Monday, September 26, 2011

Healing the Emotional Self & Somatic (Body) Memory--It's all in the Belly!

Much of what we call healing can be accomplished by understanding a problem, using the right therapies, and changing our attitude, our thoughts, our habits and our lifestyles. But the emotional Self often dominates our whole energy field and healing this aspect can be the most difficult. How do we handle anger, grief, loneliness, anxiety, and fear? And how do these emotions really affect our health?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each organ system has a corresponding emotion. Liver disorders, for example, may be accompanied by anger and one could go as far as saying excess or unexpressed anger can cause liver problems. It doesn't really matter which comes first, and when we address the physical aspect through liver cleansing, eating fewer fatty foods or subduing rising liver fire with herbs or acupuncture, for example, a person generally becomes less angry. And contrarily, if we find ways to release the anger, the physical symptoms of liver imbalance may actually subside.

What I have been shown over and over again in my practice as an herbalist and massage therapist is that there truly is no separation between the emotional and physical bodies.
Our modern culture puts tremendous demands on us and gives us few tools to deal with the onslaught of stimulus to which our little bodies must react.We take it all in and don't know how to let it out!
As one of my teachers of the abdominal massage modality CHI NEI TSANG, Gilles Marin, explained:
Everything we encounter gives us an emotional charge, and some charges are easier to digest than others. The tougher ones stay in the belly and get held there until we make the time to unravel them.
It is no wonder that over 80% of North Americans take some sort of digestive medicine on a regular basis. We're all carrying a belly full of tangled, unexpressed emotional charges.

The Abdominal Chi Mover has become the most popular treatment here at AmaTierra Retreat & Wellness Center in Costa Rica. People come here to destress, to confront and change old patterns, and to get FREE of these pent up emotions. In our busy lives we need time to process and digest our feelings.
Here is one small exercise you can do to move the energy and the somatic memories that may be stuck in your belly.
1) Lay down on your back with your knees propped up
2) Put both hands on your belly and breathe deeply, feeling your breath rise and fall
3) Ask yourself: What am I feeling right now? Stay in your body, in your belly, and feel the answer. Try to stay out of your thinking mode, just be with your breath. Perhaps nothing comes up. That is ok too.
4) If you do feel an uncomfortable emotion rising in your belly (or anywhere else) try to go with the feeling of it. Treat it as just energy; don't judge it, fear it or repress it. You also don't need to trace it back to any kind of history or storyline. Just be with the emotion and breathe it out, let yourself cry, make sound or pound your fists, kick your feet if you like.
5) End with soothing thoughts and your hands once again on the belly. Perhaps a mantra such as "I am safe, all is well" will now help you regain your balance. Let yourself feel the freedom now that you have made space in your belly for true healing to happen. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh....

For further information about our emotions, the belly etc. I recommend a simple book by my main teacher of this work, Allison Post. The book is titled Unwinding the Belly, and you can find it on line at
Watch for Allison's new book to be released in electronic form soon!

Look for our Next blog: Exercises & Herbs for Resolving Anger & Frustration

Jill Ruttenberg is a registered AHG herbalist and the owner/wellness director at AmaTierra Retreat & Wellness Center in Turrubares, Costa Rica. To learn more about AmaTierra please visit


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