Step down into your body’s own root cellar, the dark, hidden place where your unfinished stories are kept (Brandeis). Breathe in the rich earth smell as you travel deep underground, beneath the busyness of everyday thought. On the way down, perhaps you note a tightness in your neck and shoulders, or soreness in your back, arthritis in your hands; the murmurings of old hurt. These are the body’s visceral memories, connections to the unfinished business of your life which waits for you where it has been left. The body is the hidden stairway to authentic being; it does not forget the way down. Note your breathing too as you move into the root cellar of your inner being. You may breathe slowly and deeply on beginning to remember something familiar and important.

When you arrive at the bottom, what do you see? There may be a musty box of half written songs, a notebook of poems written on long winter nights after a deep hurt, perhaps the seeds of a story hidden away beneath the realities of everyday life—the feeling, “One day I will get to it, but not now.” Gayle Brandeis writes, “If we don’t tell the stories that ask to come to us . . . they become neither food nor trees” (p. 14); they stay in cold storage and cannot contribute to the greater story of our lives. When we have stories to tell and do not or are not able to, the emotion beneath the story may become distorted and enter into coping strategies, addictions, anxiety, depression, sadness, physical illness.

When emotions connected to innate creativity are tucked away in deep recesses and never accessed, life can feel like something important is missing. The symptoms (illness, addiction, and more), can lead us to frustration and despair or can open the door, pointing to where our life calls us to follow the law of our own being. In the root cellar we find once again the parts of ourselves that have waited for us with the unfinished business of our lives.To get back to creative, transformation-loving self, an emotion stronger than the ones that keep us away is needed. We cannot always follow each instinct right away, but the act of physical-emotional remembering can create a ritual where we honor the creative voices of ourselves and allow them to contribute to our lives.

In my psychotherapy practice, I hear the past and present story and look for the cues as to what it is that may be wanting to emerge. Movement is accomplished by helping my client align with the stronger positive emotion, using that to work through the stuck places—the strategies, emotions, fears which keep the door downwards closed. I have a few tools I find especially helpful here; visual-emotional work being one. Through creating a visual and emotionally powerful image, unique to each person, it becomes possible to use emotions to deal with emotions; this engages the body’s memories and follows them down. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung wrote of an important dream image for him. He described moving through the layers of a house, through the centuries, down an ancient stone staircase, and into his innermost self where he found a deep sense of meaning. This is the place where the seeds of creative works and the seeds of transformation can be found. All change and all growth is rooted here.

One easy way to access your own root cellar is to take one piece—one idea for a poem, one story or memory, and bring it to the surface, into the waking world. Work on it a little, even if this means writing just one word or sentence; or even turning it over in your mind. This simple act, without pressure to create a finished work, is enough to spark some small change. The story is brought out into the daylight world, and in turn it brings a deep resonance with it. Notice how the stiffness in your neck or shoulders, or the arthritis in your hand, feels once you get a word or two down. Also notice how your breathing has changed. And if the story feels it is being seen, it may just decide to turn into something important.

(Quote from Gayle Brandeis’ Book Fruitflesh, 2002)