Waiting For the Host to Start this Meeting.

Mid July in the year of the COVID. An isolation-softening catch up by phone with my old pal Susy Joy from Bristol, UK. – Body Harmony teacher and font of fun and wisdom. We have been firm friends since meeting in Mexico in 2006, at my first Body Harmony International.  I didn’t know it at the time, but Body Harmony was to become my preferred travel agency ever after.

‘Helloo there!’

Immediately I’m smiling at her playful mock Irish accent, and my shoulders soften as I savour a connection beyond my lovely, but lonely, lockdown lair in Wicklow, Ireland – where luckily, alliteration is abundant, encoded in clouds from the Atlantic and distributed to the wordy by mischievous leprechauns.

And clouds truly are plentiful, as by this time we have barely seen the sun nor had two consecutive days without dreary rain and a cruel breeze since a glorious Spring ended abruptly on 3rd June, taking with it any worries over water shortages or running out of sun cream. We weren’t to know then, but in Ireland we had passed ‘Peak Tan’ and would soon be unpacking our sweaters and woolly socks from storage and munching Vitamin D supplements while wondering whether to put the heating on.  We also weren’t to know that the low pressure front moving in that day was to last until the August full moon nine weeks later.

(CO)Incidentally, 3rd June was also the day Susy and I were due to rendezvous at an Italian airport, along with three more colleagues and compadres of the community, for a joyous jaunt around Tuscany in advance of a Body Harmony retreat the following week. An event which I, for one, had been looking forward to since September with more longing and excitement than I’d felt in two years.  Thoughts of Tuscany and the joy of connecting with my Body Harmony family had consoled and cajoled my goose-bumped flesh and icy bones through the Winter.

And then the retreat became just another casualty of corona, and the world stood open-mouthed and breathless as lockdown ushered in a new terror and a new language.

“The Restrictions.”

No breathing.
No touching.
No moving.
No family.
No clarity.

Contraction

We lived according to “guidelines”, and our moods were dictated by memes: ‘Wash your hands’. ‘Stay at home’. ‘We’re all in this together’.

Some cried ‘oppression’.
It was surely compression
made an impression.

Overnight, “social” came to mean the exact opposite, and I have acquired an involuntary flinch on hearing the word, no matter the distance nor the context.  Goodbye “Social,” been nice knowing you.  We’ve had a few, but then again.

Clap for the frontline.

And the only “Normal” we’ve ever known has never really existed except in the birth of each moment, and in that it is always “New”.

And who could have predicted that Zoom and Skype would become the painkillers of choice for a disconnected world?  Or that a plastic known as Plexiglass, after years of humble toil in the lower divisions of the World Building Materials League, would be catapulted overnight to become champion?  We could be together while remaining apart.  And with demand for boomerangs having plummeted, Australia launched its own marketing missile, convincing the world that toilet-paper was the must-have accessory of 2020.

Expansion

My pandemic mood arc probably mirrors that of most people, and we have had enough talk of ‘curves’. But I think it fair to say that 2020 has served up more contrast and extremes of connection, aloneness, hope and fear on a global level than any year since World War II.  The experience in my body has sometimes been terrifying, sometimes exhilarating, but “The Measures” included a gift of time to slow down and be with the feelings. Finally there was time and space for some stories to die, some pain and shame to transmute.  Gratitude and possibility acquired greater value, and something approaching acceptance emerged with wings still wet from a chrysalis of resistance.

And Body Harmony has allowed for added dimensions of exploration, depth and enjoyment. Deep diving. Albeit alone and craving touch. Tears at the thought of a hand between my shoulder blades, a touch on the back of my neck. An explosion of longing in my chest. Feelings that can only be intimated online, but online we went. And it worked. And Body Harmony laid on life saving classes and connection practises. And Solstice Café.  And we waved and smiled at each other’s beautiful faces in postage stamp screens, and said ‘Hola’ a lot, knowing it was what was needed.

The host has ended the meeting.

2nd June, Newcastle Co. Wicklow.   It was 24º@ 08.30hrs.   Enjoy, for tomorrow it may rain.

I really am luckier than most. I have a wonderful dog and some truly understanding friends. I live in a quiet rural village within lockdown distance of both forest and beach, and our government have been somewhat supportive financially. But the weather was still crap when Susy called.

‘How are you, me ol’ mucker?’ That’s Susy – I did say we were familiar.

‘Not too bad, thanks. All the better for hearing your voice!’

No doubt we discussed our moods and the weather, my garden and Susy’s allotment. I was consciously trying to appear upbeat and positive.
One of us has grandkids to talk about too.
Then.

‘Would you be up for writing the next blog for The Website?’, she enquires.

‘Gosh Suse!… Seriously?… I’d love to.’

My breath pauses in my throat while my mind and body confer. (It does this a lot, and I can’t help wondering how it might feel if my thinking would take a breather instead of my breathing –  but I digress). I feel the tissue in my arms and sides tingling suddenly with adrenaline and my chest filling with a warm glow.
Pride…
Validation…
Acceptance…
Belonging…
I take a breath and my shoulders soften as the feeling drops through my back and into my hips, followed by a tremor of doubt in my solar plexus.  I feel the chair under my bum and the floor beneath my feet, and I can now taste a hint of the fear which has risen, with familiar ease, from my belly.  A zig-zag ripple flutters through my mid-back muscles.
Mild terror.
What have you just done?
Another breath.
You’ve got this, I hear in my head, as a sense of safety arrives on a wave of okayness that is gently bathing my entire body.
This is what you’ve been asking for.
Everything eases a little more as the slightest smile softens my cheeks.   My breathing steadies and my thinking slows further as I realise that ‘work mode’ is my safest setting – both for my own comfort and to portray confidence and assurance.  This is serious. Exposing.  I sit up and breathe again as Susy continues:

‘We’d been discussing among the committee who else might be out there that we could ask, and your name came up as you have been at most of the online events’.

‘Well I’m honoured, and a little terrified. And believe it or not I’ve been wanting to get back into writing for some time, so this would be a perfect opportunity,’ I tell my dear bearer of chance and challenge.

‘I don’t know if you have any idea of a theme or subject, but you can write it on whatever you like.  We will need it for 17th August, in time for the new moon, and it would be good to have a preview by the weekend before.’

‘Well it is twenty years ago this summer since I was first introduced to Body Harmony.’

‘Is it really?  That sounds great, Paul.  Whatever you choose.  You’ve plenty of time but don’t leave it too long.’

‘And I’ve been thinking about that time a lot recently because that really was a special summer.  And the whole thing of my friend calling Rosemary (Khelifa – the late, great and larger-than-life, laughing lady of Body Harmony in Ireland) to arrange an introduction, and finding out that she was hosting a Body Harmony workshop with Don and Linda McFarland (Dr. Don – founder of Body Harmony and his wife, from USA) that very weekend!  And we spent the first day ‘sponging’ on marshmallows. And Don let me poke at his knee the next and said, “Good work”.  And then Duncan and Gina (Hogg and Carruthers – teachers from Australia) gave another workshop a few weeks later and I was hooked!’

‘Fantastic! Sounds brilliant!  Gotta go Darling, run up the allotment before the rain. Speak to you soon. You take care and lots of love.’

‘Cheers Susy. You too. Bye Darling.’

‘Bye.’

In the silence I reflect again on that summer of 2000, a time of deep personal upheaval and dysfunction. And love and grace and generosity. And kindness and laughter. And hope and family. And I can still recall the realisation during that second workshop that something profound had come into my life, and that henceforth this work and these people would be a major pillar of my story.  Body Harmony was a force I was to pursue around the world in search of its secrets and gifts, that I might share and savour, heal and be made whole. And I breathe in gratitude for all who also choose to share this magical trip, those no longer with us and those yet to join. Gracias amigos y hasta luego.

Paul O’Neill – Body Harmony Practitioner since 2006.

© Paul O’Neill 2020