So how might a person start to connect in an embodied way to “the feminine” or “the masculine” energies inside of them?There are obviously no shortage of possibilities. But I decided to choose walking.
The neuro-biology of “walking” is so super-cool we would need entirely separate essays to describe it reasonably. But, in brief, walking is evolutionarily a big deal for the human species. Walking is how we have gotten around, explored, hunted for the most part (albeit crouching when things are dangerous), discovering new terrain and food sources, etc. etc.. Walking has always been, in general, associated with us DOING things and exploring, and therefore, with being competent, being productive, and in a fundamental way, feeling secure enough to stand upright and expose your vulnerable mid-section to the world.
In our very physiology, therefore, you would expect that the act of walking would involve neurobiological circuitry that also, through the associative hard-wiring of our evolutionary inheritance, connects to areas that process feelings of safety and security, confidence, curiousity, adventure, “can do”.
Over an evolutionary time scale, the encoding of “walking” into our biological programming, would represent a deep and embodied relationship between the act of walking, the exposure of the vulnerable mid-section, and the experience of not being in immediate danger.
Furthermore, walking is one of the best, most overall-health-improving things we can do. Walking activates pretty much every muscle in our bodies, and especially if it’s on relatively “organic” terrain (i.e., not the super-flat artificial surfaces of sidewalks and floors, but more like, trails, paths, fields, forests), then walking activates vast networks of happy-brain-stuff.
(For a much fuller description of all this – Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself – is amazing.)
In short, yes, walking is a Big Deal. And if the goal is to provide a foundation of stable, embodied awareness that can serve as a means by which one can access masculine & female energies — then walking is a superb candidate.
Walking in the Snow
Also driving my choice was the fact that for me personally, walking holds very deep personal meaning for me. Much of my not-at-home childhood was spent walking, and much of my adulthood has also been spent, especially late at night, walking the world.
Walking was highly instrumental in one of the first key ‘breakthroughs’ that I ever made in therapy. I remember the session well. My therapist was asking me to go into my memories and find a time in my childhood when I would say I felt really, deeply secure and strong in myself.
I sat there for quite a while.
…..deeply secure and strong…..deeply secure and strong…..
And then it came to me; during some of the tough years, I spent most of my days in the winter, walking the woods behind my house, and especially this huge swamp. Staying inside was both not allowed and not very desirable anyway. So, no matter the weather, literally 40 below, or a snowstorm or whatever, I’d be out, day after day, walking the swamp, kicking a little plastic toboggan ahead of me and watching it swoop and dip and slide. This was a large fraction of my non-school time in grades 5, 6, 7, and 8.
In a sense, this was a negative memory, because it was really not a good time in my life. At home, I was a scared animal. Too much of the rest of my life was determined by those years.
But the swamp was mine. Nobody else seemed to go there. It was Freedom.
And in the winter, oh my god it was beautiful.
All the half-fallen trees, leaning into each other, forming arches, everything covered in snow, icicles hanging down all over the place, glinting in the sun. There were ice caves and snow slides; I would follow tracks of different animals and see where they went. Especially after a fresh snowfall, once the sun came out it was a total sparkly, glittery fairyland.
It was also hard work. The snow could be three, four feet deep and you could easily sink down to your waist. Especially in the swamp because there’s all sorts of weird grass clumps and such that create gaps under the snow. It is definitely hard work. And it was fucking cold, and I’d be out there for like, well, all day basically if it was the weekend. I often dug little snow forts, or built them up around natural ice-fall-caves, and would go sit in them and watch the sunlight sparkling on the snow from the inside of my ‘cave’.
Sometimes my cat would come too and we’d hang out and….I don’t know….just sit there I guess, and probably imagine things. I’ve gotta say, a purring cat, a snow cave, and a silent winter fairyland swamp is not a bad way to spend a day.
* * * * *
So my therapist had me focus on a moment in that experience when I felt Good. Strong. Awesome.
And what came to me, was the feeling of walking through deep snow.
You know that feeling of forcing your knees and feet upwards and powering forward even though every step sinks you down past your knees again? Yeah, THAT feeling. It’s like an athletic moment, but there’s no competition, no self-consciousness, just you, slaying.
And think about the amount of core-activation!! It’s pretty intense. We simulate these things with fancy gym equipment like elliptical machines and such. But all you need is a bunch of snow. And if it’s in a beautiful fairy-swamp, even better!
* * * * *
Back in the coffee shop, I googled “how to walk like a girl”.