Sometimes I feel like I have the spines of a hedgehog. They are a spiky barrier I just can’t retract. I thought I’d managed to lower them a little over the last few months, or at least to thin them out. But then, this week, there they were again: abrupt, prickly, impenetrable. I’ve had a weird, frustrated, angry week. Nothing in particular has happened, but it’s hot, I’m insanely busy at work and not everyone’s being co-operative. But more than that, I feel as though my body’s drawn in on itself. Everything feels and smells wrong. Quite often, just the sound of the radio has been too much for me. If Herbert has tried to talk to me at the same time that it’s on, I’ve barked at him. I can’t bear to be touched. I feel like my skin is too thin. Twice this week I’ve rushed out of bed in the middle of the night, convinced I’ve felt a glut of blood surge out over my legs. Twice I’ve realised I was only dreaming. The mind is slow to catch up with the body. Mine, it seems, is fearfully protective of it. I’m a meditator, and I know that these phases are necessary. Meditation is like the slow action of water on rock. Gradually, it wears through layers and layers of sediment, and every now and then something unknown is exposed to the light, a deposit of ancient bones. These too are eased away in time, but they must be revealed to be soothed away. Over the years, I’ve learned how my body holds an imprint of my fears, a physical defence against them that over the years becomes an immovable ache. This morning, for example, I went to yoga class, only the second one since my gynaecological problems made me give up. Once, I could fold myself in half like a deck-chair, not because of my yogi prowess, but because I had double-jointed hips. Today, I was shocked to discover that I couldn’t bend at all, that my pelvic girdle had tightened itself into a rigid knot. Once I’d got over the flush of humiliation (a seventy-year-old woman was performing a perfect forward bend next to me), I saw just how much I’ve been imagining my body as a fragile thing in need of protection. I have been curled inwards like that hedgehog, and even the parts of my body that I can’t command have joined in. But even realising this, what do I do with the information? It is one thing to understand that my body has rolled up to protect itself, but how can I make it unfurl?