2020: The year I came back to my body

I’m sure I am not alone in feeling a lot of emotion in these last days of 2020. Everyone on this planet has faced huge upheaval, sorrow and uncertainty, and we have all felt it in different ways.

In the last week, those of us in the UK who celebrate Christmas have been unable to do as we have done for many years and spend it with family and loved ones. The same has occurred for many thousands of people around the globe – Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews among them – who for the first time in their lives have spent their religious holiday on their own. This reality in itself reminds us of the shared experience of this pandemic and all the challenges it has brought for everyone.

I am lucky that I have not been directly affected by Covid-19, in the sense that no one I know has suffered too much from the virus even if they have caught it, and the older and more vulnerable members of my family have remained safe and free from serious illness.

But I have been affected nonetheless. In these moments of quiet between Christmas and the New Year, I feel a great sense of sorrow and sadness for the separation that the pandemic has caused; not being able to see my Dad, who lives on his own, as much as I would like, and not seeing my brother and his family all year whilst they are in New York and unable to travel. 

Throughout the year I have felt huge anxiety – not something I am used to at all – and this has been paralysing at times. And I have also felt huge despair; at the UK government’s response to both Covid-19 and our departure from the European Union, at the polarisation and toxicity coming out of discussions about wearing masks and taking the vaccine, at the continuing marginalisation of Black and Brown people, and many others who do not fit neatly into our system of privilege and advantage in this country and beyond it. Whilst in some ways Covid-19 has brought us together, making us more aware of the vulnerabilities and insecurities we all share as human beings, in many ways it appears to have further divided us, with people becoming more entrenched in their own belief systems.  

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

In spite of all of this, I still come back to the lessons we can learn, and are learning, from this experience. And here I would like to share some of my own, with the hope it will be helpful to others.

This great, global pause that has marked 2020 has been a powerful time for me to come back into my body, and to heal. Like many others, I am conditioned to stay in my head most of the time – analysing, judging, rationalising, problem-solving. This pause forced me to slow right down and listen to signals in the body that needed care and attention, and to the emotions of my heart that needed to be heard. In many ways I do believe this is the treasure that is being offered to us in this time, so that we may understand each other better on a more human level and find ways to heal ourselves and our planet.

Here is what coming back to the body has meant for me:

I have learned to slow down without judgement, and be still. I have honoured the stillness, respecting the inner wisdom that comes not from doing and achieving but from just being.

I have become more familiar with the cyclical nature of our bodies – and my body as a woman. How we all need periods of stillness as much as periods of action. I now honour my inner autumn and winter – the days leading up to and during my menstruation – when I surrender to my body’s desire to rest and to not give so much; as much as I honour my spring and summer when I want to connect with others and to be of service.

I have started paying loving attention to trauma that has been trapped in my body for a long time; to listen to what needs to be expressed and released. I have recognised that trauma is something most human beings on this planet will go through and that often it can have multiple causes, and that sometimes we won’t even know where it’s from but we can feel it in our bodies. I can now speak to my own long-held pain and suffering and say, “I hear you, I’m here for you, I care for you.”   

I have cried tears of grief and sorrow for that long-held pain, sometimes not even knowing its source, yet trusting that by speaking lovingly to it, by letting the tears flow, there will be a release and healing will happen.

I have allowed my body to shake with convulsions, vibrations and tremors that feel primordial, beyond our “normal” human experiences, but which help me let go of pain and emotional suffering that have been trapped in my tissues. By the way, this is an ability we all have and that many animals still retain but we humans have forgotten – to find out more, check out trauma-releasing exercises.

Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

I have danced manically around the living room, and through the dance I have let ideas, emotions and visions pour through me. I have used this to build confidence in my creative process and my sense of purpose.

I have sat in healing circles and engaged in listening partnerships with other women, where we express what is alive within us right now, without any judgement. Sometimes I have prepared a sacred space myself – setting out candles, crystals and sage in the middle of my floor and inviting others to join me.

I have got to know my shadows; the voices within me that put me down, that make me feel worthless or ashamed. I have let them speak at times, to understand where they come from and where the wisdom lies in their messages. I have danced with them, explored how they can support me and help me be my full self rather than an idealised, perfected, and unrealistic version of me.

I have felt hurt and heartache strongly this year, and I have stared at myself in the mirror, in tears, and talked lovingly to my reflection. I have said to that face in the mirror: I am so proud of you. Look how strong you are. Look how far you have come. I am with you all the way.

I have held my heart and said quietly to myself: may I feel open, may I feel safe, may I feel heard. I have done this repeatedly, as I have embarked on a difficult conversation, or shown up in my relationship with full vulnerability, or just when I’ve been walking down the street and want to come back to myself and my feelings.

I have said YES to opening my heart time and time again, even when previously there has been dismissal and rejection. And in doing so I have found love, within myself, in a new relationship, and in new friendships where I feel fully seen and heard.

In this huge global upheaval, where nothing feels certain and where there is much loneliness and isolation, coming back to our own body and heart – fully and with love – is extremely powerful as it lets us come back to our shared suffering and our shared humanity. And there is no “right” way of doing it – what I have shared above has supported me massively, but we all have our different journeys and experiences. What have yours been? I would love to hear what has supported you this year and how you may you use what you have learned to support others.

Thank you for all your support and feedback over this year, it’s meant a lot to me and has helped me grow. With love and gratitude, I wish you health, peace and wellbeing for 2021.

4 thoughts on “2020: The year I came back to my body”

  1. I was touched by your article as much of it resonated with me. I’ve also struggled throughout this year, especially as I moved to Brighton just before the pandemic started and haven’t really got a social network of any sort. So this was the year of being alone, in all its pain and glory! What has supported me mainly has been my work. When I’m engaged with a client, I am so present, I forget about myself and focus on what’s happening in the now. Running has also been a way of escaping some of my gloomier thought spirals. And lots of virtual contact with friends in distant places. Happy New Year to you.

    • Thank you Ray. I’ve heard this from others as well who are in a helping profession – in some ways it makes us realise how important that sort of work is, for our own sense of meaning and purpose as much as for supporting someones else. And it definitely helps put things into perspective. Thank you for sharing your reflections, and wishing you health and happiness for 2021.

  2. Hello Gemma lovely to connect with you over the inter web!!! how you articulate your feelings and explain process is such a gift! Thank you for sharing your learning and knowledge with us all. Sending lots of love and light your way. If 2020 has taught me anything it’s the value of my friends and family and to appreciate those moments of fun, joy and laughter and the freedom of spirit that brings! Hope to see you in 2021!!!!


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