's Spa about forty-five minutes away from where I live. Most of my women friends have gone there for massages, scrubs, and just to soak in the pools, cook in the steam room, and lounge in the variety of relaxation rooms. One of my favorite parts of the spa is a little section along the edge of the pools. It's a white-tiled area with benches along two walls, forming an L-shape. Along the walls of the L are spigots with big plastic white bowls underneath. The idea is to fill the large plastic bowl with warm water and wash yourself after a steam or scrub, before entering the tubs. One could also shower, but the bowls of warm water feel so much better.

The feeling of the warm water flowing from the top of the head down the shoulders, over the chest and back, then pooling at the base of the spine offers the sensation of comfort, warmth and bliss. I remember at the last stage of labor with my daughter, going into the warm bathtub. Immersing myself in the warm water offered a similar (yet momentary) ease in my body.

For the last forty days I have been going into the cold lake near my house. I've become addicted to this daily ritual, primarily for the after-effect. The sensation of coming out of the water and the body working to recalibrate towards equilibrium is like nothing else. Yesterday the air outside was 34 degrees Fahrenheit and it was hard to get into the water. After submerging and getting back to the shore, I stood very still and felt my body working to recover from the cold water. It was like the warm water from the spa, but from the inside instead of the outside. Like thousands of tiny trees with plentiful branches and leaves blowing in the wind, my skin was being tickled from the inside out. The heat came from within my body and gave me a similar, yet very distinct feeling of warmth, comfort and bliss that I've experienced with a flooding of warm water on my skin from the outside.

For me, paying attention to physical sensations is one of my tools for staying connected to my interiority. Like a lot of people, I struggle to keep my perspective, to hold onto my feelings or opinions once they enter the outside world. I can feel very clear, very certain of an emotion I am having or a belief I hold, until my thoughts are mixed with someone else's and then it all becomes murky. I suppose that is the very nature of one's interiority-- it belongs only to you. It is sacred and known only to you. Too often I forget to connect back to my inner voice. I get lost in someone else's voice or social media or the news. I have to take a step back, a deep breath and a pause and come back inside myself to remember my interiority. But physical sensations-- like feeling warm water being poured over one's body or the post-cold-water-plunge experience-- are not subject to any external influence. They just are. They are pure. I don't have to try to step back inside myself. I am wholly experiencing the sensations exactly as they are. There is no external influence that can change the feelings in my body.

Recently my sixteen-year-old daughter Lucia started the process of looking for a job. She applied to restaurants and retail stores around town without any prompting. When I asked her what inspired her, she told me that she wanted to make more money so that when she got her license she could afford gas and insurance. I told her I was proud of her for taking that initiative. Lucia then said to me, in a very clear, seemingly planned statement, "Mom, do you notice how I do things when you don't nag me to do them? Remember how you used to try to get me to take walks all the time? Since you stopped bugging me to do that I take a walk every day. It's the same with looking for a job. I did that because I wanted to."

Interiority- Inner life or substance*. The actions Lucia took in her own life came from her interiority, her inner life. And they were pure and free of interference from the outside world (me). She could feel them and respond to them purely, from her inner life. Interiority--inner character or nature* -- is what makes each of us who we are. Connecting with that, listening to it, and acting from that pure internal nature, feels different from doing something (like going for a walk or looking for a job) because someone tells you to do it. 

We live among other people. Being completely free of influence from those around us is impossible. But connecting to one's inner character or nature is where we each find that magical feeling of truth, the feeling that we are doing the right thing, on the right path. It is where we ultimately find happiness. I'm reminded each time I come out of the cold lake that this purity of feeling exists. There is no doubt that I am feeling the sensations blossoming from the inside of my body. I feel happy and sure of myself. I alone feel these thousands of prickles warming my skin from the inside. It is a feeling of aliveness and clarity. Lucia found her interiority the other day. And it made her feel inspired, alive, and motivated. Physical sensations are a reminder of how energizing and connecting it is to really feel what is present. This reminder is an invitation to check back in with ourselves and discover the same sense of presence mentally and emotionally. You don't need to jump into a freezing cold lake to be reminded, but it might help. 



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