Articles & Reviews

Workshop Review: Body, Heart and Soul by Mary Nurrie Stearns

Lotus Magazine Summer 1994 Body, Heart, and Soul is an opportunity for people to restore their capacity for open and profound ways of relating and sexual sharing.

Body, Heart and Soul is a seven day intensive training program explores the roots of our sexual being, and is structured as a series of experiences designed to heal the sexual-sensual and emotional wounds that many people in our society carry. The healing and educational sessions serve to dissolve fears, guilt, shame, and restrictive beliefs that decrease the pleasures of intimacy and sexual loving.

The Body, Heart and Soul workshop is highly experiential; it uses movement, music, creative art, breath work, hypnotherapy, and meditation in a context of intimate and playful sharing that promotes full aliveness of body, feelings, energy, and awareness. Alan Lowen developed this program in response to the need for an education that would heal the cultural taboos and personal wounds people have suffered and enable us to celebrate the natural sexual, sensual beings that we are.

The training is a laboratory for healing, self acceptance, play, inner awareness, sensuality, and pleasure as participants deepen their capacity for love and awareness. People learn to move their bodies, to be playful, and enjoy pleasure. Many people experience life through impaired senses. They only “half-see” and “half-hear” because they have deadened their senses to protect themselves from pain. As they learn to notice and be guided by whatever senses they do feel, more senses gradually become available. With increasing awareness, intuitive senses develop and subtle energies emerge. Spiritual living is the result of profound sensitivity which means that our senses are receiving.

By being touched on the surface of our bodies and in our feelings, bellies, and hearts, a sense of caring grows. The more we feel, the more we care, and the more we are able to find love. We are all touched by violence. We live through episodes of pain in order to become loving. We discover love when we are willing to live and feel everything through our senses. As we are able to experience our senses, everything that hinders our ability to love falls away. We don’t have to learn love; we have to dare to live everything that blocks the path way to love.

Becoming loving and aware is part of our journey of self-acceptance. We allow and include all of our feelings, energies, and experiences as real. We accept rather than deny, reject, or suppress our inner reality. Awareness is the ability to listen, feel, and see without judgment. It is “waking up” and recognizing clearly what is happening. We have to be aware and to care so that we can be guided by love.

This Body, Heart and Soul training takes people on a journey of accepting inner experience and who we are. Self-acceptance is loving self with all its imperfections, fears, failings, talents, and challenges. Self-acceptance enables us to love others. We can only love others after we have learned what loving is within ourselves. During the days of training, situations are created where people truly experience themselves. Sadness, fear, pain, libido, and erotic desires are touched. At times people may be unable to allow sadness, joy, sexual arousal, or loneliness. When that happens, staff approaches them gently and says, “You can allow yourself to keep living; you don’t have to die in this moment. Dare to feel.” You will discover that the world doesn’t end, people don’t walk off, and the ground doesn’t cave in under your feet. Life will go on and you will feel more alive. In this way, people reclaim aspects of themselves that they are frightened or mistrustful of or have rejected. When they permit themselves to feel more, they become relaxed, as powerful feelings and energies emerge, which then become resources to draw upon. Recognizing sadness enables us to experience compassion and empathy. Sexual energy gives passion and aliveness. Playfulness awakens creativity.

Throughout the week participants are asked to accept and celebrate their whole being- body, heart and soul. All are honored with integrity and wholeness. The body is the physical home of the soul. Honoring that oneness is a way to recognize where power really exists. Our culture separates us from most body experience and our sexuality from our being. When any power center, or part of the body, is cut off, people feel disempowered. Consequently, they often play games in relationships to gain a sense of power. Having power is important, and taking power from somebody can feel good whether the technique is seduction, domination, or guilt.

The only real solution to abusive relationships is for people to claim their true source of power, which is embodied. Our physical world is our direct link to spiritual power; our authentic source of power. When we recognize our true source of power we make relationship choices with integrity. Power and love become integrated. During the training, experiences are designed to help people become embodied and to accept pleasure as natural and good.

The Body, Heart and Soul workshop program is experiential because simply understanding something does not produce change. These exercises evoke body memory where healing and learning occur on a cellular level. The body, our deeper inner-knowing part, assembles and integrates the exposed information. The body has a unison and wisdom. Given opportunity, it will work through old wounds and integrate new possibilities. Becoming embodied is often painful as well as pleasurable. It often requires passage through a tremendous amount of shame, induced by the cultural indictment that our interior life is bad or unimportant.

Body, Heart and Soul workshop participants move to music throughout each day. Music is a universally accepted form of touch. It is a direct touch. Vibrations of sound intimately touch our physical bodies and our emotional beings. Participants also do spontaneous drawings, illustrating facets of themselves. Drawing is a way to reveal various aspects of truth, unique for each individual. People draw quickly, without thinking, allowing the unconscious to produce the images. Physical touch is another way to connect with “body” consciousness or unconsciousness.

As participants touch and massage one another in groups, they work through intimacy issues such as fear of touch, mistrust of others, and discomfort with pleasure. All the exercises are done within the workshop community. Since our culture is disrespectful of our sexual nature, it is seldom honored and celebrated in community. Re-owning our bodies, our power, and our sexuality occurs most profoundly within the context of a loving group.

The community becomes a safe space for people to appreciate the nature of their bodies. We are indoctrinated to dislike, distrust, deny, and even to dread our bodies. We are not educated to accept and appreciate our bodies-our physical form and the sensitivity, playfulness, and vitality with which we are naturally endowed.

Learning to love all that you are is most powerfully accomplished when we experience ourselves nude among others who are learning this, too. After group trust is established, participants are encouraged to take off their clothes in some activities and allow themselves to feel comfortable being in their own bodies.

Our culture sexually abuses us when it teaches us to fear and mistrust our sensual and sexual nature, to treat it like a commodity, and to deny its sacredness. This week helps people restore a sense of delight and innocence in being man or woman -becoming free to experience sensual aliveness and sexual feelings while embracing all the joy, sorrow, fear, anger, pain, excitement, laughter, and love that is hidden in our bellies and hearts. As we accept our nature we become graceful and balanced, peaceful and loving, self-confident and powerful.