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The Power of the Self Map

I will be forever grateful to Body Mapping for the level of embodiment and awareness that it gave me.

I will be forever grateful to Body Mapping for the level of embodiment and awareness that it gave me. Unlike many people who come to this information, I didn’t have an acute injury - but I did have acute performance anxiety that caused tons of tension everywhere in my body. As a graduate teaching assistant 13 years ago at the age of 22 years old, I remember hyperventilating and crying in the bathroom stalls before I had to go teach classes in front of 30 or more students that were basically my age. I remember blacking out when trying to perform on stage for my juries, I remember my hands and arms feeling disconnected from my torso, I remember feeling completely disassociated from my body. I had no tools to work through anxiety, and I didn’t understand what feeling my body even meant. I had spent a lot of my life trying not to feel my body, because I was afraid that if I let my guard down I’d lose my safety net.



I had no tools to work through anxiety, and I didn’t understand what feeling my body even meant

I remember my first class with Lisa Marsh at Portland State University, being afraid to feel my body and uncomfortable looking in the mirror as she gently introduced different aspects about the body to me.  And I remember how free she seemed. So comfortable. So embodied. So natural in her movement. She had something I wanted- something I knew I had inside of myself. Something I knew I could recover and regain. That was the beginning of my life-long pursuit of musician’s wellness and sharing my knowledge of Body Mapping with anyone who will hear it.


Over the course of training to become an Licensed Body Mapping Educator (LBME), sharing this information with others who need it, and let's be honest - a lot of therapy and life coaching - I’ve finally come to a place of embodiment and awareness that I can access both on and off the stage. While the anatomical information was deeply illuminating, it was the Self-Map section of the course that initiated a deep transformation within myself.


The self-map is the neuronal self representation of how we see ourselves in relation to the world.

The body map is the neuronal self representation of the size, structure and function of all the parts of our body. The self-map is the neuronal self representation of how we see ourselves in relation to the world. How we see our full selves in relation to others. At the time, I didn’t map myself as a performer, even though I was pursuing a performance degree. I didn’t map myself as a musician, feeling as though I was an imposter and someone would find me out. Correcting my self map helped everything, and it allowed me to access deeper embodiment that allowed me to integrate the other anatomical tools that Body Mapping offered.


I could not have connected these dots with the self-map if I didn’t have the guidance from the entire What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body course, including finding dynamic balance, inclusive awareness, the laws of the spine, and always being asked “how does it feel in your body.”


One of my favorite exercises when I teach the self-map to my students is to have them name their biggest inner critic, and rewrite it as a loving friend. I ask students to name the shame they have around music out loud, and then we come up with a loving but firm response every time that shame pops up. I ask students to connect to themselves and their “why,” and at the end of the self-map session I ask students to name their biggest, wildest dreams they’d like to see themselves accomplish as a musician.


It’s amazing what we can hope for and dream about when we access our self-map. It's amazing what we can accomplish when we lose what we don’t need and find what's really ours: when we lose what we used to see to find what's really there. Body Mapping helped me begin that journey and share that journey with others.


It’s amazing what we can hope for and dream about when we access our self-map.

Some resources I believe would be very helpful would be Barbara Conable’s Self Map article linked below, The Gifts of Imperfections by Brene’ Brown, and A Journal for the Musicians Soul, by Stephanie Bernards and Ashlee Young. I’d also suggest listening to Artistry with Heart: Conversations for the musicians soul. The next season of this podcast will feature LBMEs Lisa Marsh and Cynthia McGladrey, among many other wonderful musicians who are willing to share their story, their “why” and how they take care of themselves on and off the stage.


Body mapping has been so deeply transformational, and I am so grateful for the myriad of ways it continues to heal myself and the students I work with on a regular basis. Cheers to healing!



Self Map Barbara Conable
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Thank you for this. I think many people will find your story and the ideas very relatable.

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