What’s a Body Council?


 
Introduction:
Do you talk to yourself…internally, if not out loud? I’m really hoping (and pretty certain) I’m not the only one who does. I may talk to myself out loud more than others but, well, that’s rather irrelevant for now. We humans think in words for the most part so that pretty much means I’m in good company. 
 
Why do I ask, you ask? I ask because I’m hoping to connect you with the voice in your head and then, hopefully, connect you to the several (if not many) voices in your head. You might have a voice that says, “HAVE ICE CREAM!” And another voice that says, “NO, you want to lose weight, remember?”  And there may be another voice that says, “Actually, don’t you have some work to do before the day is over?”

Have you ever thought about talking to these parts or even the part or parts of you that are aching or uncomfortable in some way? Like that sore low back, or knee or…

  • “I sure wish you’d stop hurting, Knee!”
  • “I sure wish you’d leave me alone, Pain in My Neck!”
  • “Go the fuck away, Low Back Pain! You hurt like hell!” I don’t have time for this!!! I have lots of shit to do and today’s not the day!”

You get the idea, right? 

So, there’s a book I love to refer to called Messages from the Body, Their Psychological Meaning by Michael J. Lincoln, PhD. From this book, other sources and my own experiences, I’ve come to believe that we are designed to be feeling beings. That I’m designed to be a feeling being and that my range of emotions and what I’m able to feel in my body is far more limited than what is possible.
 
[Here’s a note for clarification because I’ve come up against this when talking with folks on a number of occasions. There are feelings as in emotions and there is also feeling as in, “I feel my body shake” or “I can feel my legs tingling as I dream about running on the beach” or “I feel more lively now that So-and-So entered the room.”]
 
Have you ever thought of externalizing these voices and having an actual Council meeting? 

I never had, until Rod Boothroyd, author of Warrior, Magician, Lover, King, [That is a live link in case you are interested in checking out this book. I recommend it highly.] suggested it to me recently. Rod invited me to set aside time and space to allow a conversation to flow between my Sovereign and my Magician. That turned into a full on council meeting between all four of my primary archetypes (Sovereign, Warrior, Magician, Lover. More on these archetypes in a bit).
 
By the way, one’s Sovereign is that part of them which is, to quote Rod Boothroyd, “responsible for leadership in your life, creating a vision for your life, and knowing your purpose.” One’s Magician is “…the part of us that is able to see everything clearly and with neutrality.” And, “Our Magician caries our ability to think abstractly, see patterns and understand and make sense of the world.” Of course there is more to this and both one’s Sovereign and Magician can (and often do) go a bit rogue or get inflated or deflated.
 
Where was I? Oh, yah…I was THAT GUY who said, “I have NO IDEA how to do this or get the conversation going. That definitely feels weird as I think about it. I hope nobody finds out!!”  That worked out well, eh?

The next morning, while I was in the shower with a moment’s quiet, I thought about his suggestion and somewhat started the conversation. It was something like this:
 
Sovereign: “So, Magician, what have you been up to lately?”
 
Magician: “Well, because some of my better ideas aren’t being supported entirely by you, Sovereign (as in, you’re not clearing committed to them and letting Warrior know he needs to get them done) I”m kind of dinking around and creating distractions that are entertaining to me.”
 
Sovereign: “Hmm. I noticed that. That’s partly why I wanted to start this conversation. That’s a bit too much like you’re hijacking energy resources, Magician. I hear what you’re saying about me not making clear decisions. I own that. Here’s one to start, though. You and I are going to have a conversation after this shower so we can get on the same page. Are you on board with that?”
 
Magician: “Sure. This could be entertaining!”
 
One BIG surprise to me is that thirty minutes went by as if it was three minutes. ALL of these parts of me had plenty to say. Had I not had appointments to keep, for all I know I might still be holding Council!
 
Here are some of the benefits I believe I can get from Body Council meetings, especially if I do them regularly:

  • A way to consciously implement that ancient suggestion to “Know Thyself,”
  • A way to bring forth some unconscious feelings, beliefs, attitudes, etc that are contributing to disharmony,
  • A way to self-nourish,
  • A way to make public (at least to myself and my parts) and then to release; feelings, attitudes, desire, pains, hurts, etc. Anything I can do to LET GO of these things that served me once yet which no longer serve me is POWERFUL!
  • Ultimately, these and other benefits are on the path of my healing and awakening, which comes from raising my vibration which might be translated as raising my love for all.

Holding Council with My Body
For many years, I’ve considered the way I work with my body to be “running my body.” 
When it comes to me and my body in regards to movement, I’ve worked under the idea that my body needs to do what I want it to do. After both of my open-heart surgeries, I walked from post-op to the intensive care units. “That’s not done,” the nurses said each time. I wasn’t going to be wheel-chaired just because that’s, “how it’s done.” I was sending signals to my body that it WILL show up and recover and play again. I gave my body seven days of medical drugs for pain relief after each surgery. That was it. No more on day eight and beyond.
 
Why? I trust my body! I know it can figure things out. I know that it does a better job figuring things out when it doesn’t have to get rid of foreign substances that aren’t natural…aka pharmaceuticals in this case.

One afternoon a few years ago I couldn’t stand up straight getting out of a chair. Heck, it was even painful and hard to get out of the chair. It hadn’t been when I sat down.
 
When I did finally stand up, though, I had zingers running down my leg (from my low back) with each step. The fun part is that I had just put on running shoes because I was heading out to do some running speed work. Of course that stopped me, right? It would be smart to not push it under these circumstances, right?
 
No, it didn’t stop me. I know that the way I run isn’t hurting my low back or body, per se. Yes, I hurt (a lot, actually) but I knew I wasn’t damaging my body. So, I started slow, the zingers decreased and by the time I had walked then jogged a mile warm-up and got to the track, I was able to run my intervals without discomfort, fast (for me anyway) and I felt great after. This type of scenario has played out this way for me on quite a few occasions.

So, what happens in this situation? Well, I wouldn’t say that it’s exactly “holding council” but my Sovereign did let my Warrior and other parts know that they needed to take care of things. AND they did. They do…when my Sovereign is clear and certain and supportive and appreciative.
Prior to writing this article, I never actually held council with my body in the way I’m going to describe. I have done various parts. I simply didn’t take it as far and bring them together. Certainly, I’m looking forward to doing this again ASAP!

To hold a council there needs to be council members. Who are these council members when it comes to my body? Well, the head of the council is my Sovereign. The members include my various body parts; right shoulder, left shoulder, stomach, heart, liver, lymph nodes and so on. So, there are a lot of members on this council.
 
I think there ought to be rules. Rules like:

  • “Everyone” involved in the situation gets to have their voice and be heard until they are complete in their communication,
  • Communication must not be blaming or projecting,
  • Communication must not be story-based. It needs to be based on feelings and facts relevant to the moment,
  • Communication must be respectful, honest and authentic,
  • Communication – I highly recommend you have your archetypes express themselves out loud. It just changes things for the better. I don’t know why, exactly, but I’d guess it has to do, at least in part, with thoughts having to be formed more clearly to say them out loud and also that hearing them has an impact which simply thinking them doesn’t.
  • The person holding the council needs to move to different places (standing in a circle-ish space is probably best) for each of the different parts so that each part has their particular place to stand and be identified with during the council meeting.

While I have many interactions between my sovereign and my body, those are different from holding a council. These frequent, non-council interactions might be, for example, me sitting at my desk writing on my computer when my body starts aching or getting stiff. My Sovereign notices that my body is struggling and lets my Warrior (my worker and boundary enforcer ) know, for instance, either;    

  • he needs to step up his game, stay focused and keep my body on task regardless of physical discomfort or
  • he can decide what he wants to do in regards to my body; lean in or back off or
  • he needs to back off of driving my body and let it move around, take a break, have some water, …whatever.

My Body Council, on the other hand, is more of a time and space dedicated to communication, understanding and empathy. My Body Council might go something like this:
 
Sovereign: “Hello, Body Council Members. Welcome to this Council. I want to thank and honor all of you for showing up. Of course, I recognized you have your own voices and I want to do my utmost to honor them. You know I don’t hold judgment and that I am biased toward hearing about your feelings, reality and ideas regardless of whether you think they put me in a good light or not.
 
“Mid-back, I have noticed that rather regularly you begin to grumble and feel stressed, achy and slumpy when you are needed to sit and work at a desk for more than a short period of time. I’d love to hear what you have to say about that and about anything that can help us create a better future.”
 
Mid-back: “Thank you, Sovereign. And thank you for noticing and giving me this opportunity to be heard. So often I feel dismissed and like I’m perceived as a nuisance. Frankly, I just get really tired from sitting in one place. I get bored. I feel a lot of weight pulling down on me. I feel tension and stress and I feel it rather deeply. I feel it even more as you’re writing this. I think it has to do with some other part of you wanting to get this right, wanting this to be clear, wanting this to be helpful to others
 
“That part isn’t me, though. I’m simply working to hold this body up so it can keep working. It’s not easy keeping the pressure off of the heart and lungs when I feel this much pulling down on me.”
 
Sovereign: “Thank you, Mid-back. I feel you and I appreciate the work you’re doing for me. I’m also feeling that there’s at least one other part that is pulling down on you with heaviness and making your life tough. I’d appreciate it if another part that is aware of the role it is playing in this pain that Mid-back is having would share what it is feeling.”
 
Hermit: “I feel like you’re talking to me, Sovereign. I have definite anxiety and some fear around putting this article out into the world. I’m concerned it won’t land, that it won’t be understood, that I’ll be judged. Ultimately, that’s the big thing. I’m afraid that I’ll be judged. 
“I’ve been successful over the years at distracting Warrior from getting things done that I was afraid of because they’d take me out of my comfort zone, my shell. This is one of those things that I’m working to create distraction to redirect. But you have seen me and honesty is part of this council, so I abide.”
 
Sovereign: Thank you, Introvert, for showing up, for being seen, for being honest. I appreciate you for all you have done for me. I know that whatever you have done for me, you have done it with my best interests in mind…at least as far as you can see them from your perspective. 
 
“It’s important to note, Council, that we all have our own perspectives of what is best for Dirk. It’s important to remember that each of our perspectives is limited and that one purpose of this council is to share perspectives to broaden understanding. 
 
“It’s also important to remember that Dirk wants to grow. To do that he needs to do new things, risk failure and ineffectiveness and also risk heartfelt appreciation from many which can be even more frightening than failure.
 
“And I know that doesn’t necessarily address your concerns, Hermit. So, what, if anything, do you need to say or do I need to communicate that will help you be more at ease?”
 
Hermit: “Acknowledgement is a good start, Sovereign. Thank you. I worked hard for many years to keep Dirk safe by keeping him withdrawn in certain situations. That work is getting harder as he changes and insists on not going along with my efforts.”
 
Sovereign: “I hear you, Hermit, and understand. It must be frustrating that after all of these years you’re having to work harder rather than being able to retire. I also appreciate how you’ve taken keeping Dirk safe, by keeping him withdrawn and thereby safe from risk, so seriously.
 
“Can I ask you some questions?”
 
Hermit: “Okay. Yes.”
 
Sovereign: “Does that feel like a huge burden? 
 
Hermit: “It does. But it’s my job.”
 
Sovereign: “How did that come to be your job? Who decided that was a job that needed doing?”
 
Hermit: “Well, that’s a good question. I’ll have to think about that… It may have started in grade-school, maybe in third grade when he had pneumonia and went to the hospital for a week. He just felt so different and isolated when he went into the hospital. 
 
“And compared to the little girl next to him who had third degree burns over most of her body, his pneumonia was nothing. So, rather than Dirk getting shut down or demeaned for complaining when other people had it so much worse, I showed up and helped him “suck it up.” I’ve been doing a lot of that for the past fifty plus years. I’ve done my best to help.”
 
Sovereign: “I know you have, Hermit. And I can certainly understand your actions. You’ve managed to help Dirk avoid being embarrassed and worse over the decades.”
 
Inner Child: “I, too, want to thank Hermit for his efforts on Dirk’s behalf. Additionally, I want to say that I sooo much wanted to be seen and heard and accepted. I wanted to be, and to experience being, a child who was loved, listened to, accepted and then to grow up into a man who was comfortable in his skin under any circumstances. I accept that my circumstances were what they were and that your protection, Hermit, has been helpful for me in ways. 
 
“Yet it has also stifled me and prevented me from taking my hits and falls and learning how to “mix it up” with people of all temperaments and backgrounds. Your protection decreased my chances earlier on to learn to be comfortable in my skin and I spent many months’ worth of lonely, isolated and inwardly agonizing hours.
 
“Your inward pulling has been a ball and chain on my playful spirit. In working to protect Dirk, you have also stifled much of the play and fun I could have brought him.
 
“Life and timing being what they are, this may all have been for the best. I don’t know. I do know that I feel your pulling and to help counteract that stress on Dirk and Mid-back, I want to get up and move and change what’s going on. I recognize, too, that in the bigger picture that may not be helpful at any given moment. 
 
“I’m hoping to have more guidance from Sovereign on when to show up and also more support from Warrior. I hoping he shows up to draw and keep the boundaries that Sovereign decides need to be drawn. I don’t know if that makes sense or not. I suppose I’m also asking Sovereign to clarify his vision and to empower and support Warrior, Magician and Lover in their roles so that I can do me at the right time and place on Dirk’s behalf.”
 
Sovereign: “Well said, Inner Child. I feel you. Dirk and the rest of us certainly need your playfulness and youthfulness. You bring joy, innocence and lightness that make living a lot more fun. I see you lurking and ready to spring out at any time you feel welcome. I also know that you want to feel more welcome more often.”
 
“Mid-back, I want to check in with you. How are you feeling? You’ve been quiet for a couple of hours now and you are still holding things up as Dirk processes this council, considers how to translate it and types. Have you any feelings and/or thoughts to share?”

Mid-back: “Thank you, Sovereign, for calling this council on my behalf. The tension and achiness I feel has been ebbing and flowing through this process. I certainly feel more connected to Hermit and Inner Child and I appreciate that quite a lot. I don’t feel as weighed down though I am still working to hold Dirk up in a way that is harder for me than when he’s doing pretty much anything else other than sitting at a desk or standing at a kitchen sink.
 
“I believe there is a lot more that can be shared on this and that there are other parts that are pulling on me as well. I’m also glad that I was able to be here for this process without interruption. Thank you for helping me support Dirk.”
 
Sovereign: “I think that is a perfect statement for ending this council for now. So, I repeat those words, ‘Thank you for helping me support Dirk.”
 
For the sake of this article, I ended this council here. I know there is a lot more here for me to uncover. I’m looking forward to doing just that. 
 
Reader, please take note: As challenging as it can be to acknowledge my stuff and explore my shadow, I feel BLESSED by this work. And I feel blessed by this opportunity to bring up that particular experience to myself in a new way, with new light and new understanding. 
 
I hope the above was effecting at:

  • Sharing what a Body Council might be,
  • Sharing how the different voices within might come up,
  • Sharing respectful communication between parts,
  • Sharing authenticity and vulnerability. 

The ideas in that list are important because, well, it goes back to “Know Thyself” and that includes “Know Thy Shadow” which is the part that is most challenging, frightening, difficult, hidden.
 
Shadows trap a whole lot of energy and juice. One’s shadow may well be that which keeps a person looping instead of spiraling (referring to a previous article).  As one’s shadow is brought into the light, life improves and blossoms with a bit more creativity and vividness.

I truly hope this has been beneficial to you in at least some small way. If you decide to hold your own Body Council, I’d love to know what you think of the process!

With Loving Intent,
Dirk

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