Letting the Body Speak

By Shae Hadden

My very first job was as a nursing assistant in a chronic care
hospital. At the tender age of 14, I donned my starched nurse’s cap and
white uniform to spend several hours each day tending to those who
could not care for themselves. Natural processes critical to the body’s
survival—eating, drinking, defecating, urinating, moving, breathing—had
become a moment-by-moment challenge for many of the people we cared
for. Most had lived in this state for innumerable years—there were few
new faces in the wards and even fewer visitors during the two summers I
worked there.

thing that struck me most about the patients’ lives was the silence—the
absence of any sounds of life emanating from them. The few exceptions
were the ‘babblers’. The music teacher who sang a music only she could
hear and who conducted the world with her hands permanently wrapped in
bandages to protect them from the damage she inflicted on them. The
50-year-old man confined to bed and paralyzed from the waist down with
a libido that wouldn’t quit. The 90-year-old lost in her drug-induced
dreams, having endless conversations with people from her past. These
three were the only ones speaking on an entire floor of patients.

loss of voice was to me the saddest part of growing old. I was studying
singing in high school, exploring my voice and just beginning to
express myself, and this summer job was a way for me to afford the
extra music lessons I wanted.

Many years later, I still remember
those summer days on the ward. For me, of Life’s many pleasures, few
compare to the sensual experience of speaking and singing. The
coordination of breath and sound, physical action and release can be as
enticing as the synchronicity of simultaneous orgasm. The movement of
air through rapidly oscillating vocal chords is a movement so basic to
our functioning as a living organism as to be almost primal in nature.
As one ‘tunes’ one’s self to the experience of singing or speaking, the
resonating of sound waves in our flesh and bone creates an excitement
and pleasure, a greater sense of aliveness and a heightened awareness
of self.

Rigid, contracted or tense bodies affect the sound,
constricting the natural flow of air and limiting its resonance. People
confined to limited movement—or limited conversations—lose the
unthinking connection between breath and sound. Their voices lose
vitality and ‘presence’. Over time, they eventually end up speaking in
hushed voices or not at all. Once one stops letting the body speak, it
takes a conscious effort to restore that connection between thought
(mind), breathing (body) and self-expression (soul).

As we
grow older, we need to keep communicating, to keep sharing our selves,
sharing our wisdom. We need to flex and soften our bodies, open our
hearts and minds, to resolve the chronic bodily tensions that result
from physical misuse or lack of use. Only then can we experience the
full release and pleasure possible in self-expression. Only then can
our full voice be heard. Only then can we share the essence of who we

In doing so, we can stay connected with others and engaged
in life. With speaking, there is no limit to the amount of pleasure we
can experience—at any age.

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