Where there is no free flow, there is pain. Where there is pain, there is no free flow.
My teacher used to say this over and over and over again. Free flow of what?, you may ask. Blood, Qi, Emotions, Fluids...all of it. Sometimes these things get stuck, stagnate somewhere, pile and pile and pile on itself. This means important substances, like the blood in our body, is potentially not going to certain places because it's being hoarded in other nooks and crannies.
Where do your accumulations gather? What accumulations gather?
A lot of times, when pathogens (cold, damp, heat, wind, dry) first enter the body they get lodged into specific zones. This is our body's way of defending our vital organs, from allowing the pathogens to penetrate into our deeper layers. A lot of times, these pathogens will gather on the surface of our body (ie: skin), or in our joints. Sometimes these pathogens enter from the outside (external pathogens). Sometimes these pathogens are created inside of us (ie: internal wind). Depending on what our chronic (root) disharmonies are, different acute manifestations (branch) will occur.
Our skin is our first line of defense for external pathogens. Thought of as the largest organ of the body, the skin and it's health shows a lot of a person's overall balance. The skin is directly associated with the lungs. The lungs being the most "exterior" of the organs, controls the opening and closing of the pores, and therefore is associated with our ability to sweat. The lungs inspire oxygen, and expel carbon dioxide. They are a continuous detoxing mechanism.
I've written in the past about the lungs, the contracting nature of fall, and their ability to "let go" of superfluous toxins, feelings, pathogens, etc. I've also written about how important deep breathing, or some kind of breathing practice, is to tonify this function.
Well, here is where it gets personal.
For a long time I fought my feelings. I fought back my tears, pretended to not get upset, but in fact I just made it so much worse. Have you seen the face of someone who is upset, crying, nose running and stuffing up, fighting back the tears as hard as they can? I used to do this all the time - my nose would plug immediately, making me feel nauseated from the phlegm. My face would get a surreal geographic splotchiness all over, I would sweat. I would get heart palpitations, my eyes would swell. My body is trying to get rid of the heat, but I'm resisting it, making it worse.
Typically from there would be a belly ache or a headache. Sometimes vomiting or immediate bowel movement will occur. The body responds to the mind. Afterwards, I would feel worse. I would beat myself up for getting so upset, embarrassed by the tears, the palpable emotional reaction. Depression, anxiety, a feeling of listlessness would incur. And the cycle continues. This a pretty classic response to stagnation of emotions, creating internal manifestations of heat. I would geek out about what this means for TCM, but maybe for another time.
As a young woman, I found it hard to relate to a lot of my peers, finding solace in older friends and adults, teachers and my older brothers. Coming of age was harder because I felt so incredibly soft inside while presenting as a tough little girl. I was surrounded by boys and men for most of my childhood, revering and fearing them all at the same time. Trying to keep up. Trying to be like them. Trying to be the best. Making my armor stronger and stronger each day, while at the same time, forgetting that what lies beneath my armor needs attention too.
Cognitive dissonance is a real thing. It took me a really long time to love, and lean into, my emotional side. It has taken even longer to give up this idea of presenting as a perfect person. The tears, when they come oh so often, now tend to fall peacefully from my eyes. I breathe, I try to relax my face, I let it go. I tonify my lungs' mechanism to let go of the grief and fear. It is an every day practice that I sometimes get lost in. I am really honest when I don't feel great or something is bothering me, because it isn't worth holding onto. This is also a daily practice and I am not perfect at it. Letting go of the need to control my productivity, and being highly productive, is a part of this daily work.
Pain. It's a small word with a big meaning. A lot of us tuck that meaning away, so we don't have to deal with it. Some of us fold into it,
enveloping ourselves in it so we can't see outside of that part of ourselves. Some of us build our defense up so much we end up on top of a castle with no stairs surrounded by a moat, our body as stiff as a wood beam. Some of us live outside of our bodies, because the tactile nature of feeling is too much. We don't even feel the pain that might exist, because we aren't paying attention. Because if we do, we might collapse.
My work with massage is asking you to observe your pain, your tenderness, your accumulations. Bring your attention to them, breathe into them, relax around them. The journey of healing is not a day at the spa. Healing is hard work. Sometimes dark, and a lot of times it feels worse before it gets better. Healing is extremely uncomfortable.
A friend recently described this work as "welcoming the teacher of discomfort."
Instead of resisting, shifting your perspective to welcoming discomfort's presence. Not fighting the tears; Letting go; Relaxing into the tension; Breaking up stagnation.
Where there is free flow, there is no pain.