31 days out from my Fathom Sip Session, I began journaling. I used large, square 9x9in post it notes and every day (nearly), I wrote down an anxiety or a thought that I needed to reflect on and let go of, and I also reflected on what was happening in my body that day.
The name of my “Sip” (as they are affectionately called), was “Let Your Body Talk, and Tell Your Mind to Take a Walk.” The work of letting stuff go – a bad day, guilt, anxieties, memories, or anything I’m holding onto – is a practice that I’m immersed in. So, the journaling was my prep. It was what I needed to dig deeper into the work of detaching. I promised myself that I wouldn’t hold back and that I’d put those post-its on display at the Sip. And I did.
The work of letting go – and the mind-body connection in general—is something that does not come naturally for me. Hence, the reason I wanted to take on this topic for my Sip. Mindfulness, yoga, and all of the holistic practices that swirl about in that universe has many experts. But, a Sip Session is not about an expert providing answers. A Sip is for students and adventurers. We are exploring, in real time, as much as we are leading. Our topics are personal and we get real. Our vulnerability and curiosity is what we throw down in a Sip Session and it becomes the stage setter for the experience of the group at-large.
As I looked around the room at the Copper Beech Institute (our most gracious hosts) when I began my Sip, I saw old friends, coworkers, new friends, and lots of fresh faces. I had no idea how open these folks would be to the experience. But, then again, they decided to show up. And, then they also “showed up.”
The mind-body connection conversation is as old as time. So, why are we still having it? Many reasons. One is that we need it more than ever. And also, there is no one-and-done. It’s a daily practice. The plaque on your teeth builds up every day. Your hair needs washing. Your stomach needs filling. Why would we think our emotional stress and basic daily debris would not also accumulate?
And, guess where it accumulates? In our physical being, our bodies. And, it is proven that the baggage we carry around in our bodies is ruining our health. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that 80-90% of our health symptoms are rooted in stress. 80-90%!
The Sip began with my friend and Sip Session Alumnus Antonia Ciaverella sharing her first experience of meeting me. She ended by saying that she was drawn to me for my ability to hold space for the people around me so that they can show up as the best version of themselves.
Holy crap! Light bulb. I had never heard anyone describe me like this, and yet, the words were instantly music to my ears. The way she sees me is exactly who I want to be. I realized that my natural way in this world and, lately, also my most intentional work, has deep value and it’s a gift I can no longer deny.
With this as my start, I was pumping with energy to lead this conversation. I led the group through a solo breathing exercise, one intended to strengthen the connection to the body, bring awareness at the micro level, one body part at a time, to see what would come to the surface – a feeling, a memory, a word, a phrase, a relationship, a person, or maybe nothing at all.
It was absolutely stunning to see the calm come over the room. In under a minute of the exercise and way before we began the breath work, it was like I could feel every physical being in the room gravitate towards the permission to open up and feel connection.
In the second exercise, I asked them to get into groups of 4 and stand in a circle, each person with their right hand on the shoulder of the person next to them. I asked them to try and breathe in unison and then we walked through an exercise that allowed them to let go of the “thing” that came up for them in the first exercise.
The small groups then wrote thoughts about their experiences on smaller post-it paper, and then the big group had a broader discussion of their experiences.
And, here’s where Suzi the student reaped the rewards of being in a state of curiosity v. feeling the need to provide any answers. People shared how quickly they could go deep into a conversation with strangers – suddenly finding themselves making personal connections with ease. Others talked about the energy they felt by being physically connected. One Sip regular talked about how it can be easy to think that our noisy mind is our true self but when we bring awareness to that noise and step outside of it, that the person sitting in the seat of just noticing the noise is where the true power of who we are lies. A new Sipper talked about how it was “love” that came up for her and that was what she released to her little group.
I can’t lie. It was thrilling and relieving to see people in the room take on this work in a way that I only imagined! I had been planning for this thing for months, and agonizing over it. Now, it was something I could take my own advice on and finally let go of. And, in the process of letting go, what I started was lighting a fire under others. What a rush!
It soon became clear to me that I was walking away a different person. That may sound like a leap but it’s absolutely true. I was living into a better version of me by virtue of sharing something with this community that is so deeply rooted in who I am. I can already feel that the next yoga class I teach will be over and above what I was throwing down before.
As we were cleaning up and pulling down the gazillion post-its, I lost Day 15. It slipped behind a counter that was immovable. The funny thing was that I was just thinking of what to do with my weird daily diary post-it notes. And there was my answer.
Just let it go.
Photography and video by Mike Marques of Arbor Light Studio
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