Your body is an amazing teacher if you just stop to listen. Most of the time you listen to the stories in your mind and, thinking you are your thoughts, you believe whatever your mind tells you. This cuts you off from the phenomenal intelligence of your body.
A friend of mine had surgery on her forehead to remove some skin cancer lesions. She said she wasn’t anxious or worried before the procedure. As the surgeon was making the last few stitches, she noticed her neck was tight, and she felt clammy and lightheaded. She told me it was a very scary moment because her mind told her to resist and get away. As she readied herself in her mind to fly off the table and out of the room, she instead decided to tell the doctor what was happening in her body, and once she acknowledged her discomfort, it began to relax and her mind calmed down.
I shared with my friend that when the fight or flight mechanism in the body gets activated, the mind wants to fight or flee. We human beings live in the ‘fight or fleeing’ mode quite a bit. We do whatever we can to escape from the emotional, physical or mental pain we are experiencing. As a result, we are often so out of touch with our bodies that we don’t feel anything, like my friend just before her surgery. She realized after we talked that her neck had actually been aching on the drive to the surgical center and also while she was waiting, but she was resisting the pain by ignoring it. Had she tuned into what was happening in her neck, she would have been able to be with her discomfort so the scary feelings were not so intense.
Another example of the power of listening to our bodies comes from a close family member who had a profound experience with her body that she shared with me recently. She has Parkinson’s Disease, and when she visited last summer, it was painful to watch her difficulty in simply standing up or turning when she was walking. She recently began working with Alex Kerten who wrote the book, Goodbye Parkinson’s Hello Life. Among other innovative modalities, he uses music and movement to help people see beyond their stories about the disease so they can actually be in their bodies again. He dedicates an entire chapter in his book to his belief that, for most people with Parkinsons, a small percentage of symptoms come from the Parkinson’s itself, but mostly they come from their fear and shame around the disease. This does not mean that we create our diseases. It just means that the stories in our mind can affect how our bodies function. You have experienced what I mean. You are getting ready for a big meeting at work or a doctor’s appointment and you are anxious about how it is going to go. As that fear tightens your body, it generates things like an acid stomach or a tight neck.
As she was unhooking from the stories of fear and judgment in her head and reconnecting with the joy of movement, she was able to go on a 4-mile walk. When she told me, I couldn’t believe it! I asked her how this happened and she said she is attending a boxing class for people with Parkinson’s She is using parts of her body that she has not used in a long time because of her mind-created limitations, and now she can get up and walk four miles. Why? Because our bodies are freed up when we discover how to stop traumatizing them with the stories in our heads.
So, the next time you are having any type of challenge with your body, whether it is pain, discomfort, immobility or limitations, I invite you to begin listening to what your body is telling you rather than what your mind is saying. Tune into the areas of your body that are uncomfortable and acknowledge the discomfort. And if it calls to you, try using music and dance to get out of your head and into your body. The more you live in your body, the easier it is to relate to the stories in your head rather than being lost in them. Then your body can laugh more, move more, dance more, and live more.