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NIGHT BODY by Roberta H. Whitney

The clock shows me the time: 2:51AM. I turn over and draw the blankets up tightly around my chest. I debate through closed eyes whether I should get up to move. The inner dialogue sounds something like this:

You’ll feel better if you do.”
“Yes, but it is going to be so cold downstairs.”
“Only for a bit-you won’t notice the chill for long and the carpet is warm.
“It’s the perfect time. It’s so quiet.”
“It’s quiet here too. My mind will settle soon.”
“And what about the body?”
“Oh, alright.”
Folding back the covers more with reluctance than gentleness, I pull on my fleece robe and secure the tie at my waist. My left hand taps into the blackness that is a chair, locating some slipper socks. I bend to put them on and proceed to the door, turning the knob to close it behind me as I head down the stairs.

My mind presses forward, “Well, if you’re going to be up, you could answer those emails and read the article on…”

I pass through a lower doorway on the staircase and scuff across the dining room into the living room, pulling closed yet another set of doors separating me and sleep.

I raise the blinds at the bay window, drawing in light amid the blackness. I breathe. I sigh. I don’t have the slightest idea why I have lain awake since 12:23AM. The mind has kept running…decisions…issues…conversations…even existential matters. Arms break through this cloud hanging over my head. My back arches slightly and then curves like a silky snake.
I come to hands and knees. Cat/cow yoga stretches move through my spine and back. I rest in child’s pose. My mind wants to grab onto something known here and I wonder if I should go ahead and work on a yoga lesson plan for later in the week? I seem wide awake. My mind feels clear. Or does it?

I close my eyes with a gentle intention. I want to be with my body. I invite the mind to rest. I kneel then, again arching my back slightly. Arms lift. I have an image forming of lifting weights. In my arms I feel resistance…

I lean over, ‘washing my hands’ of “it”…slowly, deliberately. There then is an interlude on my back. Something is gentle and opening. Movements are more unstructured. I lose a sense of specifics playing through my body.

To use Janet Adler’s terminology, in the next pool I remember, I am on hands and knees, my belly hanging down. I shake back and forth, then wildly throw my weight from side to side. Hair sweeps my face and shoulders like hard rain on a car windshield.

I pause. I feel my heart beat. The living room feels too small. I want to run. Instead, I move on knees like a bull—I bounce into the side of the sofa, several times then I slide my head down between my breasts and suck air from deep in my lungs. Exhaustion spreads over my shoulders. There is a sense of wasted energy…something about futility…loss…a scattering. Now seated on my knees, hands massage my head. Then I drop to the floor, knees bent. My head is in my hands.

I roll to my right, hands gathered at my heart. Nurture…care…ease…my breath changes.
I lie still and sense something within that is forming around a need in my life. I lie still, being with it all until it is clear. My body speaks.

I rise slowly after a few more minutes. My breath has slowed. My body feels relaxed and slightly heavy. I pad back upstairs through the three doors…I sleep almost immediately.
________________________________________________________

I’m not sure how many of us move in the middle of a night or use Authentic Movement to treat insomnia. However, I would welcome other’s insights and experiences.

I am not a scientist but I am intrigued by how a few moments of being with my body has repeatedly, on many occasions, calmed my whole being and restored a natural balance. I sense these movements in the night come more easily perhaps because I am more tired and my mind is less guarded. I also sense that night itself pulls me inward, in the quiet and darkness.
On night duty, if I allow it, my body shares what it is holding. Whether I give it a detailed witness or simply allow a general sensation to come, the time offers me release. Something shifts whether named or not.

The sessions in these night meanderings are often brief, each interlude lasting perhaps ten or twenty minutes. Many times I don’t jot anything down. The next morning there may be some details, or not. But I do in all cases, find rest and because perhaps I gain an inner congruence, I often feel less fatigued…certainly more than I might if I simply remained awake in bed, without the “night rising”.


3 comments:

Mie Sato said...
there have been times also awake in the middle of the night when I listen and follow my body impulses. I do not get out of bed..I lie there quietly until my body finds what it needs. Sometimes it is a rocking motion from side to side from vigorous to softly. Other times it could be shaking out limbs as if the days energy was caught in the muscles of my legs preventing the ability to surrender to deep sleep....Recently my mind decided that being without a lover did not mean that I had to do without tender touch.I started with my right hand following the skins surface down my left arm, traveling over my body like a forgotten landscape. I allowed myself to linger when the movement needed repetition. This became a loving experience of touching myself as I would like to be touched ending with a strong pulse deep in my chest. Then I lay quietly and fell into a deep sleep.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 7:52:00 AM EDT

Teri said...
What a beautiful vignette by Roberta and comment by Mia. Using mindfulness and embodiment to integrate deep layers of the psyche and body remains my favorite path. This includes writing and painting and making music. It is so joyful to be free from judgment as you observe your body and allow it to be the observed while your witness consciousness remains the observer.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 12:46:00 PM EDT

Emma said...
Really appreciate this post and the following comments. Since reading, I have practiced Authentic Movement when I can't sleep. Not sleeping has been a bit problem for me when I am anxious or stressed, and I am amazed how this helps me to switch from a chattering brain to mindful awareness even in the dead of night. I step out of bed and lie on the floor, waiting for movement impulses, my breathing changes, then often movements arise and finally I crawl back into bed and drift off to sleep.
Thursday, December 2, 2010 9:15:00 AM EST

3 comments:

Mie Sato said...

there have been times also awake in the middle of the night when I listen and follow my body impulses. I do not get out of bed..I lie there quietly until my body finds what it needs. Sometimes it is a rocking motion from side to side from vigorous to softly. Other times it could be shaking out limbs as if the days energy was caught in the muscles of my legs preventing the ability to surrender to deep sleep....Recently my mind decided that being without a lover did not mean that I had to do without tender touch.I started with my right hand following the skins surface down my left arm, traveling over my body like a forgotten landscape. I allowed myself to linger when the movement needed repetition. This became a loving experience of touching myself as I would like to be touched ending with a strong pulse deep in my chest. Then I lay quietly and fell into a deep sleep.

Teri said...

What a beautiful vignette by Roberta and comment by Mia. Using mindfulness and embodiment to integrate deep layers of the psyche and body remains my favorite path. This includes writing and painting and making music. It is so joyful to be free from judgment as you observe your body and allow it to be the observed while your witness consciousness remains the observer.

Emma said...

Really appreciate this post and the following comments. Since reading, I have practiced Authentic Movement when I can't sleep. Not sleeping has been a bit problem for me when I am anxious or stressed, and I am amazed how this helps me to switch from a chattering brain to mindful awareness even in the dead of night. I step out of bed and lie on the floor, waiting for movement impulses, my breating changes, then often movements arise and finally I crawl back into bed and drift off to sleep.