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Hi! I'm Nadia Colburn—writer, teacher, yogi, activist

Listening to our bodies, free meditation, and free class

Published 3 months ago • 5 min read

Dear Reader,

Happy Friday! Today, I want to share a companion piece to the Make Your Story a Gift essay that I shared earlier this week.

In "Make Your Story a Gift," I traced my journey to understand, make peace with, and share my own story—and to support other women in their writing and healing journeys.

Today's essay, "The Wrong I Needed to Write," is about how my journey involved not only my mind but also my body. To accompany the essay, I've included a free 5-minute grounding meditation to help you connect with and come home to your own body.

I'll be diving even deeper into how we can integrate our minds and bodies and work through our stories (the difficult and also joyous parts of them) in my upcoming Free Online Seminar:

The Four Steps to Revitalizing Your Writing and Reclaiming Your Stories: A Holistic Writing Seminar!

I am grateful to be able to share some of my teachings for free, and I hope you'll join me! There will be time for learning, writing, processing, and discussion in the class.

I'm offering the seminar on three different days and times the week of March 11th—I hope you can make one of them live (there will be , but if you can't, sign up for Thursday's session to get the recording. If you haven't already, you can sign up below.

I'd love to see you there!

*****

Below is my companion essay.

Before you begin reading it, take a breath—this piece references being triggered, so support yourself as you read it. But it also talks about the healing process and how we can re-train our nervous systems.

I've included a 6-minute grounding meditation you can use any time you feel triggered in my full blog post here.

The Wrong I Needed to Write
(first published in
Spirituality and Health)

When I think back on the first years of my yoga practice, what comes to mind first is Pigeon Pose. Actually, when I think back on my experience with Pigeon Pose, it’s remarkable that I stuck with yoga. Because in Pigeon Pose I felt as if I was being tortured. No, this is not hyperbolic speech. Each time I went into Pigeon Pose, I’d have images flash through my mind of terrible situations: women piled onto the train to Auschwitz, unable to move; women crossing illegally into the U.S., jammed together in the back of trucks with no air to breathe; women being held down, against their will.

Relax into the pose, the teacher would say, and I’d try to not to come out of the pose. I’d try to stay a little longer.

Most often, when people are in pain in a yoga pose, it’s because they are doing something their body shouldn’t do. But I was pretty sure that I wasn’t overly straining my physical body. In fact, even though I hold tension in my hips, I’m also pretty flexible in my hips and always have been. My Pigeon Pose looked pretty good from the outside. But inside, it sent me into turmoil—and that made me curious.

So I kept coming back to yoga classes, and my body became more flexible, and I became more able to focus my mind on the movements themselves—at least until we got to Pigeon Pose. And still I found I couldn’t stay with my body. The more I focused on what my body was feeling, the more I felt a kind of panic. So instead, I moved between the images in my head and some larger space, up above them, some distanced perspective from which I could come in and out of the scene.

In retrospect, it is no surprise that Pigeon Pose, which is a hip opener, triggered me. We often store our physical experiences directly in the body—and mine was childhood sexual abuse. Even when the conscious mind cannot remember, the body holds onto its own lived experiences in its cells.

Yoga helped me practice coming in and out of this memory—even if I couldn’t put it into words. Yoga taught me, if in a coded way, pieces of my own story that I had not, for a long time, been able to access.

We need to listen to our bodies—and, at the same time, we need to have frameworks and stories to process what our bodies tell us. We need to be attentive and come out of the conscious mind. And then we need to make connections between the unconscious mind and the conscious mind and knit our experiences back together.

My yoga classes set the stage for me to listen to my body.

But movement alone didn’t prepare me or give me a real context or tools to understand what my body was saying. I needed to bring those stories back into language. I needed to bring the silent, cut-off places back into integration.

I needed both movement and stillness; I needed, ultimately, mind, body, and spirit all to come together.

At first, I wrote poetry. And then I started also to write prose. No doubt, part of my turn to prose was a growing desire to knit things together, to tell a coherent story. Like Hansel and Gretel, I was able to follow the moonlit pebbles that led back to my own early experiences and that ultimately led me back to myself.

By listening to my body, doing yoga, and then writing my story, I was able to re-train my nervous system and come into greater integration.

And when I did this, I received a great gift: I was able truly to come home. I found a new freedom. Ultimately accepting my story freed me from my story.

I want to add: home is not always a warm and easy place. Truly dangerous, unjust, and painful things absolutely have happened in our world and continue to happen; they happen far away and they happen in our homes; they happen to others and they happen to many of us. But our true home is a place of belonging, a place of well-being and peace.

When I was able to listen to the story my body told me and bring it into language, I found a new sense of home—first and foremost within myself. And then I could find more belonging and well-being with others and share it.

Eventually, I got trained as a yoga teacher, and today, when I teach writing, I bring in yoga and other embodied practices. To access our true story and our true creativity, we need to call on both mind and body.

If we are fighting against reality (as I was fighting to block my own story that my body was holding), we cannot relax; we cannot enjoy the present moment. And we cannot see what else might be possible. Our very capacity for creativity becomes blocked.

Our healing is ongoing; this is iterative work. But my story no longer traps me. I am able to see—and feel—everything else that is here. And there is so much wonder.

I believe that we need to do this work individually and also collectively in our beautiful, vulnerable, volatile world. It is radical work; it is liberating.

I'd love to support you on your own writing journey—whatever your story, whatever genre you write in.

If you haven't already, I hope you'll join my free class (the week of March 11th)—and invite others to join us, too :)

FREE class: The Four Steps to Revitalizing Your Writing and Reclaiming Your Stories: A Holistic Writing Seminar!

Please, as always, share this with friends and family, and let me know your responses, questions, and more...I love to hear from you.

with love and gratitude,
Nadia

PS: I hope you also enjoy the Free Six-Minute Grounding Meditation on my Blog Post.

Hi! I'm Nadia Colburn—writer, teacher, yogi, activist

Author of The High Shelf and founder of Align Your Story writing school.

At Align Your Story Writing School, we bring traditional literary and creative writing studies together with mindfulness, embodied practices, and social and environmental engagement. Join a community of over 25,000 other mindful writers. Get the tools and community to write your best work.

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