Strike a pose: what thanksgiving looks like, in your body

Last week, I attended a workshop hosted by Emergence magazine, on Writing Beyond the Environment.

I wasn’t sure I could free up the time that day, even though I’d committed to it. So I opened the zoom room, with several other tabs open, still half-embedded in another word document… but I had my notebook ready, and I leaned in.

And the teacher invited us to sit back, instead.

Consider your posture, in this moment, she asked. Are you leaning forward? (Yes.) Are you supported in your body? (Not really.) Are you in a position to listen, breathe, receive? (Usually only at the end of a yoga class and definitely never when I’m at my desk.)

Photo by Danie Franco on Unsplash

I was radically re-set, in that moment.

My “posture of learning” or working is, I realized, deeply conditioned – sit up straight, chin up, eyes forward, lean in… Like a soldier standing on the parade ground ready to receive the orders. Snapping to “Attennnnn-SHUN.”

Even in the first few moments of the class, I kept reflexively transcribing all the smart things she was saying and screenshotting all the beautiful slides, because I needed to know this stuff, I needed to take notes, and file it away.

The invitation to move differently, to respond differently, was lovely and provocative.

The invitation to let it land in my body, truly, and work its way through me (instead of me grasping, clutching, filing), was beautiful and really really hard to meet.

And if I’d actually taken the time to read her description of the class, I would have maybe been better prepared for the challenge.

Writing is almost entirely centred on the act of doing – pushing pen across page as if plowing or bulldozing – forcing creation as if taming it with language. In this way, we populate the blank space of the page with worlds and characters. Our posture as writers is most often forward leaning, tilting away from our own centre of knowing, as we effort our way from one sentence to the next. There is another way, however, this is the posture of sitting back, slowing, quieting, centring and receiving what arises from the deep quiet within. Instead of hunting and tracking our narratives, we can also actively away them, attuning ourselves to their presence and allowing that presence to guide our hand. This workshop focuses on a sustainable aspect of the writing process that challenges the colonized, patriarchal, capitalist influence on our creativity and invites collaboration from the unseen. We will sit in mindful quiet together, read short excerpts that support receptivity through natural expression, and allow what words arise from this place.

Jamie Figueroa

Mind-blowing, right?

(And can we replace the word writing with “cooking” or “hosting” or “teaching” or “speaking” or “doctoring” or “parenting” whatever else we tackle with our best striving energy? Does it still resonate?)

Outside of yoga, I’ve rarely heard the word “posture” used, and I love the invitation to consider it, to consider how we’re holding our bodies, and what shape we’re making, whether we’re in pull or push mode, in give or grab mode, in scarcity or in gratitude.

Today, a day that many of us will be moving our bodies through rituals of feast-making, take a second to check in with your body. Are your shoulders up around your ears? Is your jaw clenched? Is your back stiff and sore? Do you need to pause, take a deep breath, ask for a hug or go for a run?

In the Spiral of the Work that Reconnects, a system of engaging with grief around the climate and finding empowerment to respond, gratitude is described as a stance, as THE thing you can ground yourself in, as your foundation for moving into action from. It’s not a formula or a journal or a practice, so much as it is a way you hold yourself in the world, as a physical embodied being. It’s a posture.

What’s the posture of gratitude? Co-author of Active Hope, Chris Johnstone, told me that for him, it’s kind of a dance, like tai chi, flowing through movements, of giving and receiving.

I liked this, because I’d been trying to imagine how I’d hold my body in a gratitude stance, and it was feeling very frozen and stiff and soldier-like. And awkward. My pose (in my mind) was of someone uncomfortably receiving a gift or a compliment and trying to be gracious about it. I was adjusting myself like a marionette. And I couldn’t get it right. It was basically a physical cringe. Chris helped me unfreeze that pose, and think of gratitude as a dance, that changes with the music, and where you’re at, and who you’re with. It let me be less wooden, suddenly, and come back to my body.

Photo by HLS 44 on Unsplash

Is your thanksgiving posture jubilant and leaping? Is it holding a baby close? Is it letting yourself lean against someone’s safe chest? Is it leaning against a tree, or trying to wrap your arms around it? Is it jumping on the trampoline and trying to do the splits? Is it the feeling of air blowing through your hair as you spin your bike along a stretch of path? Is it the warmth of a cat on your lap or a dog returning you a slobbered-on stick? Is it handing someone a plate, or accepting a filled cup from them? Is it plunging your hands into a sink full of soapy water? What does it look like, from the perspective of your body?

I hope that today, you feel it. That you take a moment to embody it. That you give yourself permission to let it land, and settle in your warm places, your soft places, your corners and crevices, to make its home in your body.

I hope you feel gratitude, and can let it inhabit you and move through you and out out out, into the world, as hugs, smiles, high-fives, offerings, leaps. Alive as we all are, blessedly, right here and now.

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