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What do women want? Another take.

April 29, 2011

The body’s center, hara. The web of connective tissue encompassing our bodies. Grounding, and its survival value. The Gutsy Women’s Workout as a practical way to develop grounding. And the question — what do women want?

Right now, the question and the concepts are twirling around, teasing out their relationship with each other. Rather than address any of them straight on, I’ll tell you about the dramatic centerpoint of my second session of Integral Bodywork in Chicago with Everett Ogawa.

In the first session Everett had worked relatively lightly and briefly with my psoas muscles, the muscles ranging along my spine and connecting the lower and upper regions of my body. Three-quarters of the way through the second session, he started working the top of my left shoulder and the back left-side bottom of my rib cage.

Two thoughts came to me: “I lost the baby.” And “Something broke that can’t be fixed.”

I felt nauseous. I felt the urge to push something up from my belly and out through my mouth. Expel it. Then sobs quaked through me. I cried despair, neverending grief. This baby dying, dead inside me; stuck, unexpressable, unexpungeable. My own impending death, this baby a time-bomb set to explode, shatter me.

And at the same time, I was witness to what was happening. I haven’t been pregnant in this life. Was this upheaval a memory of another lifetime in which I had been pregnant and couldn’t push a stillborn baby out? Or had my pregnancy proven beyond doubt that I’d violated tribal norms and the elders had sewn my vagina shut?

In any event, the baby was lost inside me. The baby about to kill me was lost inside me.

In the background, I heard words that, as I would later learn, the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas attributes to Jesus:

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.

My grief felt endless. Honoring it, not suppressing it, I gradually brought my sobbing to stillness.

Everett gently resumed working those same places — my top left shoulder and then the back left-side bottom of my rib cage. Once again, I tumbled into sobbing, this time feeling that I was grieving for all women everywhere through time.

After several moments, knowing that I’d arrived at my emotional limit, I asked Everett to stop working those areas. He went on to work the corresponding places on my right side — without corresponding upheavals — and skillfully addressed my neck. That concluded session two.

The dramatic centerpoint of session three also occurred toward its conclusion. Everett came to a thick band of connective tissue all glued together over the front right-side middle of my rib cage. No despair here, only red-hot rage.

As Everett pressed into the band and it started to give way, I roared against atrocity beyond belief  in a language I didn’t know I knew. Everett pressed into the band again. As it released completely, all I could say was “Thank goodness,” in entirely ordinary English.

Several days later, home from Chicago, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Max Dashu, an independent scholar and a stellar figure in the field of women’s studies. Her Suppressed Histories Archives present her decades of research on ancient female iconography as well as the ways in which women have both experienced and resisted cultural oppression through time and across the globe.

During our hike, I asked Max — as I’m often asking these days — “What do women want?”

She answered: “Women are tired. They’re carrying, are burdened with, so much abuse. Women want release.”

I suspect Everett Ogawa would agree. Release the connective tissue’s sticking points, air out the experience that’s been trapped there, allow energy and awareness to flow: such release prepares the mind and enables the body to ground.

In fact, he says, the process of Integral Bodywork not only relieves chronic pain, enhances creative expression, and supports personal growth — it also expedites the release of trauma of all kinds.

In fact, the first time I put myself on his bodywork table he said point blank: “We’re going for release. That’s what this work is about.”

What do women want?

Grounding and its survival value, okay.

I’m willing to consider release.

Is it fun?

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