THE SIMPLE APPROACH of learning from your “Affection Teacher” can help you develop an entirely new habit around how you relate to difficult feelings inside your own body. The experience of affection is a great teacher because it speaks the language of “your-body-in-connection.”
Let’s take a first step toward finding your affection teacher by imagining a situation that may help you better notice where and how your body responds with an empathic, caring presence.
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re attending a meeting when a nurse from a nearby hospital phones to say that a newborn baby has been abandoned and was brought into the hospital a few hours earlier.
The doctor and nurses on duty have stabilized the infant with emergency care and basically the baby is OK. But the nurse has a feeling that in the next few hours, if the infant isn’t held with loving care, he won’t survive–and the hospital does not have enough staff to allow someone to do this.
The nurse’s call is to inquire whether anyone at the meeting could spare an hour after the session, just to hold the baby so he could feel he was not alone, and that someone really cared.
Let’s say you volunteer. Now, take a few quiet moments to get in touch with how your body would try to say to that baby without words,
- “You are precious. I’m here. I care.”
Remember, it’s not the words you say. It’s the body-feel of those words that the baby needs to pick up.
How would you let “YOUR BODY” communicate without words that same message to the baby?
Take whatever time you need to notice how your body already knows something about how to do this.
It’s in the body messages of “open pores,”relaxed muscles, quality of touch, breathing, heart rate, etc., isn’t it?
That’s your Affection Teacher!
2. Learning from Affection Teachers
WHAT YOU ARE TURNING your attention toward in the above exercise is the language of how your body communicates caring, openness, and loving presence.
It is the inner sense of your body expressing an availability to let someone or something get inside you, penetrating your usual protective walls and barriers.
It’s almost as though the outer membrane of your skin becomes porous rather than tight, and some special quality of presence flows back and forth through this permeable layer of tissue.
MOST OF US HAVE a similar experience when visiting someone in the hospital who is too weak or medicated for verbal talk. Instead of saying words, our arms and hands must say this as we reach out to touch, to hold, to embrace the one who is ill or dying.
Take a few moments to sit back, close your eyes, and bring back the body-feel of such an experience if you have had this in your life.
Then, allow a further moment to recall other situations where you instinctively contacted your inner affection teacher to help you say with your body:
- “I’m here.”
- “I care.”
- “I love you.”
- “You are safe.”
- “You can trust me.” “You are not alone.”
Recall moments where words were inadequate to say all this, and you relied upon your body to communicate the message.
Take whatever time you need to experience this, before continuing below.
The point of connecting with your affection teacher is that the feelings you push away and deny, or treat like an enemy, need to feel your caring presence physically, just like the abandoned baby did, in order to trust and share with you their story. They can’t change and heal without this caring relationship from you.
THE STORY IS TOLD of an old grandmother taking care of her little grandson in her home while he was ill. The boy had recently been given a small puppy, and he wanted the puppy on the bed with him. His mother objected fearing the puppy might soil the bedclothes. The grandmother was quite firm, however, “If my grandson wants his puppy on my bed, then the puppy will be on the bed!”
What the older woman knew was that the little boy felt a great deal of affection for his puppy. If he felt affection, she realized, he would be more in his body, and she had learned from long experience that a person who can be more in their body, in a caring way, heals faster.
SOMETIMES, WHEN DELIBERATELY attempting to observe your body’s language, it can be helpful to notice your body-feel of different situations. For example, what is the difference in your feel of holding a grocery bag against your body as you bring it from the car to the kitchen, and how does that compare with holding a baby that needs to be comforted? For most of us, our “affection teacher” immediately starts telling our body what to do.
The difference can be quite striking when you put the two experiences side by side.
Take a moment to notice that difference.
Very often, infants or small animals of any kind will call out body resources of affection and a quality of presence from our bodies that other situations don’t evoke from us. These experiences can become our affection teachers in how we need to treat the feelings we make into enemies and carry inside ourselves. It is no wonder that the way we treat our feelings often makes us physically and emotionally sick!
YOUR AFFECTION TEACHER is really an amazing resource that enables most emotionally developed human beings to respond in some degree with a caring presence. A baby, or a small child, and a sack of potatoes may weigh roughly the same. But your body’s felt connecting to each of them normally expresses a very different quality of physically felt presence.
The exercises you have experienced so far on this site are a first step toward learning how to direct your body’s capacity for felt connecting toward whatever you have abandoned, neglected, or made into an enemy inside yourself–namely, the feelings that all of us so often reject and won’t listen to.
Clicking on the link below will help you better understand how to direct your caring presence toward those difficult, often painful feelings inside that need your attention.