Raise your hand if you live more in your head than in your body.
In case you can’t see me, my hand is sticking so high in the air it makes that annoying teachers pet you secretly hated in high school look like a D student.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve viewed my body as a tool to achieve my goals.
That pain? Ignore it.
That fatigue? Push through.
That flu? Get back on my feet before I’m well.
I had no value for my body beyond it being a vessel through which I could interact with the world. And not only did this vessel hold me back, it embarrassed me.
That nose? I cringe in the mirror at my profile.
That jiggle on my thighs? I poke it with distaste.
Those moles? Ew, so gross.
Let’s not even mention what I fed it, and then got angry at the “unexplained” gut pain or ever-spreading hips.
If you identify with any of this, you might be suffering from the same mind-body disconnect.
I’ve always loved this quote by C.S. Lewis:
You don’t have a soul.
You are a soul.
You have a body.
Sure, we’re souls, but aren’t we our bodies, too? To separate from them means we die.
I don’t know about you, but I’m nowhere close to ready for that kind of permanent separation.
Last year I decided to rectify this separation problem. I wanted to get my body and my spirit talking again. After all, we’re all on the same team here. And, if you’ve kept up on my blogs, you know that in March 2017, I started the long journey of finally getting a diagnosis for all this gut pain and cyclic fatigue. (It’s a long story, but if you want to know details go read this blog.)
And through this process, I learned my body was never the enemy. My mind was. As my poor body battled a bacterial infection for two decades, my mind treated it worse that the world’s most despicable person.
I’m picturing the before mentioned hated teacher’s pet. Sure I might want to lock her up and throw away the key, but I wouldn’t starve her, or berate her (to her face), or work her to exhaustion, and then berate her some more. Because this is a vile way to treat someone even when they are annoying and make you look bad.
Except, I do this to myself.
This revelation shocked and horrified me.
Let’s all take a moment here and let that sink in. If we wouldn’t treat our worst enemy so poorly, why would we treat ourselves this way?
The college basketball post player in me wants so badly to roll her eyes and tell my body to suck it up and GO GO GO! And even though she deserves a slap in the face, I’m even nice to her, now. The line she constantly hears now? “Hey, don’t push the body. Give it time to heal and maybe down the road we can get back to all the activities we long to do.
I’m getting really good at this.
But then a good friend took it a step further. She told me about learning to hear how my body says “yes” and how it says “no”.
This intrigued me. I can communicate with my body and it’ll talk back?
So, I tested it.
In a quiet, peaceful place (the bathtub) I asked my body, what it feels like when it says “yes”. Immediately, I felt a leaping sensation in my chest. The only way I can really describe it is joy. So I cataloged that away. Then I asked my body, “What does “no” feel like?” Immediately a heaviness descended on my chest. It was hard to breathe. I tucked that away too.
I know it sounds weird, but I promise you, this works. Think about it. We are integrated beings. Our minds and bodies communicate all the time.
Body: Ouch, that hurt.
Mind: I won’t grab a cactus anymore.
If it works like this, why can’t it work conversely?
Mind: Hey body, are you ready to up your dose of Japanese Knotweed?
Body: Yes! Finally you asked.
Mind: Are you up for a walk?
Body: No, but I’ve been dying for a bath. (Literal conversation I had yesterday.)
Asking your body questions may seem, well, crazy. But I can’t emphasize enough how much your body speaks to you throughout the day. Why don’t we hear it then?
Well, because we’ve trained our minds and emotions to tune it out. And essentially, over time, silence it altogether. Then, we wonder why we get sick or why we can’t sleep or why we fight depression and anxiety.
After explaining this process to another of my favorite people, she told me something else equally as woo-woo. She said our bodies are often mad at us and we need to ask them for forgiveness.
Of course, I asked my body if it was mad at me. And guess what happened?
Insta-tears. The kind of visceral, deep response that I can only explain as “you get me.”
As I explored this reaction, I realized my body didn’t trust my mind. It kept bracing for what will happen when I get well. Will I fall back into old patterns? Will I feed it food that made it sick? Will I let my inner basketball player take over?
My mind was at fault, and just like in any valuable relationship, it had to fix the trust I had broken with my body. So, I apologized. And I promised, to the best of my ability, that I wouldn’t treat my body so poorly anymore. That I would value it, like it deserved to be valued, like my most precious commodity. It is, after all. Without it, there would be no me on this earth.
Since I forgave myself, I’ve noticed trust building between my mind and body. I look at food and activities differently. I wait and feel what my body needs. Sometimes it’s a “yes”, sometimes it’s a “no”.
Everyday, I’m getting better at following my body’s lead. And I’m deep down happier because of the change.
It makes me wonder how much of this asking “yes” or “no” can help us in the rest of our lives. What if our minds and bodies worked in tandem all the time? How would this improve our quality of life? Our health? Our contentment?
It’s worth a try.
Go on, ask your body. Figure out how it feels when it says “yes.” Absorb the feeling of “no.” And then trust it. And once you know your body’s “yes” and “no”, ask it often.
But here’s the key: You have to follow through! Build that trust between your mind and body, and I promise, once you do, your body won’t lead you wrong.