According to many in the fields of holistic and integrative medicine, our experiences –physical, mental, and emotional — leave their imprint upon our cells. The term, cellular memory has been coined to describe this phenomenon. There are massage and other techniques of physical manipulation designed to release past hurt and trauma stored on a cellular level. Once released, the trauma can be transformed. That’s the idea, anyway.
I hadn’t given it much thought until a yoga class some weeks back. We were to hold our arms straight up and above our heads. As you might imagine, after a minute or two holding the posture grew challenging. Usually I’d lower my arms, rub out the kinks and resume the posture. But on this morning, I decided to see how far I could push it. How long could I actually hold the pose?
A funny thing happened on the way to finding out. As I reached that I-can’t-take-it-any-more threshold, I remembered this was our third grade teacher’s punishment of choice. Talk out of turn or pass notes and off to the corner with you, spindly arms held aloft for what felt like hours. Couldn’t have been more than a minute but all it took was once to bring you into line.
As I held the posture that morning in yoga class, third grade came rushing back: where my desk was (Jimmy Brantley behind me, Cindy Wright in front); the wide uneven wooden floor boards; the multi-paned window that spanned nearly the entire back wall of the classroom overlooking two enormous oaks in the front of the school yard; the heavy green plastic window shade blocking the afternoon sun. I hadn’t thought of the cloakroom in years, nor the covered brick archway that led into the building, nor the water fountain right outside the girls’ bathroom. The bathroom with the windows that looked down upon a courtyard and the windowed breezeway that connected the older part of the school with the newer. It was all right there. I could have held my arms up all morning. All discomfort vanished, replaced by a delightful rush of memory.
So that’s what it meant to release cellular memory. What it means to reconnect and transform it. Who knew all of those third grade memories were still there? Like microscopic Las Vegases, what goes on in the cells stays in the cells. Except for those random moments of transformation when you move through the discomfort and hit the jackpot instead.