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Full Body Presence: Learning to Listen to Your Body's Wisdom

Full Body Presence: Learning to Listen to Your Body's Wisdom


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Many teachers stress the importance of living in the present moment. Few give the actual practices to make it attainable. This book teaches you how to return to the incredible navigational system of the body and more fully inhabit each moment.

For over twenty-five years, Suzanne Scurlock-Durana has masterfully taught her step-by-step practice of present moment awareness through her own combination of bodywork and CranioSacral therapy. The practices of Full Body Presence help you find a deeper awareness in the moment, even in the midst of chaos, family and work demands, or the pressure to perform. This deeper awareness also brings a fuller sense of trust and confidence in yourself and in the world. Full Body Presence is filled with concrete, life-friendly explorations and instruction clearly presented in both the book and the free accompanying downloadable audio files.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781577318606
Publisher: New World Library
Publication date: 03/09/2010
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 575,701
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, CMT, CST-D, has taught internationally about conscious awareness and its relationship to the healing process. Her Healing from the Core curriculum combines CranioSacral therapy and other bodywork modalities for a complete body-centered approach to feeling the joy of the present moment. She teaches and speaks throughout the world and lives in Reston, Virginia.

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Full Body Presence

Learning to Listen to Your Body's Wisdom

By Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, David Andor

New World Library

Copyright © 2010 Suzanne Scurlock-Durana
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57731-861-3


Out of Touch

Our bodies are the containers for our spirits. They are incredible navigational systems that inform us constantly, from our gut instincts to our heart's deepest yearnings. But take a quick look around you, and you won't see much acknowledgment of this truth. We are taught to ignore our gut instincts and to be polite instead. We are taught to ignore physical hunger and to strive to be stick thin if we are women. We are rewarded for overworking, often at the expense of our health — raising our stress levels even more. We are taught to live in our heads and to ignore the body's wisdom.

As we lose touch with our bodies, our healthy resilience suffers. The expression "Speed kills" refers to more than highway statistics. The speed of modern technology, combined with the sheer volume of information thrown at us on any given day, is enough to make us feel as though we cannot slow down and breathe if we want to keep up. The complexity in our lives can be overwhelming.

The good news is that, although changing slowly, the present state of body awareness in the United States is beginning to improve, as seen in the increasing numbers of people going for bodywork and attending yoga or movement classes. Along with this growing recognition of the value of the mind-body connection, there is a growing awareness of the problems alienation from our body creates. Such awareness gives us that much more incentive to learn to be fully present in our bodies and our lives. This is particularly so if we hope to be able to help others in a way that is more rewarding and less stressful.

Stress in the Healthcare and the Caregiving Worlds

Teaching in the healthcare world, I see the effects of Disrupted Body Presence exhibited in the exhaustion and stress-related illnesses of my students. The effect of burnout on bodyworkers, caregivers, and other healthcare professionals is well known. This burnout in turn creates serious consequences for the individual, the family, and society.

A burned-out healthcare provider with diminished therapeutic presence can miss important cues and signals, increasing the risk that mistakes will be made. This is further aggravated by the mountains of paperwork now required with medical treatment, which leave little or no time for the nurturing parts of the job. Staff cuts leave those still employed to do the work of two people, but without the healthy resources these workers need.

More important, very few healthcare providers and caregivers are taught how to stop, tune in, and take care of themselves so that they can more effectively take care of others without burning out. In fact, the default stance for many working in health care is to give without any thought of themselves. Their satisfaction and self-worth are measured by the results of their efforts on behalf of others. Self-care is often seen as selfish or self-centered. Another risk for caregivers and healthcare providers is that they can easily absorb a patient's tension and fear, unless they know how to hold healthy boundaries.

Some healthcare modalities teach practitioners to distance themselves from a patient or a client. This can work to a degree, but it also effectively numbs a healthcare provider's ability to participate in the positive, life-giving aspects of the work. The care provided is then limited, and compassion is missing. Such an approach creates a mechanical healthcare system rather than a conduit for deep caring and healing that benefits all involved. Burnout is then not far behind. The need for restorative steps is clear.

Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

In recent years a great deal has been discovered about the intimate interplay between mind, emotions, and body. We have clear evidence of how emotions are intimately connected to physical distress and illness. Yet for all the exciting new therapeutic approaches for working directly with the body to restore health and awareness, the value of Full Body Presence is still not well recognized.

The aspect of sensory awareness in Full Body Presence — the grounded connection with our body and the world around us — can play a major role in healing physical symptoms and illnesses. It can assuage and ultimately transform fear, doubt, and alienation into a sense of trust and confidence in oneself and life as a whole. Developing sensory awareness is also a powerful means of personal transformation. The strong therapeutic presence that emerges is of vital importance for both the caregiver and the one receiving care.

Full Body Presence also leads us to a more solid connection with our innate spirit and energy. And this connection can become the ever-present background against which we live our lives — instead of the serendipitous minutes of connection and ecstasy we may otherwise experience occasionally.

In many spiritual traditions, heaven is synonymous with being fully connected to the Divine, to our spiritual source. Yet this visceral sense of connection — which is or should be a given — slips away from us as we are socialized to fit in to our hierarchical and compartmentalized culture.

Unfortunately, elements of our educational system, cultural practices, and even religious doctrines speak in terms of dominating the world and our environment and of controlling our bodily functions and thoughts — as if we were somehow separate from the rest of creation. Our emphasis on speed, instant gratification, outward appearances, staying competitive, and retaining power without regard to the long-term outcome leaves us little time for feeling and meeting our deeper physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

In this milieu, our deeper felt needs are relegated to a lesser status. With regard to large or small issues, the wisdom of the body and its signals are suspect and not to be trusted in our culture. We typically give our thoughts more weight than our nonlinear inner knowing. We put our trust in outside experts to figure out what to do in our lives, rather than taking external data and going inside ourselves and connecting to our deeper wisdom to learn what is best for us. When we don't trust our internal awareness, we neglect our sensory awareness and create a sense of separation from our world, which is reinforced as we continue to ignore our inner world.

Origins of Disrupted Body Presence

Trust in our instincts and awareness can be eroded in many ways. Perhaps there was a time as a child when you felt sick but were told you were fine. This is how we begin to doubt our own internal cues. Perhaps you were grief-stricken when a friend moved away, but you were told that your grief was shameful, not important, or at the very least unreasonable (because you had plenty of other friends, right?). Again, you were being taught to mistrust your feelings, and so you began to lock away your grief whenever it arose in the future.

Or perhaps you had an uncle who gave you a creepy feeling when he hugged you at family reunions, but when you mentioned it to another adult, you were told to "Quit being silly and thinking such a thing about your uncle!" So you began to distrust your internal knowing, which told you your boundaries were being violated in some way. You may have had a friend you loved with all your heart, but others made fun of you for loving so openly and wholeheartedly. Maybe you were rejected, and you began to close down how much love you let yourself feel or the level of inspiration for living you allowed yourself to experience. In all these examples, your body was telling you something important, but those around you tried to convince you that what you were sensing wasn't real or valid.

Trauma and Defense Responses

No matter where we grew up, we have all had to adapt in order to survive and be accepted, conforming to the expectations of our families, religious traditions, and culture. Depending on our innate temperament and the level of repression to which we were subjected, we behave according to our own unique adaptations and defenses. Many of our idiosyncratic defense mechanisms may have originally served as brilliant survival tactics, particularly if we overcame traumatic events or circumstances. However, in most cases, these adaptations are now obsolete. They contribute to our sense of separation from ourselves and our world and now function as impediments to our happiness.

When traumatic events happen to us, the natural human tendencies are to respond to the stress by freezing, numbing, wanting to run, or fighting back to defend ourselves. Trauma can cause a temporary or a long-term disruption of our Full Body Presence. When our focus is on survival alone, our nervous system automatically goes into a high state of arousal, which can lead to skewed perceptions and reduced energetic awareness that can affect us in detrimental ways, especially when the traumatic event is long gone. Trauma often causes us to lose touch with our internal navigational system and the wisdom and safety it can provide. When we are not fully present in our bodies because of past or present trauma, we have a disruption in our system that needs to be resolved.

Building Your Present Moment Awareness Skills

If at times you feel overwhelmed by your feelings, you will find the audio Explorations can help you learn to develop your body and energy field as a container that can hold and modulate the whole range of human emotions. Building and continually strengthening this container enables you to have feelings and to learn from them, rather than having to constantly suppress them for fear of being overwhelmed or embarrassed by them. During times of acute stress or personal tragedy, this is particularly important.

In twenty-five years of teaching this work, I have watched thousands of students not only understand but also come to embody present moment awareness. I've watched students move into the deeper resonance and connection to life that is our birthright as human beings. It is in this state of flow and connection with our deepest spiritual knowing that we can experience the peace of being alive and fully embodied in each present moment.


How I Learned to Trust My Body's Signals

My childhood awareness of the invisible energy dynamics connecting us all, which I shared with you in the Introduction, slowly continued to expand after that summer night in Washington DC. When I was seventeen, I received my first big lesson in how my body could act as a barometer capable of sensing these invisible energy dynamics, informing me of the rightness or wrongness of a situation. Many of us have had a gut sensation when something felt really off — a sense of danger. Had I then had the confidence to trust my body's signals, which I do have today, the following story would have played out quite differently.

One Saturday night, deep in the warm summer of 1971, I was with an old friend, who unbeknownst to me was in withdrawal after a long stint of being awake on amphetamines. As we sat together, having a normal friendly teenage conversation in his car, in the parking lot outside of a neighborhood pool party, I began to feel a strange but distinct uneasiness in my gut. It was not a response to the tone of his voice or the topic of discussion. The uneasiness continued for well over half an hour, but I continued to ignore it because it seemed unreasonable to feel uncomfortable with my friend. He was such a close friend, like an older brother to me. Besides, I thought it would have been impolite to say anything about it.

The next thing I knew, his hands were around my throat, and he was strangling me. He was so strong I quickly and completely passed out. When I regained consciousness, I was trembling all over. My head was pressed against the car door. My friend was plastered to the other side of the front seat, behind the wheel, obviously shocked and horrified at what he had done. He apologized profusely. I, too, was in serious shock. Every cell in my body screamed at me to get out of the car now. This time I listened. I managed to open the door and crawl across the parking lot to a friend's car, where help was waiting. It took years of emotional healing and bodywork to melt the internal scars of betrayal and fear from that event. If I had paid attention to my gut and honored the message it was giving me, I could have avoided the whole situation.

Several years later, having established trust in my gut knowing, I was able to avoid another potential disaster. I was on a date with a popular basketball player in college. We were drinking and laughing at a party in someone's dorm room. The music was loud, and people were having a good time. At one point, however, I noticed that people were leaving. Soon my date and I would be the only ones left. My gut gave me that alarm signal I had experienced years earlier. This time I listened. I made up an excuse about needing to go to the bathroom, but I left for good. Later I discovered that this basketball player had date-raped several women on campus. Although I had learned the hard way initially, I did learn to listen to my gut.

What about the other body signals of this invisible world of energy dynamics? I learned more when I gained an understanding of breath and conscious movement and brought these practices into my life. Just before I left for college in the fall of 1971, I took my first yoga class. I loved it. Somehow, I instinctively knew that the conscious awareness I was being taught about breath, movement, and slowing down would bring me closer to connecting intentionally with the experiences I had previously undergone only serendipitously. As I faithfully practiced the yoga asanas and meditation each day, I began to notice a quieting in my system that I had never known before, as well as a growing ability to hear what my body was saying to me.

By my last year of college, I had firsthand experience of how my intention and Full Body Presence could combine to create a powerful synergy. I was in a dance performance in which I was a tree. My entire role was to stand solidly, center stage. Another dancer, a young man about forty pounds heavier than me, had to climb up one side of me and down the other. I was chosen for the role because I could stand most strongly and firmly. I did this by taking my conscious awareness inside my body to feel myself growing roots, like a big oak tree, down through the stage floor and into the earth. Once I was rooted, I was almost immovable. Although I could walk away whenever I wanted to, I had nonetheless created a strong connection to the ground beneath me.

Everyone was amazed when I held the weight of my fellow dancer. For me, this ability was simply an extension of what I had been playing with for several years. Later, I would learn that in the martial arts and certain meditation practices, this same use of intention and body awareness is well known. But I was discovering all this on an adventure of my own, exploring intention, energetic connection, and Full Body Presence.

My Parents' Presence

My parents' willingness to continue growing throughout their lives was a great example for me. And the ways in which they were limited by their life experiences affected me as well. For instance, my mom took me to my first yoga class, which was a pivotal part of my journey. Mom also has a gentle, quiet energy and a huge, warm heart, but like many women in her generation, when I was growing up, she couldn't model healthy boundaries. She let people walk all over her, had a hard time asking for what she needed, and put everyone else's needs first. So, while I learned to be a warmhearted presence from my mother, I was also left with huge questions about being powerful and female.

My father was an incredible thinker and a powerful public speaker. I grew up wanting to be like him. He had a presence that commanded attention, which gave me permission to do the same. The flip side was that his public presence exhausted him. What I later discovered is that my father had ready access only to his mind and upper body, which left him with a Disrupted Body Presence and explained his depletion and exhaustion at the end of every Sunday service.

My parents were unable to convey to me an appreciation for my lower body and all that the lower body represents — gut instinct, sexuality, intense creativity, movement, and grounding. Although I had a loving family, as I grew into adulthood, I understood that both my parents had deep issues of shame around their sexuality. Both experienced childhood traumas that caused them to energetically withdraw from their lower bodies and severely disrupted their Full Body Presence. They did not pass on the abuse they had received, but their fear of lower-body energy left a gaping hole in my understanding of the lower body in a healthy person.


Excerpted from Full Body Presence by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, David Andor. Copyright © 2010 Suzanne Scurlock-Durana. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by John Upledger, DO, OMM,
Full Body Presence Terminology,
CHAPTER 1. Out of Touch,
CHAPTER 2. How I Learned to Trust My Body's Signals,
CHAPTER 3. The Five Principles of Full Body Presence,
PRINCIPLE 1: TRUST the Existence of Nurturing Life Energy,
PRINCIPLE 2: FEEL the Presence of Life Energy in Your Body,
PRINCIPLE 3: INTEGRATE Life Energy Throughout Your Entire System,
PRINCIPLE 4: EXPAND Your Perceptual Lens,
PRINCIPLE 5: CHOOSE Nourishing Resources Moment to Moment,
CHAPTER 4. The Three Explorations: The Secrets of This Practice,
CHAPTER 5. Exploration 1. Opening Awareness: Where Am I in This Moment?,
CHAPTER 6. Exploration 2. Grounding and Filling: Nourishing and Replenishing the Container of Your Being,
CHAPTER 7. Exploration 3. Healing the Internal Resistance to Life,
CHAPTER 8. Using the Explorations and the Five Principles for Integration and Renewal,
CHAPTER 9. Guidelines for Living and Working with Others: The Gift of Your Presence,
CHAPTER 10. Healing for Today: A World at Peace,
Appendix: Transcriptions of Audio Explorations,
About the Author,

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