How Loving your Body Heals
People confuse no longer experiencing pain, with healing. But there are a lot of ways to no longer experience pain. You could take hard drugs for instance.
Why is the lack of pain taken for indicating that we are whole and healed?
When you can feel your body you can be in relationship with it. The importance of this is that it allows you to heal.
But what does it mean to “feel your body”?
The capacity to turn our attention inward and focus on our own sensations is only available to us if we feel safe enough to turn our attention away from our environment.
If we are in a survival state where we perceive higher levels of threat coming from our environment then it’s harder to be aware of our body and the sensations that it’s sharing with us.
We can also deliberately shift toward a restful and creative state by reversing this process and noticing that we’re in a survival state, i.e. stressed out, and moving our attention from our environment and our cloud of thoughts, and into our body and sensations.
As with any skill, it’s best to start the process with something easier and, as facility is gained with that, shift toward more and more complex or detailed elements of the skill.
For instance, beginning by noticing sensations of hunger or thirst, or feeling the breath moving the belly and the rib cage. From there one can start to feel the alignment of one’s body along the line of gravity, or the position of one’s hip bone in their hip joint.
With these skills we can, for instance, notice the tension in the shoulder muscles and regain volitional, conscious control of what we’re doing–long before it results in pain.
There’s an underlying potential hurdle that needs to be addressed, and that is the relationship we have with our body right now.
Is it a lazy servant?
A sadistic master?
Or maybe an errant child?
If it is the errant child, how do we respond to it? Do we bring in more rigid discipline…or empathy and curiosity about the source of the error?
If it is the lazy servant who can’t keep time with our agenda, who makes us late for meetings and won’t allow us to get things done or show up in good form for our obligations, do we chastise it? Do we attempt to beat it into shape? To drag it across the finish line no matter what it costs? And in the process do we feel good about ourselves for getting the job done?
I like to think about my body in the third person, because it can help me access more empathy. Sometimes one struggles to offer themselves as much empathy as they would extend to others.
I find it helpful to come from the place of believing that my body is doing her best, and if something isn’t working out, then I could take it on myself to ask, and then to listen to the answer that my body might offer me.
I think it’s also helpful to relate to our body as though it were a complete part of us. I could call it half of our being, but that sets up the false idea that there might be a tidy division point.
Sometimes the body gets thought of as a sort of animated shell that we’re walking around in. Or like a complex machine that needs refuelling and occasional maintenance.
There is not a single element of my body that doesn’t also create who I am and how I exist in the world.
I know a particularly short and petite woman whose total mass in this world is about 90 pounds. I’m a particularly tall and non-petite woman (a Scandanavian sort) whose mass is closer to double that. I wonder how these two different bodies that we live in change our lives? Change our thoughts? Change the activities we’re attracted to, and change how we relate with other people?
Likewise, every thought I think, emotion I feel, or long standing belief that I don’t question, shifts and shapes my physical being. You can feel that happen when you read something erotic, or when you think about political agendas you’re opposed to. These feelings make detectable changes in the body.
Beliefs are just longer lasting versions of thoughts. They can have a big effect on our body. There’s been some interesting stuff studied about personality, identity and belief and its effect on back pain.
The physical and mental coexist with a foot in each realm in each moment. (In fact there may be more than two realms, depending on how you want to talk about it.)
Just the fact that you want to have a loving and cooperative relationship with your body will shift your experience and change your body. Having that intention to extend love and empathy toward your physical being will change your very first, not completely conscious, response when it starts trying to get your attention.
Next time your body cries, don’t just drag it, kicking and screaming along with you. Stop and rub her back and let her know that she can tell you what’s wrong, and that you’re there for her.
If you can’t do it just at that moment, then let her know you’ll make time to listen to her later.
And actually make time to do it.