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Articles by our Therapists


Relationship is Everything

Posted 06/04/16 by Marc Otto, MA, RSMT/E

We're all seeking the most nourishing relationship our heart's can imagine. To nourish means to feed and to sustain, and it also means to cherish and encourage. Nourishing food provides the essential nutrients for our body to thrive. Nourishing relationship provides our mind and heart the essential care to connect, play, and love. When we have a sense of accompaniment, or what I call 'with-ness'we feel less fear and pain, and we meet the tasks of life with more ease.

Relationship is everything. Decades of ever nuanced neuroscientific research has revealed that there is no single system in the body that is not wired relationally. How we digest and metabolize, perceive and play. How our blood circulates. How we seek and engage, touch and move and rest. How we store resources and respond to challenges, and how resilient we are to the challenges of life. All these and more are developmentally responsive to the quality of relationship in our lives.

When we feel alone, we slump and become like lead. Gravity's downward pull literally seems to grow bigger in the emptiness. When we feel connected and cared for, we literally feel lifted and lighter. When we feel this it becomes clear that what holds us up is Love, not the levers and pulleys of our muscles and bones.

We literally are how we relate. Or, as one of my good friend's daughter puts it, "We're relationists."

There are many ways to nourish our relationships, all of which come down to bringing care, gentleness, and curiosity to our embodied experience of being in the world. Let's check this out a little closer.

I'd like to invite you to bring to mind something you long for in your life. Maybe a greater sense of ease or care. Maybe you feel alone or maybe you don't want to hurt so much. I'd like to invite you hold this longing gently and steadily in your attention. What does it feel like in your body? Where do you feel it? What do you notice about the quality and texture of this feeling? Does it feel dry and brittle or soggy and shapeless? Is it prickly or searing, or is there a sense of absence and numbness? Whatever you're noticing, just take a moment to notice it and again, to hold it in your attention gently and steadily.

Now, let's pause and think about when you stretch a sore or tense muscle in your body. Or better yet, let's actually stretch one.

Gently tilt your head towards your right shoulder while leaving your left shoulder level where it was. Feel that? Feel that sensation there across the top of your left shoulder and side of the neck? (If not, slowly move your head about till you do.... yeah, right there.) You can even feel free to reach over to that left shoulder and gently press into that sensation. Ooh, that's a big feeling right? Yeah, for me too. Yeow! All that biking. I need to stretch this spot.

When you stretch a tight and sore muscle, the first thing that happens is that sensation increases. We feel it more! And this is a good thing. It helps us feel where we're tight and have lost flexibilitywhere we're undernourished. The increase in sensation let's you know that innervation and blood flow returning to that muscle. To feel that stretch is to nourish your body. You're literally coming back to life.

If you're still holding your head in the stretch, you can release it! Gentle though. Whew, that's quite a feeling, eh? Take a moment to notice what you're feeling here. Yes, you may still feel some tension and soreness, but you may also notice a sense of relaxation and calm. This comes from literally being with that muscle and feeling the stretch. This is the nourishing 'with-ness' we spoke of above.

Now, let's return to that feeling of longing. That quality you're seeking to bring to your life. Invite this to arise in your awareness. Very carefully, notice where in your body you feel this feeling. Maybe in your heart or belly or throat, or maybe you feel spread everywhere. Gently and steadily stay with this feeling. Wrap your awareness around it. If you can comfortably reach it with a hand, gently rest a hand over the feeling.

Take a moment to lean into this feeling. Breathe and take in it's texture and quality, it's size and shape, and how it makes you feel. Just like stretching your neck and shoulder, you may notice this feeling increasing and growing in your awareness. When we feel afraid and we feel into that, the fear often grows. This can be scary or upsetting. We understandably want this feeling to stop.

So if the feeling becomes intense, invite a quality of gentleness to be here too. And if care is hard to conjure, know that I'm here. There are feelings that are not easy to stay with. Feelings that are asking for our care and attention. Feelings that we can't feel alone. We all need that nourishing 'with-ness' to be with and stay with what we're feeling. This is not about enduring what you're feeling. No. This is about being with what you're feeling. Allowing our awareness to innervate and invite this part of you into the wider flow of your being and body. If only for a moment. That's all it takes. Just one gentle moment at a time.

Relationship is everything. When we 'stretch' emotionally like this. We feel more, yes. We also find relief, care, and greater flexibility in how we respond to our life. Slowly and over timejust like stretching a tight musclewe begin to embody and become the person we've always imagined ourselves to be.

Take care.

Warmly, Marc Otto, RSMT/E

For more information about me and my work, visit www.nourishingrelationship.com

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