I want to invite you into a healing practice I’m callig the “Oh, Honey” practice, inspired by the poem, “Self Compassion” by James Crews. I invite you, as I am speaking, to bring your attention to your body and its various sensations. If you feel a bit shy about doing this in front of all these other screens, turn off your camera.
You can keep your eyes open or you can close them. Either way, I encourage you to notice sensations in your body.
Notice where your body ends and the chair or couch or floor begins. Notice where your body begins and your clothes end.
Notice the movement of your abdomen and chest when you breathe.
Notice if there are any places of tightness, of contraction, of tingling, of heaviness.
For this practice, I invite you to find that part of your body that may be longing for gentle attention, where constriction indicates a stuckness or hurt or pain. I invite you to place the palm of your hand, or both hands, on that part of you; or place your one hand, or two, on that part of your chest where they feel connected to your heart.
Take a comfortable breath, hold it in a little longer than usual, then exhale. This is not a competition with others or yourself. Breath in, hold, then breathe out. And once again.
Let come to the surface, moving through the layers of your body and being, anything that accepts the invitation your gentle, caring hands offer.
Say to yourself, aloud if you can: oh, honey.
Say it like you are saying it to the love of your life, with all the concern and truth you have within you. Then say it like you are saying it to yourself.
Moving past any awkwardness, or snickering like in the poem. Moving past the discomfort of being the center of our own attention. Moving past the fear of what might surface, knowing that you will greet it all with a loving, a compassionate, a fierce, “Oh, honey.”
A next step, to go just a bit deeper: I invite you to extend the “oh,” drawing out the sounds and connecting with the vibration that rises from the elongation.
You can lengthen the “h” in honey as well, bringing about that vibration again, if it feels good to you, only if it feels good to you.
Again, only if it feels soothing, draw out those sounds. If it activates a negative response, if it doesn’t feel right, however you understand that, no worries, just stop the sound, and keep the gentle hand there, offering yourself compassion.
The elongated sound brings about a vibration that activates our vagus nerve, also called the soul nerve by therapist Resmaa Menakem, or the wandering nerve, because it spreads out throughout the whole body. The vagus nerve is one way to engage our nervous system, the part of the body that retains body sensation memories and feeling memories, that sends out signals of how to respond in a crisis: fight, freeze, flight, or fawn. For some of us a 5th f is feed – eating our emotions into “behaving” themselves.
Engaging the soul nerve ~ the vagus ~ can help us move pain or self disgust or rage or cyncism or resignation — the list is long – or shame, that’s a big one — through and help it not get stuck in the body.
We who prize the intellect, perhaps a little too much, our thinking our way out will not work, not in the long run. It can help in the moment, but if that is our only tool of healing it is not sufficient.
Let’s keep our hands there, on our heart, or on that part of our body with heavy, or tight, or painful sensation, cooing at it, cooing at ourselves, for just a few more moments until the chime rings and brings this practice to an end for now.