Harrhahahaha. John Mayer, aye? I’m pretty sure he wasn’t singing that song to someone in order to celebrate their radical self love, but hey!
It’s the theme of this week’s Endorphin Experiment.
My body is AWESOME. Every single cell is capable of producing endorphins. My body is not in battle with my heart/soul/mind. I think I’ve spent so much of my life carrying around this subtle belief in the sinfulness of flesh and pleasure. Over the last few years I guess I have been exploring this idea that if my body is so capable of dishing up delights like babies and endorphins and laughter and orgasms and sneezes, perhaps it is not a bad, rascal of a thing? Perhaps my body is absolutely awesome.
The older I get the more at home in my body I become. The more I am able to see the beauty in all its visceral twinges and desires and rustlings. My body produces feelgood chemicals. That is a window on God, right there.
There is a bit in The Endorphin Effect (William Bloom) where he speaks about being in a room full of meditative gurus. They are all up to their necks in Eastern spirituality and meditation and mindfulness, and he had just finished leading them in an intense session full of almost ecstatic body-mind connection. He asks them where they most feel that same sense of flow or bliss in their everyday lives. He was fully expecting them to say “in my daily yoga practice” and other intense spiritual practices, but instead they listed things like “stroking my cat” “riding my bike” “gardening”… It shocked him. And ended up being the thing that led him on a journey towards the biochemical experience of endorphins.
His work in life now is to help people access that experience of endorphins whenever they need it, not when they happen to be relaxed enough to feel it.
I feel like we can be so detached from these visceral pleasures. We are ashamed of them perhaps.But if we can tune into them, obey our senses, there is something really powerful there…. it reminded me of the start of Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
Focusing our lives on being good does sometimes lead to more goodness in the world (Exhibit A – my Mama), and then sometimes it leads to piousness and burntoutness… I wonder if Mary Oliver and William Bloom are getting at the same thing – inner well being is a better key for unlocking the health and happiness of the world. (Or maybe I am putting a very bland interpretation on it, because of my need to put everything into my “we can build a fairer, kinder world!” narrative!!)
Bloom says “Real pleasure and happiness possess a relaxed flow that is generous to life and the surrounding community.”
We all have the endorphin maker! We are like giant Soda Stream Machines, fully able to inject that fizz at the touch of a button.
But the reason it comes upon us so stealthily and leaves so abruptly, (you know; you walk up a mountain at dawn and it’s like WHAM ENDORPHIN CENTRAL and then that feeling slips away and we are left with just a bleary eyed selfie of a foggy morning) and why it isn’t a common part of every day life (hands up who has experience bliss in the last 48 hours?) is because we carry around so much tension in our bodies that, biochemically, the endorphins get stuck. They can’t proceed on their buzz-giving sojourn. The physical pleasure of gardening or stroking the cat relaxes the body enough that the endorphins can be sent out. But we need to get rid of the body’s constant tension in order to let them really flow.
This week I am attempting to, whenever I gather that I am holding myself tensely, to just breath, to let my body relax in to itself. I have found myself constantly, body-rigidly returning to the state of the world… I wrote myself a Mindful post-Brexit Strategy to help with that. And it has really helped.
Week Two’s Exercise
I wrote lists last week of things I love, things that naturally release endorphins within me. Over the last week I have been shoehorning them into my life.
One of them was “dancing” – especially having a rinse out to some heavy, ear popping, bassy beats.
My dancing is kinda like… if you can imagine Napolean Dynamite, with both a little bit more emphasis on “interpretive dance” and also a great, unfounded, belief in my ability to “pop”…
So in no way does the release of endorphins have to do with skill level.
In order to go out dancing I had my first night away from the children, while Tim took them up to visit family. They had a great time, and we all know I did. But the whole day I was carrying this quiet, deep down sense of “this isn’t what good mothers do”… I felt kinda selfish, even though I had comprehensively justified the importance of this in my mind. Perhaps that is wholly natural for the first night away from your kids ever.
I had a great time, but I’ve been figuring out how I can get more of my List into my life WITH children. The list of things I want to do more of, things that flood my body with endorphins – sing, skate, dance.
They are all so bodily.
I feel like I’m just realising now how much a puritanical spirituality has made me reject these urges over the years.
I keep seeing skate parks and think this is totally something me and the girls could do together. I must order new bearings for my board. DONE. Just did it! See how this experiment is just SO WORKING.
I have been on a skateboard once in the last ten years…. WISH ME LUCK
Although… the “letting the feelgoods flood my system” when feeling stressed isn’t getting easier with practice… if anything it is losing its novel effect and I am carrying on without trying to get any better at the whole kinsthetic experience of endorphins. (This was Week 1’s endorphin exercise)
My mind is just a busy, busy, busy bee. I close my eyes to think about that peaceful, uninhibited memory on the mountain and WHOOOOSH I get “Must change the milk in the kefir/when is Brook’s birthday/must google how hard it is to own a horse/it’s so cute how Juno still says Yipstick instead of Lipstick I should write that down/why are my toes numb/is it bad that the girls never really eat breakfast?”
Really need to get better at that. Really hoping this experiment will help me with it.
So yep, there is week two. Some of you mentioned you might be getting on this endorphin boosting life too – tell me, how are you finding it?