Read Your Body’s Whispers
|October 25, 2013||Posted by Carol Marleigh Kline, MA, CWIC, CWWS under Wellness||
A few years back, Dr. Rankin was watching the life she had built fall apart. She’d undergone a couple of divorces. Her professional life was successful but she was exhausted by all the masks she tried to wear—“Perfect Wife,” “Perfect Doctor,” etc. Nothing was working right for her. She loved being a doctor but she was also deeply frustrated by a schedule that allowed her to see each patient for only a few minutes. So although her (third) husband was unemployed at the time, and she had just returned to work after childbirth, she stepped away from her slot at an integrative practice to spend time thinking about why the life she was living was so far from the one she had wanted. She had all the trappings of wealth. But she was suffering from burnout, from listening to all the “shoulds” she thought she had to follow, and from the sense that she was not helping her patients achieve true health.
What she found during her sabbatical was that medicine doesn’t focus enough on what it takes to create wellbeing. For example, most MDs are not going to tell you that your relationships are making you sick. Or that you need a creative outlet in life. Or some kind of spiritual expression. They don’t talk about a healthy financial life, either, or about the importance of a healthy environment.
Above all, MDs tend to avoid talking about mental states, saying that’s the realm of the psychologist or the psychiatrist. But Dr. Rankin refuses to be kept in her MD box. “When any of the facets of what make us whole get out of balance, the body whispers,” she says. In my experience, the body not only whispers, it whimpers. And if I don’t pay attention, those whimpers get louder. Can you relate?
Chiropractors are taught that the body was designed to heal itself. It’s hard for the body to do that when most of us treat our bodies as nothing more than vehicles for our many desires. We rarely if ever listen to our bodies. And that’s too bad. Dr. Rankin says the body is a “mirror,” that it shows us what’s really going on beneath the surface. The body is always speaking. But because it’s used to not being listened to, at some point, it grabs our attention through pain.
I can remember years back when I would get angry with my body for hurting. What right did it have to hurt? It was interfering with the life my mind wanted to have! Back then, I felt my body had no say in the living of my life. It was supposed to do what I told it to do. And when it didn’t, I got angry. It never occurred to me that the body was coming from a deeper wisdom.
Wellness coach Jennifer Powers spoke at a meeting I attended recently. She suggested that everyone at the meeting spend one minute—just one minute—in their heads, eyes closed. They were to let their minds run wild from topic to topic, as minds like to do. At the end of that minute she said, “Did you learn anything new?” We hadn’t. Then, she had us spend another minute, eyes closed, listening to the body. Were we aware of any tension we were holding anywhere in our bodies? I dropped my left shoulder an inch or so. Thinking back, I had to admit that I had been holding tension there just for the sake of holding tension. There was no real reason for it. My body was suffering because my mind would not let go of a low level of habitual anxiety. I had learned something new—and from my body, not my mind!
Try that exercise. See what it’s like to separate your focus. Spend a minute with your “monkey mind” and then a minute with your body. Let that minute with your body start first in the heart and then feel your focus move outward as you check with each and every part of your body. Dialog with your body. “How’s it going today? How can I make things better for you?” Listen to what it tells you.
Then, as you finish your dialog with your body, wrap yourself in a warm cloak of gratitude. Gratitude for everything your body has done to bring you this far in life. Promise yourself to partner with the body, to listen to its whispers. Before they become whimpers.