I’ve had a rough couple of weeks… I’ve been stressed, depleted, triggered, sleep is eluding me, I’ve had one too many frozen pizzas for dinner. My body hurts. My mind is busy. I’m anxious. I’m discouraged by the state of the world. I’m simultaneously bored and overstimulated. I don’t know what to do about anything in my life. I just feel generally unwell. Cue every shitty belief I’ve ever had about myself. I am always amazed at the extent of how deep shame and the ‘not enough’ wound run. It’s impressive, really. They are stored in the soft, warm shelter of my body and engage in a clever game of hide and seek, pouncing and the slightest sign of weakness.
Whenever this happens, the usual responses arise… I want to: run, hide, medicate, numb, cry, blame, pity myself, withdraw. My heightened sensitivity to feeling judged and less-than snatches any words or expression that were resting on my tongue or fingertips. My attention is yanked sharply inward, poking and picking at the internal carnage. It’s all about me, and oh, how could I have been handed such a rotten lot in life?!
Hellooo, martyrdom (this is when I get really sick of myself).
Next, I want to outsource my healing as quickly as possible. Can someone or something just fix this already? Can you fix me?? What can I take, what can I do, who can I pay, where can I go. I don’t even care at this point if someone could just make this stop, for fuck’s sake!
A happy distraction this week has been listening to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which explores the reciprocal relationship between people and creativity. I have been absolutely giddy at the thought of ideas chasing me around, waiting for the opportune moment to penetrate me. I’ve also been giddy to think that creativity loves me – it is not trying to torture and tease me, or demand that I suffer in order to prove my undying love to the muse, in exchange for sparse creative morsels. No… it loves me, and wants to be in right relationship with me. It wants to pass through my vessel and be birthed into the world.
These kinds of reciprocal relationships exist in many places that you may be aware of, that you may not expect, or that you may not necessarily believe in – with the flora in our gut, with our ancestors, with the land, with the many spirits existing in nature. There is a constant energy exchange, a give and take, even if we are not fully conscious of it. There are relationships longing to be acknowledged. Gilbert describes two questions that her friend, botanist and author Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer (from her exquisite book Braiding Sweetgrass) asks her young, earnest, ready to save the world environmentalist students before getting down to business:
“The first question is “Do you love nature?” Every hand in the room goes up. The second question is “Do you believe that nature loves you back?” Every hand in the room goes down. At which point Robin says, “Then we have a problem already.”
So why am I looking at the process of healing any differently? Why, during times like these, do I believe that everything is working against me? That my body hates me, that I need to hunt down health like a rabid dog, that I need to outsource my own healing? Why do I feel like I need to suffer in order to deserve happiness or health or anything else that I desire?
With these kinds of thought patterns, we have a problem already.
In reality, your body loves you. It is working day and night for you, and knows just what you need. If you are raising an eyebrow at this idea with skepticism, it is really no surprise. Our society has programmed us to consistently look outside of ourselves for answers. We have been taught to trust teachers, doctors, wellness gurus, authority figures, any number of people on the outside looking in to facilitate how we live and how we heal. And don’t get me wrong, it is monumentally important to ask for help when you need it, and to be supported by people who have the skills that can help you – there are many situations where this is essential. The problem, for many of us, is that there is an impulse to skip past the wisdom and intuition of our own, loving being, and delegate our wellness to someone else to handle as quickly as possible. But you already know what you need… like, really know. Your body is a sophisticated roadmap that can show you where you are holding pain and trauma, where unmet needs and desires live, the places you hold tension to armor yourself. Are you hunching your shoulders forward to protect your heart, or slouching to hide yourself? Is your throat, the passageway for your voice and expression, chronically irritated? Where does the pain in your body live? It may be holding trauma and lessons that have yet to be learned or released, and serves as a roadmap to your own healing. What can sometimes feel like torture, can actually be the body’s way of guiding you or protecting you from any further harm. It loves you that much.
Your internal compass has remarkable precision, and you know when the advice coming from outside of you is leading you astray. I think we’ve all experienced this in one way or another. That faulty external guidance is like an old, outdated GPS that you are pretty sure is steering you wrong, but you follow it anyway, only to end up in a vacant and dimly lit parking lot with sketchy characters lurking in the shadows. Your internal compass, however, feels like the divine has taken you lovingly by the hand and then leads you to the exact spot that you may or may not have consciously known you needed to be.
My body finally forced me into submission this week, and I have spent the last few days sick on the couch. I had to stop being stubborn, get really still, rest, breathe, and listen. If you are not used to listening to the soft voice of your body’s intuition and wisdom – or the voices of your ancestors, nature spirits, or your creative muse, at that – you may need to fine tune your hearing a bit. They are all there waiting to be in conscious relationship with you. Lean in close, and listen not with your ears, but with your heart. Pay close attention and be patient. Be selective about the information you are taking in from the news, from social media, from people who do not have your best interest in mind. If you are able to, move your body and do things that bring you joy, simply for the purpose of feeling joyful. Don’t forget to be loving and grateful to your body in return… talk to it, touch it with loving hands, let it rest, feed it with nourishment. It’s a shift from the busyness of doing, to a state of embodiment. Embodying the love, wisdom, and gifts that your body so deeply yearns to give to you, if you are willing to accept.