On Having a Physical Body, Coming into Attention & Queen of Pentacles
An observation, a fact, an incarnate reality, a corporeal existence, a vessel, an anchor to earth.
I consider humans to have a few different bodies: emotional body, spiritual body, mental body, physical body. So for the purpose of this piece, when I reference ‘the body’ or ‘body’, I’m speaking on the physical body.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an instagram post with the title I Have a Physical Body — a fact that all of us on this earth having a human experience can relate to. We all have a fleshy, organ filled, blood abundant body, but declaring this fact felt important. Sometimes the mundane aspects of life as a human person can pass us by because it’s our normal to have a body, it’s our normal to see other bodies walking, rolling, moving around. It seems that for a lot of us, the only time we really acknowledge our human body is when it’s in pain.
In an effort to be more present with my body, I’ve been looking at the times when I am (usually when I’m in pain and/or triggered) and looking at the times that I’m not (usually when I’m dissociated).
It was just over two years ago during my Saturn Return that I really understood I have a physical body. Maybe that seems silly, how could I not understand this very clear fact: I have a body. I could just look into the mirror, right? I could just look down and feel my flesh, right? I think we often take for granted our day to day realities and don’t have an analysis of our bodily experience simply because it always has been and for the most part, always will be.
Looking at our bodies through a lens of discovery and curiosity (or pain, shame, rage) often only comes when we are existing in the world as someone outside of the normalised white, cis, het, thin, non-disabled body. In other words, we might be more familiar with looking at the body when we are queer, fat, trans, disabled, BIPOC and the intersections thereof.
In 2016, my body began talking to me through the language of extreme pain. This isn’t to say I haven’t had body pain in my lifetime; I’ve had an organ fail on me to the point of removal, I’ve experienced the ugly discomfort of inflammation. I’ve had the standard pains in my body that most people have at some point in their life, but I’ve never had something chronically prevent me from moving in the ways I’m used to; I’ve never had pain morph into extreme agitation. It was during my Saturn Return that I was put face to face with my body and the ways I neglected listening to my body. I’ll mention that my natal Saturn sits in my 6th house of daily ritual and health. I’ll also mention that I’m a survivor of child sexual trauma, emotionally neglect, I’m queer, non-binary trans and I grew up as and am still a fat person.
My experience of having a body has been complex, and for a very long time I was living from the mid-throat & up. This is a common trait of survivors of trauma, we dissociate from our bodies because we learned that being in the physical body was a place where violence happens. For some of us, it feels dangerous to live in a body and thus, depending on a person’s experience with trauma, we might spend most of our time dissociated without even knowing it.
Since I’ve spent most of my life with my body as ‘other’, in the last few years I’ve had to coach myself to remember, “this is yours, this body belongs to you.” I wonder how many times have I spent wishing I would be dissolved of this body; pulling, cutting, withholding, harming the physical form to punish it for being "ugly & wrong”? I can flashback to moments where the desire to be without a body was so much stronger than the desire to stay.
So many of us have this experience of living dissociated from the physical self; when we experience trauma whether it’s physical or emotional, when we have chronic pain & grief, when we have certain experiences as trans / gender non conforming folks, when race, disability, size intersect, it can be so much safer to be out of body. It’s interesting and confusing how I can live so dissociated from my body while also acknowledging and remaining conscious of whiteness, being fat and being trans. I can name those things and understand their intersections and still have lived so long unable/unwilling to listen to anything my body has to say.
I’ve found that talking about the physical body is a very nuanced and controversial topic, yet i feel such a deep need to speak on it. There are so many different ranges of experience — chronic illness, disability, subtle pains, dysphoria, systemic violence, it would be unreal for me to try and talk about all of those things as I don’t have the experience with half of them. What I do know is that it’s painful to be in a body and at the same time, is just as painful to live outside of it even as a means of survival. Dissociation seems to be spoken about in terms of separation from the mental body, but we have to remember that dissociation is separation from the mental and physical body.
In this coping mechanism, we might continue perpetuating our hypervigilance and survival mode to the point where we are ‘living’ completely outside of ourselves. In this state we are most likely unable to hear what the emotional body is saying (‘I’m frightened’, ‘I’m holding too much’, ‘Care for me’, 'Am I safe?’), which is when the physical body starts to talk. I think that when we decide that we want to approach our bodies in order to come back home to ourselves, we have to do it incredibly slow. I also think we have to remember that we can’t force the re-integration of an embodied self. One of the roadblocks that I’ve come across is not knowing where or how to access tools to safely integrate back.
My intuitive sense from starting to allow my body to be heard seems to be about acknowledging that my unique body is here on this earth, then going slow, having support, honouring my experience (of trauma & of reclamation), & remembering that there doesn’t have to be some goal (i.e. “I’ll love my body”) in order to be here right now. We must approach ourselves with incredible compassion and patience, and these are both aspects that might be a struggle in themselves.
An issue with spiritual ‘communities’ that I was caught up in for a long time was that to be intuitive, psychic, clair(insert ability) meant disregarding the somatic experience to focus on being out of body — which, hey, I’m huge on dreaming and astral travel is interesting and fun, but it can become a trap to avoid this incarnate experience.
One does not have to be out of body to be an incredible channel. One does not have to be out of body to be psychic. One does not have to be out of body to be united with spirit.
I find that once again, tarot offers me the ability to re-frame old stories I’ve told myself about my body through use of the visual interpretation Most, if not all, the decks I use have humans on it. It’s a whole other post to speak on the lack of representation in certain decks, but for now, I’ll just say that tarot does bridge the physical and the spiritual, reminding us that it is inherently spiritual to be human and it’s inherently human to be spiritual.
When the Queen of Pentacles comes forward, we are being invited to investigate the tactile human form with curiosity and interest. The Queen of Pentacles is curious about growth and the slowness of embodiment. She knows that to be a human person, we hold many intricacies of pain and joy and that to feel into being a grounded person takes much patience, compassion, and sitting in a space of discomfort. In client sessions, I’m really fond of garden metaphors, there’s nothing quite as accurate to the human experience as a garden (and I say that as someone who isn’t particularly called to garden).
In most imagery of the Queen of Pentacles, we see her sitting amongst the fruit of her patience, the flourished garden. We meet the Queen after she’s spent months of time tending to regenerating soil, overturning the compost, planting seeds, weeding, watering, protecting from birds and small animals — a commitment of effort to seeing the garden become bountiful. What the Queen is showing us is that it is not instant magic that plants grow from small seeds into strong vines that climb up the garden wall or pumpkins round and sweet for roasting — it’s slow brew magic, which is the type of magic we must engage with if we’re wanting to come back into our bodies.
It would be too much of a jolt, possibly re-traumatising to urgently try to reconnect with our body. It might even say to the fragmented self, your reasonings for dissociating are bullshit, I want back in NOW — this is the opposite of the compassion we need to explore integration. This is why the garden metaphor is so potent for any type of healing really, but especially physical body integration, slowness is the compassion that allows trust to form organically.
In 2016, my sciatic pain was so intense I couldn’t sit. I’d often find myself on the floor rocking back and forth on my knees crying, my lower back screaming at me. At the time, I worked a 9-6, five days a week call centre job where I was not just answering questions but scheduling people and doing intake for abortions and other stigmatised appointments. I don’t know exactly what it was that caused my lower back to spasm, for the disk to pop out and thus press on my sciatic nerve, maybe it was the amount of emotional space I didn’t realise I was holding, maybe it was from sitting for so many hours a day, maybe it was from living with my parents as a 28 year old. It doesn’t matter what it was, what matters is that I decided to start paying attention to my body.
One of the most important things I’ve learned in working with trauma is that acknowledgment is a major factor in the healing process. As it is a process of many rollercoaster years, one of the greatest things we can do for the aspects of self that are really intertwined with pain is the acknowledgement that that pain exists and that it is valid that we feel uncomfortable, agitated, or upset. I think that’s why the simple, yet complex acknowledgment I Have a Physical Body was so important for me; I had been moving in the world as if I didn’t have a body or perhaps worse, that I had a body but didn’t care what happened to it. So much trauma has already been imprinted on this body, so what if anything else happens? This is no longer my mindset, but it’s not long ago when it was.
Like the Queen of Pentacles, I’m curious on what it means to be grounded, what it means to sit with my body when it starts talking instead of running away or even running to try and fix it. There have been moments where I run to my yoga mat to stretch out the pain collecting in my lower back, but practicing subtle patience before taking action is giving me deeper insight into what the pain in my lower back is actually radiating.
In ‘spiritual communities’ I hear/see a lot of emphasis put on exploring Spirit through energetic concepts that don’t necessarily include the body. I find that this lens neglects the physical body for what it is: a perfect spiritual tool, a completely gorgeous vessel. When we channel spirit, it’s through our human body. When we meditate, we are becoming present not just in the mind (the human mind) but into this third dimensional body. The quote I used at the top of this essay, by Jessie Susannah aka Money Witch really incapsulates this, "Your human assignment is your single most important piece of spiritual work right now or you wouldn’t be doing it.” If your, my, our lens wasn’t supposed to be through this 3D human form, we would have incarnated differently. The Universe is so expansive that we had so many different perspectives to choose from and we chose human.
It’s important for me to remind myself, this is my human body, this is my physical body because my body is my literal vessel to contain any and all spiritual, emotional, and mental growth. Without my body, I lose the valuable perspective of what it means to have a body. I’m slowly learning like the Queen of Pentacles to integrate small lessons into the physical form, to listen and hold valid the ways my body talks to me whether it’s in pain or not. I want to debunk this weird myth that in order to be spiritual or psychic or intuitive one must be ‘out of body’, when really, our human bodies hold such ancient wisdom from our personal ancestors and collective ancestors. Our body doesn’t forget, our body serves a purpose as a manifestation of magic and I am slowly realising it is my greatest and most powerful tool.