Did you know that in medieval times books were written on animal skin? And there was a deep association between stories and skin?
This is the kind of stuff I absorb from listening to NPR on my way back from grocery shopping.
But it made me think... what stories are written on my skin? Stretch marks, wrinkles around my eyes, the freckles on my arms, callouses on my feet, and surgery scars... and the mind kindles the stories that go with them.
I have to be honest... that my body is often a difficult spot for me... I've always been highly critical of my body and it's caused a great deal of emotional pain. I even admit that recently I was thinking of having surgery... getting rid of this funny lump here... and the wideness there. I'm not sure how serious I was... and I certainly don't judge anyone who does this... but this idea of looking at my body as a story... it changed that a bit.
I see writ, not only in my skin, but my very cells... deep and archetypal stories... of hardship, triumph, valor, failure, and rebirth. Oh... the rebirth. How things can begin anew... even when we're sure the world is over. The gift of rebirth... the blessings of time continuing to march forward.
So, what is that story? It's a snapshot... a moment in time when one truth exists and we look at it from the perspective in which we are. And then, something else happens... and that story... it isn't what it used to be. I can't possibly express enough gratitude that life is as it is... always in motion... because some of the stories I conjured in the moment were painful. To be able to move out of pain... to grow out of it... means that we must be in the flow of life.
Surrender to the flow... that is how to ride life! When we hold and grasp, we try to keep things from shifting... which is their true nature... we resist life. We create tension and difficulty where surrender belongs.
I used to hate the word surrender. One of my best qualities is persistence... which used to feel in conflict with surrender... as if I should let things... even injustice... be as they are... and not stand for something better. However, I've come to see surrender differently in the last month or so. I see it as a way of dancing with something, not ignoring it. I see surrender as a flow, rather than trying to control the tide. And it is how I dance... with stories... with the events in my day... that determines what I lend my energy to... what I support and strive for... and always... that is to leave the world more true to itself than it was when I arrived.
It's not all in your mind. In fact, there's a good chance it's in your BODY.
You know those days when you find yourself in a constant state of irritation with the kids/husband/job/demands? The kind of irritability where you feel guilty because although your mind tells you it's not that big of a deal, but you feel like you could lose your cool at any moment?
First, you're not alone. It is a common experience to have that internal conflict where you WANT to do what's on your To Do list AND you have the sense that a storm is brewing within. While part of the irritating situation does exist outside of the body, the storm is happening because something that feels irritating is also happening INSIDE THE BODY. When hormones are out of balance, there is a cellular level of irritation, that is ADDED to what is happening around you... and when all the cells are irritated... that's what your stormy feelings reflect.
Once irritation settles into the body it becomes self-perpetuating. Irritation produces tension and inflammation in nerves and muscles. Blood flow is decreased by the tension, which in turn decreases oxygenation and pH begins to become more acidic. Low oxygen and high acidity are irritating to cells, and the cycle of tension and irritation is perpetuated.
So, how do we break into such an IRRITATING cycle? I have included two tips that are tried and tested, yet simple and easy to integrate into your daily life to create quick and long-lasting change. One word of caution: don't mistake simple for unimportant.
1. Take slow deep breaths.
Sounds simple enough, yes? It is, but most of us don't do it.
Most of us breathe too shallow. By not expanding the lower lungs, making the belly move when you breathe, you deliver a bare minimum of oxygen to the body and brain, signaling your body that you are in danger.
The effect of shallow breathing is that we CREATE a stress response when there is no danger!
In dangerous times the body doesn't do repair work, or digest food well, or mount an immune response. If you are in a constant state of shallow breathing and perceived danger, you are likely to get sick often, have sluggish or painful digestion, and eventually have general body breakdowns.
By taking nice full, slow breaths deep into the lungs, you signal your body to drop into relaxation... which also happens to be the mode in which we are able to do cellular repair and mount a sufficient immune response. This is why noticing the breath is part of nearly every wellness practice.
Coming in a close second to breathing is... RESTING. Rest is undervalued in our society, but our bodies CRAVE it! Much of our tension comes from forcing ourselves to do the things "we should be doing", instead of listening to the cries of our bodies for more rest. It doesn't have to be sleep, although that's good too, but it does need to be RESTORATIVE.
For myself and many of my clients, I'm finding that truly restorative rest involves a true break from doing things. So, it's not doing yoga, or exercise, or creative projects, which do have high value and provide clarity of mind... but when I say REST, I mean that the muscles are not working, the mind is not solving problems. REST is committed time to simply BE.
Rest is best done laying down, and the more you practice true REST, the more you will train your body to TAKE BREAKS from the doing mode. And through this practice you will bolster your physical resilience. Your To Do list will still be there after 5, or 10, or 20 minutes of rest... and you can pick it back up... but with a REST practice you can teach your body to return quickly and easily to cellular rejuvenation.
One of the KEYS of true rest, though, is not letting your thoughts stress you out as you lay there! Breathing into the center of your head - between the temples and behind the eyes - is a practice that can keep you thoughts from taking over. This take practice... so if you notice a thought... just label it a thought... and go back to the breath and focussing on the center of the head. This is a very quiet space, and the more you practice going there, the easier and more restorative your rest periods will be.
As simple as these exercises may sound, they have changed my life and the lives of my clients. These tools offer your body significant shifts in the chemical processes available to it.
If you are noticing resistance to something so simple as part of your well-being plan... then ask yourself "Do I believe I have the capacity to change my situation?" and "Am I committed to my well-being and willing to take action?".
Consciously stepping out of the stress response to rest and rejuvenate mode can go a long way toward the body healing itself. If that's not enough, it may be necessary to take a holistic approach to unwinding the mental, emotional, and physical structures that hold the tension in place.
Here's to your well-being!
I'm an explorer of inner realms, a pattern observer, and an invitation maker. I believe that healing the world starts within.
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