What does it mean to be embodied in a moment where we can’t touch other humans?
In this episode, I focus on the body with Rich Mhlanga, an incredibly talented massage therapist and friend, who works with Broadway actors, dancers, circus performers, and other top-notch athletes through his business Massage Beyond. His work has also been pivotal for me personally in terms of coming to inhabit my body more deeply.
We talk about what self-care looks like in a world where we are largely isolated from touch, how to navigate the emotional shockwaves that are constantly rolling through our bodies, and how he’s taking care of himself and his body as a black man while navigating these tumultuous times.
Key takeaways from this conversation:
- How to find emotional balance through physical healing
- Why our society tends to compartmentalize the body and its functions
- How keeping our emotions in takes a toll on the mental and physical body
- Why watching violent imagery is its own form of embodied trauma
- Ideas for ways to find release and not keep your emotions pent up
“There has to be a level that you emotionally get to and you say, ‘Oh, this is the warning level. This is my check engine light. I can’t allow myself to get past that emotional spot and keep it in.’ We’re so used to attempting to keep it in.”
“It’s interesting to watch people on a train or walking down the street. You can bump 12 people and not even register it because you’re just so used to being jostled so much and it’s not a big deal. That’s a good way to think about how out of touch we are with our body. Yes, it’s part of a defensive mechanism. You can’t possibly react to every one of those bumps. But at the same time, as much as you can desensitize to that… Someone giving you healthy touch, you’re now desensitized to that [as well]. You have to get that healthy touch four times, six times, eight times before your body starts to register it.”
“We all are usually craving touch and COVID is one of those extremes that’s showing us how much we crave touch and interaction with humans — but that same sense is always there. It’s just less severe than it has been in the last three months.”
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The references and ideas that we mention in this epi:
- Rich Mhlanga’s practice Massage Beyond
- The Still Processing episode “So Y’all Finally Get It” w/ Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris
- Elizabeth Alexander reflects on her seminal essay on Rodney King: “Endless Grief: The Spectacle of Black Bodies in Pain”
- The full Alexander essay, “Can You Be Black and Look at This?” can be found in The Black Interior
- Hurry Slowly interview w/ Sebene Selassie on Unravelling Your Inner Critic
- Follow Rich on: Website | Facebook | Instagram
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