Years ago, before I began studying somatics, anxiety controlled me. I feared new situations, people, and conflicts. Constantly trying to cope was exhausting.
During a class moving with the cellular breath brought an experience of bliss, of unconditional love.
With practice, it became possible at any moment to touch on this state. It remains today, a resource underneath all else.
The anxiety became more superficial and then began to fade.
Cellular consciousness is central to embodiment. It is the most powerful and influential tool in my own somatic practice and is essential to meditation.
Here are some of the gifts from our cells.
We are supported and nurtured.
The sea our ancestor cell first evolved in still bathes the cells of our bodies. This extracellular fluid, a saline nutrient soup, provides for all the cells needs: food, oxygen, waste removal. The cells themselves make and maintain this fluid in a vast cooperative network forming tissue, organ, and body. Cradled in a hammock of extracellular matrix of its own making every cell is perfectly at home.
We protect ourselves.
The cell membrane is its boundary skin, an intelligent sensing, communicating, expressing surface bringing in what is needed, letting out what is not. The choice is made at the membrane, effortlessly choosing yes and no. As the moment requires, the cell fearlessly allows, defends or bonds.
We have complete knowledge of 3 billion years of evolution.
The cell’s DNA has the code for everything it has needed to create itself and adapt to a changing environment during all of evolution. A little added here or changed there. Most of the information has no longer been needed for millions of years but lies dormant, an archive accessible to the magic of mutation and recombination by future generations. Cells have the ability to effortlessly be what they are, do what they do, change, grow, and die as required.
We are never lonely, always hugged in a social puppy-pile.
Some cells are bonded together intimately, sharing cytoplasm through gap junctions (skin). Or even merge completely, sharing a single body among many nuclei (muscles). Others touch, support and communicate with one another by extracellular fibers (fascia, connective tissues). Nerves can be several feet long communicating with thousands of neighbors at both ends and wrapped tightly by others along the way. There are cells that move, feeling along the cell membranes of other cells as they go (immune, astrocytes).
The cellular breath
Cells embrace a continuous movement of expanding and condensing, the vibration of heated fluid, the movement of the molecules of life encountering and interacting, the membrane drawing nutrient-filled fluid into and out of the cell. To initiate our own movement from the movement of the cell brings deep self-awareness.
How this changed my life
Directly experiencing the cells alleviated my anxiety through its qualities of being in the present, the effortlessness of decision making and action, the inner knowledge of community support and self-containment. Our identity is formed from our experience of ourselves, our actions tell us who we are. So the experience of our cells doing these things gives us the feedback we need to feel successful, capable, confident. Knowing that all is provided, accomplished with ease, brings comfort and equanimity, and sometimes even bliss.
For the practitioner:
The spiritual teacher Adyashanti places a primary importance on the Zen concept of “the yin foundation” of a spiritual practice. The ability to sit with what the moment presents, be it pain, strong feelings, boredom, or fear is based on this skill. Our cells hold this basic quality. Bringing our awareness to them increases its expression.
It is the physically felt, grounded, absorbing power of acceptance.
For the therapist:
Cellular consciousness is the place of origin. The alive relationship to self and others that all other expressions of movement and experience arise from. Connecting cellularly with a client is underneath perception and understanding. It is our cells, collectively, that sense and communicate with our clients. Resting in this knowledge can bring us into a flow state, where our actions effortlessly happen without being the doer.
Take a comfortable position, lying, and place your hands in contact with your body.
Imagine yourself basking in sunlight in a peaceful place. Bringing your attention to your breath, allow it to lengthen and deepen, like you are slowly sipping a delicious rich warm drink. Feel the comfort of it spreading throughout your body, reaching every cell of your body in waves down to your toenails and the roots of your hair. Filling your chest and belly with relaxation. Snuggling together your cells bathe in the continuous flow of warm, nutritious, oxygen enriched fluid, contained, comforted, held in community, in the depth of a wisdom going back to the beginning of time. All things effortlessly begin, continue, and end in the fluid movement of the cell. Follow the flow of breath in through the membrane, becoming you, and releasing out in relaxation. This is the continuous movement and change that underlies stillness.
As Bonnie Bambridge-Cohen sees it:
Embodiment is the awareness of the cells of themselves. It is a direct experience. There are no intermediate steps or translations. There is no guide. There is no witness. There is the fully known consciousness of the experienced moment initiated from the cells themselves. In this instance, the brain is the last to know. There is complete knowing. There is peaceful comprehension. Out of this embodiment process emerges feeling, sensing, thinking, witnessing, understanding, compassion. The source of this process is free; it is love.
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