Navel Gazing: The Healing Power of the Belly (Button)
My husband and I have a running joke about the power of my belly. Anytime he puts his head or a hand on it, he is asleep within ten minutes. Joking aside, there is something to be said about the powerful energy that we all hold in our bellies. Our intestines alone absorb nutrients, remove waste from the body, store serotonin, protect us against infection, provide a home for our good gut bacteria, and more. We also hold a lot of wisdom in our bellies (hence the saying "gut instincts"). On top of all that, the deep muscles of our belly support our posture and contract to protect us when we are under stress.
My appreciation for the relationship between belly physiology and birth has grown quite a lot recently. I have been deep in training to become a Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) practitioner, meanwhile being fascinated with how chronic stress and trauma contracts the muscles most involved in labor and birth. I find this to be INCREDIBLY exciting. I am perhaps one of the only people that finds trauma physiology to be “exciting”.
Here is a personal story to illustrate why this is so important when considering how to navigate a health crisis. I love sharing these stories of my own connection to intuition. I know that the ancestors and the plant-cestors want to express their deep wisdom with me as their conduit, and this week that wisdom came right through my belly (button).
I should give you a bit of backstory first. I wear myself out when I try too hard to make my writing “sound good” to anyone besides myself. This kind of behavior is an old pattern of over-giving, and of extracting my own energy until I have nothing left.
This pattern is related to a core wound of belonging that says:
1) I am not enough unless others love my work.
2) I am my work.
Being so narrowly defined by our professional work alone and martyring ourselves trying to gain acceptance are wholly bullshit capitalist ideals that I could do without. And yet here they are.
It makes me anxious just thinking about writing using the fear of rejection as my fuel. It made me not want to bother writing this post actually. My body tensed up in its usual spot below my ribs in a way that told me that what I was about to do was going to make me feel unwell. It knew that my motivation needed some refocusing.
So I refocused my intentions.
I am doing this for myself. And for my wise ancestors and plant allies.
There is a shift happening for me right now that I think is true for a lot of people in these times. Stuff that I have not fully processed from decades ago is resurfacing. It has been showing up in the form of vivid old memories along with the tension and disruption that happens in my gut when my body is struggling to digest something fully. Digesting all that is going on collectively and personally is a slow, gradual process. Trying to hurry it up is like running full speed into a brick wall and hoping it will yield to your fierce willpower.
I woke up the other day after weeks of struggling with a bout of chronic constipation. The pain was stronger than usual for me, so I decided to lay with a hot pack on my abdomen and prayed for support. Hoping to avoid the fierce willpower trap, I prayed that the universe would send me a sign that would help me refocus my efforts. I will say that it has taken me YEARS to feel comfortable doing this. My inner skeptic always says that this will be a fantastic waste of time right before I do it anyway and realize (again) how wrong my skeptic is on this one.
I took a sandstone and placed it on my belly, and it rolled right to my navel. It was just then that I made the connection between my belly (my navel specifically) and the feeling of belonging. I knew this intellectually from a few different teachers of mine but my body had yet to embrace the idea. The umbilicus is what remains of our umbilical cord. That cord was our first connection to any being on this planet. It was our gestational source of nutrients. It provided a sense of being taken care of. Stress hormones easily cross the placenta and through the umbilical cord, so the ability to feel connected and safe very much relies upon the sense of safety and connection that your mother felt during pregnancy. This belly-belonging connection deeply resonated with me as the old and vivid memories I've been experiencing have all related to intimate belonging in some way. The answer to my prayer was right there. I needed to connect to my own sense of my inner mother, reach out to family and community who can support and mother me, and connect to mother nature.
My belly felt much better once I asked for support. Of course maintaining wellness takes much more than a one-time effort.
So today I took some time to ask the universe for more guidance. An hour later, I picked up a book I had been reading. It opened right to a page with a statue of Omphalos, the navel of the world in ancient Greek mythology which linked the oracles to Mother Earth.
Got it, belly button. Loud and clear.
Lauren is a perinatal nurse, birth doula and herbal consultant specializing in transformational emotional support in pregnancy, parenting, and during other periods of personal growth. She supports people through one on one coaching, classes, and online resources to create a support system through the use of herbs and body based techniques.
Update: I will soon have 3-session Tension and Trauma Release (TRE) and herbal consult packages available for those who are not pregnant (preconception and postpartum ok). Sign up for my email list to stay updated on when those are available!