If you're reading this note, you probably have some interest in making peace with your body—healing or strengthening it so you can show up for the things you care about.
This process of making peace has been pivotal for me for as long as I can remember. As I say on my website, "To escape the uneasiness, I tried, first, to manipulate my body… then to accept it, then to nurture it, and finally to listen to it... I realized that to affect any kind of lasting change on a personal or global scale, we have to be present first—whole... In the end, we’re headed home—to our bodies, our instincts, our intelligence, and our collective pursuit of something worthwhile. If we can get our act together and recognize our value, we can get a whole lot of good done in this world."
These past few weeks, celebrating the intrinsic value of human bodies—all of them—seemed all the more poignant. And as the multi-generational trauma of black and brown people rose to the top of every thoughtful conversation, I was increasingly aware my own blindspots. Intellectually, I have always understood that this pain is pervasive, but I didn't feel it in my body until now—an unquestionable privilege.
I didn't know how to begin illuminating those blindspots, and that uncertainty made me want to crawl out of my skin and under a rock—until I heard an interview with Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, on Krista Tippett's On Being. He offered a way forward.
In his book, Mr. Menakem writes about how stress and trauma, safety and power, and the racial divide manifest in our nervous systems after generations of disparate experiences. He writes:
“While we see anger and violence in the streets of our country, the real battlefield is inside our bodies. If we are to survive as a country, it is inside our bodies where this conflict will need to be resolved... The body, not the thinking brain, is where we experience most of our pain, pleasure, and joy, and where we process most of what happens to us. It is also where we do most of our healing, including our emotional and psychological healing... There’s a way out of this mess, and it requires each of us to begin with our own body. You and your body are important parts of the solution... Your body—all of our bodies—are where changing the status quo must begin.”
Krista summarized his message like this, "You're saying that part of our civilizational work—our national work, our political work—is for each of us to settle in our bodies in a new way, and then we can settle in our bodies together, collectively."
Come back, he's saying. Come back to your body, check in with your gut to find any discomfort in the presence of others who look or behave differently from you—breathe into it and move through it. When it gets to be too much, return to a safe space, and then come back again to the new space. If we can settle in our bodies enough that we are not responding reactively to people who seem "other," then we can begin to settle in together.
This feels like hope to me. Hard hope, but real, collaborative, substantive hope. You can listen to the interview HERE. "Our bodies are agents of change" is a phrase I have used a lot in recent years, but that idea isn't just about being physically strong enough to show up for what matters. It's about being fully embodied, and making space for those around us to be fully embodied as well.
As you may know, I'm preparing to publish my third book, The Habit Trip, in December, and Mr. Menakem's message made me think of this passage from the last chapter: There is space for all of us. There has to be if we ever hope to have peace. This life is an Equal Swagger Opportunity—everybody gets to matter; everybody gets to be whole... And the only way to sustain our collective well-being is to listen: to each other and to the messages coming from our own bodies.
We have a long way to go before black and brown bodies, and women's bodies too, are safe to show up whole and unencumbered. But as Resmaa Menakem writes, "There's a way out of this mess."
Consider spending a day or two looking for beauty and power in bodies that are wholly different than yours, maybe bodies that have turned you off in the past. How does it feel to make space for them to be whole? What sticking points do you run into, and can you breathe through them?
And, then, maybe spend a day or two finding beauty and power in your own body, making space for yourself as well, blindspots and all.
Send me a note if you like. I'd love to hear what you find, whether it's enlightening and exciting, or ugly and strange. The noticing is where progress starts, and you won't get any judgment from me.
Kyshona Armstrong is a Nashville artist whose voice you hear on the intro and outro music of the Physical Disobedience audiobook. She is a force of nature, and this week her song, Marching On, from her 2020 album, Listen, has been ringing in my ears, offering a much needed shot of hope and perseverance.
I hear a distant Hallelujah
singing We Shall Overcome
I can still find a song in this old guitar
I can still see a light in that dying star
I hear that jubilee choir and its singing into the dawn
Keep on Marching, child
Keep on Marching on
The road it may be long, but keep on marching on.
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Past blog posts can be found HERE.