Since October I've been working on a personal and deeply vulnerable story about my life. I've been held in this process by a group of nine other women... all doing similar work. We're writing our stories of being women... of our own little slice of what it means to be born female. It's called the YoniVerse Monologue project.
My story is finally written and I'm beginning to memorize it. And then... when I thought I'd done the hard work... and that I was at the easy part... the resistance set in. I felt like I didn't like the story anymore. It had been through so many iterations... and I was feeling sad to edit certain parts out in the interested of condensing a story that took 27 years to unfold, down into 7 minutes of dialogue.
And there... wriggling at the end of the rope that resistance handed me... I realized that I had an opportunity. I am at a choice point. I get to recommit or give up. And hell no I'm not giving up! So... the resistance became my invitation to find within me what I REALLY want... to find my direction... to rely on my own wisdom...
Where to look for the wisdom? My body. Resistance is too much holding... too much tension... not enough flow. So I looked to my body to show me where things were tight, sore, slow. And I began to move them, to pay attention to these places, asking them what information they had for me.
And my heel, where I tore ligaments recently... told me about foundations... and being true to myself as I edited my story. It spoke of feeling solid and grounded in my story. And my lower back reminded me to get support, to not do it alone... as that had been one of my deepest wounds in this story... trying to do this alone when I had no idea what to do. They reminded me to address these things every day.
My Body Wisdom is my mentor. It is the structure, the framework, by which I understand meaning in my life.
If you'd like to feel more connected to your Body Wisdom, this is a perfect time to join us in the Body Wisdom Healing Circle. It's a monthly (totally free) call-in gathering for turning toward ourselves to find the answers that we seek. In fact, we've modeled this year of calls on the Hero(ine)'s Journey. March's call will be all about locating our Body Wisdom, what it means to cultivate that relationship, and to begin to reorient our physiological pathways toward connection and sensation of our selves as we prepare to Meet Your Mentor!
So, I've been thinking a lot lately about bodies, illness, and healing. I've been thinking about western medicine, alternative healing, and energy work. Even though this is what I do, I still sometimes wonder when something happens to my body, which realm it falls in.
It's funny, that I've come full circle with my own healing this year. I began the year knowing that I had some emotional healing that was coming. I knew it was big... I knew it would be intense... and I was ready. What I didn't expect was the physical stuff that blew all that perceived control of the emotional wide open. I cried more this year than in a long time. I feared more this year than I have in a long time.
And I went to the doctor about the physical. I was finally referred to the fifth doctor... who I liked and trusted. But whatever is going on is mysterious. She told me Friday that if this next thing we're trying doesn't address my issues, then she doesn't know what will.
I came home and cried again. I really want it to be "fixed". But the ball is back in my court. Yes, I'm doing what she suggested. And I'll follow up with her in a month. But I already know. Nothing will change.
Unless. Unless I give my body the chance to tell the truth... to call a spade a spade. Unless I hear this body... let her say the things that no one wants to hear... that honestly, I'm not sure I want to hear. I don't want to revisit old crap... my life feels good right now... I just celebrated (truly) my fifteenth anniversary, my kids are healthy and wonderful, and things are just good.
But, my body says it's time to deal with the things that need stability and love and wellness so that they can even begin to express what they've been holding. I heard my body say that it's OK. That I'm OK.
I got clear that this physical stuff is only a mirror for me right now. And I have to address the core of what's being reflected. It will take time, and things will be fine.
And I want to be clear. I believe that illness (or discomfort or disease) sometimes originates in the body and needs to be addressed in the medical system. And sometimes it originates in the subtle realms of emotions, beliefs, and agreements. Sometimes those things are conscious, and sometimes not. For me, right now, this thing... it's about healing the shames, the darknesses, the shadows. It's about reclaiming something of me that is rightfully mine. And when I do, I believe my physical body will stop reacting. I've done it before. I see it with clients all the time.
I live in this intersection of physical and subtle bodies... I love this intersection of physical and subtle realms... I am at home here. It should come as no surprise that this is where my own healing is right now.
... Or "How The Heart Is The Center of Healing
I wrote last time about the Heart and the Heart Protector (Pericardium), and how I see them function in healing. The Heart provides access to our center, to our essence, and the Pericardium protects us. It is a sweet union, but one that is profoundly affected by pain... specifically the pain of feeling heart-broken.
Even though the Heart collects some pretty intense pain, it also holds the path to healing. The electro-magnetic fields of the Heart are a great beacon, a shining light, for a return to happiness and vitality. I'm not saying it's an easy road, that it's all skipping and giggles, but I am saying that it's where I often begin... with myself and with clients. Because it's powerful.
The electromagnetic field of the heart is created by the flow of the electrical signals from the top to the bottom of the heart. This flow of electrical potential creates a donut shaped electromagnetic field around the heart organ. The "donut shape" is known as a torus. This is measurable and well known. I didn't make this up.
But see... the beauty lies in the fact that the heart is not alone! The heart has an electromagnetic field... but so does the whole body (I'd argue details with the image below that I got from the HeartMath website... but the gist of it is true). Thus, the heart field is nested within the Whole Body Field... and ultimately, the earth has this same magnetic field, so we are each nested within it.
The point is that when we connect with the Heart Field, we can notice how the Heart Field is nested within the Whole Body Field, which is, in turn, nested within the Earth Field. We can then invite into this dynamic, other fields in our bodies.
For instance, red blood cells have this same toroidal shape... and when we invite them into resonance with the Heart Field (and the others) the blood cells shift into a supported and robust form, and carry more oxygen (this is where Western Medicine does not follow me... but I still know it to be true).
In fact, each chakra, each organ, each cell... when invited into resonance with the Heart Field, are able to step a little more into their essence and their full expression of well-being and vitality.
Don't believe me. Try it. Sit quietly. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Bring your attention softly to your body. Gather yourself and your energy to you. Relax your shoulders, your neck, your back. Release the tension in your fingers. Notice that you are in relationship with earth... simply because you press down on her surface. Notice that she sends energy back up through you. Breathe into alignment with that energy source. Notice that you are also in relation with spirit... as inspiration and life force bathe you. These energies mingle inside of you, at your heart. It is your sense of center, of essence, of Who You Are, and a sense that your essence is supported, safe, nourished.
The Heart beats softly. Allow the sensation of the energy field of the heart to come into your awareness. It is flowing, regular, steady. This sensation sends the message to the body that all is well. There are measurable physical benefits to this sensation... we can get into that some other time. For now, just know this place.
For practice, you can invite your mind to awareness of your red blood cells, circulating through the body... through the heart. As they flow through the heart send the intention to bring them into alignment with the energy field of the Heart. Feel the desire for deep belly breaths. Give in.
This alignment between Heart Field and Red Blood Cell Fields brings up oxygen in the body. You might experience it as a light tingling... or you may not have a physical sensation of it. Inviting it to your brain will increase clarity, certainty, and alertness. Inviting blood flow to a tense place can begin to unravel the anaerobic conditions created by chronic tightness. It probably won't relieve it completely, as there's a pattern holding tension there... but it can make it bearable for a time.
Play with this... where else could you invite oxygen? What other fields could you invite to resonate with the heart? What is possible when we get to know ourselves so intimately?
The heart is sometimes considered the center of our being. I can see how that’s true, although I’m not sure it’s always true. The essence feels clearest in the heart, as if there’s less translation between Who You Are and the expression of the heart.
Heart energy gets to the core of things (“the heart of the matter”). Because the heart appears to be a relatively clear channel for the expression of one’s essence, it is also a generally reliable reference for one’s truth. I don’t mean universal (or shared) truth, but what we know to be true for us that may or may not be true for others.
The heart is also a secret keeper. It holds tensions and pains deeply, and is generally committed to the pain once the heart agrees to the story that we are broken, unlovable, or lack value. The agreements with these stories are where we have the power to repair our own broken-heartedness. It is not by denying that our past is what it is, but by rewriting the story.
I rarely work directly with the heart, but when I sense tension here we begin to work on the tension itself, beginning somewhere else in the body or in the subtle realms. When I do invoke the heart it is through its ability to serve as a compelling energy center, and so I am always calling on what the heart does well as a place to begin.
The heart is protected by the pericardium, a tissue that surrounds the heart. It protects the heart muscle from infection, physical trauma, prevents friction as the heart beats, and it keeps the moving heart in place. Between the two layers of pericardial tissue is pericardial fluid, which acts as a further buffer against external insult.
In the work that I do, the pericardium has two main functions. First, as above, it is protective. Second, I perceive that the whole body can be mapped onto the pericardium in much the same way that reflexology maps the body onto the feet or hands, and acupuncture maps the body to the ears.
In practice I find that the pericardium can hold a pattern in place that has otherwise been released from the body… or that a pattern will refuse to leave until the map onto the pericardium is addressed. Generally, that means that the pattern has some kind of protective power for the client and that either needs to be released or redirected to a more appropriate place in order to release the pattern.
The prescription of the pericardium is connection. There is a deep longing that can get held within the pericardium for deep and meaningful relationships with others. Being on the outside of important relationship can be held in the pericardium as tension which in turn can affect the heart muscle itself.
Our social atmosphere is far more important than we give it credit for. A nourishing social environment can map itself onto the pericardium as well as a traumatic one. In my opinion, our most radical form of self-care is choosing carefully who we spend our time with... and what we do in that time.
What could the world be like if we considered all of our interactions with others to be a form of self-care?
The other day I had the opportunity to reflect on receiving... for like the millionth time. I was creating content for my Body Wisdom Healing Intensive, Returning to Center... so I had to stick with it even when I couldn't figure out what to say about it. I struggle so much with the concept of receiving.
It's the worst sort of circle... the one where I start with a good intention... receiving happiness, or joy, or a compliment, or really anything at all that feels good... and then I hit resistance. Instead of stepping back and questioning resistance I tend to fight with it... and eventually I lose and end up with my head in my hands wondering how broken you have to be to push away happiness/joy/pleasure.
And then... the Muse opened a channel... and there it was. Receiving isn't easy because PARTS of it aren't easy. Check this out...
Maybe receiving isn't one thing... but many things. Maybe, if I looked at it as separate types of receiving I could find my way. (Note: these are not mutually exclusive categories, and this is a question-posing exercise... I don't have answers... so... um... only keep reading if you are cool with that.)
1. Social: We are interact with others through the giving and receiving of attention. It includes chatting about the weather, social niceties, and small talk.
2. Emotional: This is our sense of connection with others... it can come from social receiving, but includes the sense that we are not alone, that we can see our kindred spirits in others.
3. Mental: This is the transfer of knowledge or information. Generally this happens within our institutions... and it reinforces an established hierarchy. Someone has the knowledge or information and imparts it to someone who does not have it.
4. Spiritual: Our relationship with ourselves and our connection to all other living beings, including that which is bigger than us. The details of HOW you do this is unimportant in this context, what IS important is THAT you have this.
Let me tell you why Spiritual Receiving is my saving grace...
Social, Emotional, and Mental receiving always involves another human being. This creates a situation in which fear is a constant companion. I'm going to venture that all of us have experienced some kind of betrayal, question of our worthiness, or general trauma in these kinds of interactions. If someone else is involved, we simply cannot control the situation such that we can always trust it. It makes receiving, an act of trust, very difficult if there is fear and protection involved.
There is nothing wrong with fear, or protection. Both, when utilized at the appropriate times keep us safe. If we're new to receiving, though, they also keep us from being able to receive.
And then there's Spiritual Receiving. Thank all that is holy. Because this... this is where our receiving is all about us. We have complete control. There is not another unpredictable human in the mix with their own baggage to dump on us... it is just us and spirit.
You can find Spirit lots of places... and whatever gets you connected is perfect... nature, church, an altar, a candle, meditation, prayer... it's all good. Do you know where you find your sense of connection? Where is Spirit? How much time do you spend there?
To be clear, the goal is not to rid ourselves of fear and protection... but for them to stick to their job of blocking danger... not blocking our reception of some of the greatest gifts of connection in our lives.
I know this because this year I'm actively relying on my connection with Spirit to help me clear up confusion in my receiving through relationship. Yes, I said year. It's nowhere near over. It may be stretched before me for many years still. But it's so worth it. I have had such great joy from the connections I'm building as I reach into those vulnerable edges with someone I love and trust... and I come out happier, more connected, and more willing to play on that edge again.
Because I can receive from Spirit, in a way that is safe and trustworthy, I know that I can both have good receiving experiences AND move slowly in relationship with others. This is how I take tiny steps toward big healing. For me it's the easiest way.
While I know it's not uncommon to have an adversarial relationship with your body... I can promise you that idea... that the very thing you can't get away from is out to get you in do you in... isn't supporting your well-being.
When we feel like we're under attack... that something is out to get us... our only safe response is defense and/or counter-attack. At the very least, then, we become defensive about our bodies... wondering when it's going to interfere with our planned life next... preemptively warding off the next thing we're afraid of with supplements, exercise techniques, or diets.
What if your body really loves you? What if it wants to be vibrant and healthy as much as you want it to work for you? What if it is constantly speaking in its own language... telling you what it wants and needs... only for you not to be able to hear it... to have the whims of lifestyle gurus telling you what to do to your own body to whip it into shape - submission - function.
I'm not suggesting that all of the nutritionist - exercise - health coach - foodies are steering you wrong... no. But what would it be like to learn something new about health and to bring it to the body to tell you if it's right for you or not.
I brought raw food to my body and it laughed at me. I understand the argument for raw foods, and I believe in the basic understanding of nutrition around raw food... but my belly wanted NOTHING to do with it. More power to the people that it supports. But it doesn't support me. At least not now.
I have had foods that disagreed with me (dairy)... and I've been able to work through my relationship with them because the problem wasn't about the food but what it represented (mothering)... and now I can eat dairy and have been able to for years.
But how would I have known that was the case - that it was even possible - if it wasn't for my belief that my body loves me and wants us to have a good relationship? What if I hadn't spent years building a relationship with my Body Wisdom so that I could hear these messages?
Our relationships with our bodies are like any other. They are dependent on interaction, support, acknowledgement, love, and persistence. Keep listening. Your body is telling you what and how much it wants to eat, what kind of movement it loves, how much sleep you need, and how your thoughts make it feel. This is our most precious earthly relationship... the one we have with our bodies.
Thank you Earth Mother for this body,
For this gift of motion and manifestation.
With deep gratitude I honor my body,
And I allow us to love one another.
Other than that, it’s a dedication… something I do with the long-term goal of a healthy and happy life in mind. It’s definitely not “the easy road”.
That said, I’ve become more used to it. It can still take me a long time to dedicate myself and address the issues that come up, but I do know how good I feel when I do listen… and listen deeply.
For me, healing is mostly about awareness. It’s about listening to my body, and acting on what I understand.
Listening, it’s the first catch. Almost always. I was taught not to listen to my body, but to push harder, do better, achieve more. And it meant that I was often overriding my body’s messages in order to appear stronger, more flexible, and better at something, than I truly was. I worried about being good enough. A lot.
Listening took on a new dimension of resistance as I realized that when I did listen, I often received messages that I had to take care of. You know, the message that you’re really, actually, sick and should stay home and take care of yourself. Or the message that the emotion I’ve been avoiding engaging is still there, settling into my body, making me feel queasy and uncomfortable.
Listening is only really easy when I hear what I want to hear.
I read this blog post called Could Female Self-Hatred Be The Real Cause Of Autoimmune Disease? It's definitely worth a read. Sarah Wilson, who suffers from autoimmune disease has tried lots of remedies for her symptoms, and has realized that there's something else... something underneath the flare ups. Self-hatred. Tension. Anxiety. Not enough.
I often have clients who exhibit symptoms of autoimmune disease. A few have been diagnosed. And I'd posit that it's not unique to women, and that there's a second piece of the puzzle.
So... women. Yes, approximately 80% of the people diagnosed with autoimmune disease are women. This could be due to the differences in the immune system of men and women. It could also be that men and women will be found to have different symptoms of autoimmune disease. That remains to be seen. I suspect that men are going to be found to exhibit more neurological symptoms and nerve problems, whereas women have more inflammatory issues. That's just a guess based on a few male clients... so don't quote me on that. Besides, I'm not a doctor.
When I work with clients, we delve into their cellular function. We ask questions of the Whole Body Wisdom about what is happening there. And people with autoimmune disease often register as having a secondary infection... of pathogens that do not actively infect human tissues, but lay dormant, waiting for bacteria or viruses that they CAN infect to come by. These dormant colonies are the ones causing the inflammatory response, and yet they are not registered by the immune system because they are not virulent to humans. So, the conundrum... the body can see the EFFECTS of these things, but cannot locate them directly. Some days are good days when the colonies are very quiet, and other days they start communicating with one another to see if there has been an influx of cells that they can infect... and there's a "flare up".
Now, I can't diagnose, so when I'm with a client I stress that this is metaphorical. There are parallels between the body and the mind and the emotions... and the environment that shows up in one is likely to show up in another. That's how stress causes physical damage with or without an autoimmune issue.
As the writer of the article points out, it can be very difficult to clear these thought patterns that we're not good enough, that we're unlovable, and that we're not measuring up... because we can always find evidence for it due to human imperfection. And yet, I find, that it's relatively easy to address that same pattern when it shows up in the cellular function. When we move into the cells, we leave behind the story about WHY we're not good enough. And, in absence of the story that we use to anchor our beliefs about our worthiness or lovability, it's easier to clear those patterns.
It is about believing... that we are more powerful than anyone has ever told us. Actually, the placebo effect proves it. When we believe, we can make things happen. Choosing to believe is the key. I remember moving from my academic biology work into the healing realm. Sometimes I just had to go with what I had experienced, rather than what I could logically explain.
You have nothing to lose by believing that you are powerful. You have nothing to lose by believing that you hold the possibility of healing yourself. Find the root of the thought that you aren't enough, and ask yourself if you really, truly, in your heart, believe that. I don't believe it about me. And I don't believe it about you.
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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