BKS Iyenagar said, “As long as you do not live fully in the body, you do not live totally in the Self.” By the final day of the ECQI 2019 conference, caught up in the stimulation of new ideas, connections and conversations that were unfolding around me, I was definitely not living fully in my body. Frequently placated with coffee but otherwise ignored, my chronically ill body had become a vehicle to rush my mind from one session to the next, and try as I might to suppress it, my body was struggling to keep up.
Of course, if a body is struggling, so is the rest of the bodied self, so it was with some trepidation that I arrived at ‘Bodies Collective: Body-ography, a collaborative workshop’. Dizzy and fatigued, would I be able to do the activities? How would my ill body shape my participation? Might it also contribute to the experiences of others, and if so, how?
As a group we included a diverse range of bodies – younger, older, heavily pregnant, well and ill, queer and straight. Everyone in the room was invited to propose a body-based activity and from these suggestions we soon split into two groups; one with a faster-paced energy and the other slower and more contemplative. In the latter group, guided by Sarah Helps and Alys Mendus, we gently and quietly moved through two activities in the grounds of Salisbury Green. These were designed to make us mindful of the world around us and our own embodied location within it. For me, this focussed switch of attention from busy thinking to the felt senses provided much needed space: space to breathe; space to ground my Self and be myself; space in which all the concepts and ideas swirling round my mind could settle.
When the two groups reunited, we were encouraged to write briefly, exploring what we would like #bodiescollective to be in the future. How would we like conferences to be spaces that acknowledge and embrace our bodied selves? Below are my notes developed in response to that prompt, notes that speak to and from my position both as a person with a chronic illness and as a researcher. Of course, you may envision something very different. Why not share that vision on Twitter with the hashtags #ECQI2019 or #bodiescollective?
I want…to make a space for this body, imperfectly embodied, in this room (or outside this room) in workshops, panels, performances and all the spaces between. To be welcome and find ease in this fatigued, inglorious, ill body. To realise the need to sit – sit down on the floor if need be and for that to be OK. To root myself with and among others. To be more cat, a resting, curled up knot of cat, or an ears pricked, sharply alert cat. To allow our energies, our faders to be at different levels, volumes and speeds. Not to have to keep up but to set a pace. To be aware, to accept, to explore this embodiment. To be.
Georgi Gill, CCRI PhD student