Updated: Nov 28, 2018
As an Acting major in college I was required to take several dance classes. I was often the only male in these classes, so it took effort to fit in and be comfortable (especially when trying to gracefully chasse my 6’5” body across the floor). These classes were necessary because I needed to become more familiar with my body and how to manifest an emotional character with it.
During a morning modern dance class I learned a story about Martha Graham that left a deep impression upon me. Martha was a pioneer in modern dance, daringly breaking away from the rigidness of classical ballet. In 1930 she premiered a solo piece called Lamentation. The dance was performed while she sat on a bench wearing a long tube cloth that revealed only her face, feet and hands. She dramatically stretched out as if trying to break free from the suffocating shroud in tremendous sorrow and grief.
Graham recalled, “One of the first times I performed it was in Brooklyn. A lady came back to me afterwards and looked at me. She was very white faced and she’d obviously been crying. She said ‘you’ll never know what you have done for me tonight, thank you’ and left. I asked about her later and it seemed that she had seen her 9 year-old son killed in front of her by a truck. She had made every effort to cry, but was unable to. But when she saw Lamentation she said she felt that grief was honorable and universal and that she should not be ashamed of crying for her son.”
Through the dance piece, Martha Graham facilitated the emotional release for one woman bearing a great burden. No one knows how long she had carried the grief, but after being empowered to express it, she found a degree of freedom and healing.
As a Medical Qigong practitioner I have seen what suppressed emotions look like in people. I see the energetic stagnation that contributes to physical suffering and pain. I recognize the restricted intimacy in their relationships, the conditional nature of experiencing personal joy and the limited perspective they live with when such trauma-induced emotions are repressed.
I’ve also seen how, through settling into deep relaxation during treatments and the work I do for them, these emotions finally find expression and tears that should have been shed years or decades prior are finally released. Such a release tends to generate the most liberating, healing experience they’ve ever enjoyed. This is one of the most satisfying aspects of my work with my clients, and it causes me to be mindful of my own emotional well-being.
How well am I processing and releasing everyday frustrations and anger? How am I allowing internal flow to the energy created by these emotions? How can I access and process past hurts, especially the ones that are really deep?
Well, I recognize two things: It’s not easy, and it takes mindful practice. However, I’m getting better at it and doing so helps me find balance and wholeness in myself.
What emotions are waiting for your permission to be expressed? Is it grief? Is it anger or frustration? Is it a fear that is begging to be voiced and validated? You’ll find that when the eyes and tongue give way to the heart with openness and courage, wholeness and healing are soon at hand.