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Bodymind Health Tip of the month: Ride the wave!

Practice identifying what you’re feeling emotionally and allow it to move

1. Ask yourself where this emotion “lives” in your body. You may only know at first that you are feeling an emotion by the clues your body gives you. You may feel a tightening in your throat, jaw, shoulders, chest or gut. You may feel a flush or a rush of energy or heat somewhere. You may notice that you have stopped breathing or feel frozen or even disconnected or spacey. You may feel a sense of collapse or loss of energy or dullness.

2. Receive, Don’t Resist; Bring your attention to this feeling and allow it to be there, make room for it and let it move the way that IT wants to move:

➢    Breathe deeply; imagine that you are breathing directly into that place in your body, making more room for the feeling and then allowing it to be carried out on your out-breath.
➢    Stretch and move what has become still
➢    Expand the contracted places like your chest, belly, throat and face.
➢    Give the feeling a physical gesture, and/or a voice. Even a sigh or a growl, if there are no words.
➢    MOVE! Get your blood flowing by walking, dancing, or having a good old fashioned temper tantrum in the privacy of your living room!
➢    Express your feelings; if not to another person, then through journaling or artwork.
➢    Massage (or get a professional to massage) tightened muscles.
3. Remind yourself that whatever you are feeling is valid, at some level, for some reason and that it doesn’t matter whether it makes sense or not, or is “correct” or even “appropriate” (remember, the emotional part of your brain doesn’t care!)
It just IS. And often, the best way out is through!

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Stop fighting with your self! Learn to make and keep your New Year’s Resolutions with a gentle Body-Mind approach.

Ok, here we are again. It’s New Years day and if you are like me you may be making a New Year’s Resolution or two. You may be feeling a strong sense of commitment, resolve, and excitement about the possibility of achieving your goal; perhaps it’s to loose weight, get fit, establish a daily practice of meditation or exercise. Sounds great! A worthy goal and one that if you could only stick to it, would definitely bring you more happiness and less suffering in many domains of your life!

And, If you’re like me, (and if you look a bit), you can also feel the doubt and pre-emptive discouragement and shame that lingers in the shadows, born from many years of falling off your path. “But this year will be different!” you say, “This time I really will do it!”…….

You are so not alone. I think one of the reasons we get caught in endless loops of determined resolve, then loss of motivation or discipline, then discouragement and shame is that we make our resolutions with our minds and not our body and minds together.

Our minds have a lot of great ideas about how we want to be and what we should do to get there. It just makes sense that if you want to get more fit, you need to stick to a practice. The problem is that there are other aspects of us that have different motivations that are just as strong. And instead of working with these parts of us, we insist on overcoming them and fighting with them as though the only way we will succeed is if we can conquer and eradicate those “self-destructive” or sabotaging forces within us.

So here’s the problem; we can’t eradicate those forces. They are a part of human nature. We have to learn to include them, embrace them and work with them…so they will begin to work with us. These range from the momentary desire to stay in bed because it’s cozy or we haven’t had enough sleep, to the biologically driven draw to sugary, salty, fatty foods, to more hidden emotional motivations like fear of being free and fully alive!

At those moments, when your body and emotions pipe in and say Yeah I don’t think so…that good idea your mind has is not appealing at all; the satisfaction of this cozy bed or of those potato chips looks like it will bring me way more pleasure, coziness, nourishment and safety. Instead of getting mad at this part of yourself, and battling it, deriding it and feeling helpless in its grasp; I invite you to expect it, listen to it, include it and befriend it. These are forces in you that actually want positive things for you….they are just misguided!

The trick to getting back your motivation to get out of bed, or put down the potato chip, must come from your whole body, emotions and mind being in touch with that desire and excitement about your goal. You need to be able to feel what you really want in the moment, not just the difficulty of it, and not just the “idea” or even picture of it.

I recommend the practice; beginning with the moment you make your resolution, of feeling the possibility with your body. If what you really want is to loose 20 pounds, take a moment to “embody” that possibility. Beyond just imagining yourself 20 pounds thinner (which is still an idea), close your eyes and feel what it will feel like to be lighter, freer, to feel comfortable, even proud in your body. Don’t just imagine, feel all the physical and emotional qualities that you are wanting by setting the goal. When you can feel it, gently set your intention to reach this state. Don’t vow, promise or threaten yourself. That creates a struggle. Set your intention in a gentle way while connected to your goal. Intention is actually more powerful than will, which is a state of struggling, fighting and forcing. Then repeat this exercise everyday to return to and remember your intention for yourself.

Then when the resistance shows up….(which it will, I assure you!), slow down, stay present, and bring your attention gently to the embodied feeling of your goal. From this state you can make a choice in this moment what you want to do relative to your goal. If you can’t feel the commitment and possibility of what you want in each moment, it will be easy to choose the old pattern. This declaration of resolution, made today on January 1st, is good only for today. You must make it again anew tomorrow, and the next day and in front of every potato chip and under every warm morning covers. Remember to feel your intention in your body and move from there, not struggle and fight. Our unconscious human nature wins too often when we fight it. But our intention is strong, when we keep it energized.

I wish you gentle, purposeful healing in the new year.

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Spontaneous Healing

I want to recommend Dr Andrew Weil’s new book “Spontaneous Happiness”. I am listening to it on CD and find his perspective on health very enlightening and true. Today’s track was about the challenges our minds, bodies and emotions face by living on our modern culture. Our whole organism, including our psyche, was “built” for constant activity and community. He highlights the compounding stress on ……our health and mood that comes from sitting all day at desk jobs, from the electronic over-stimulation of staring at screens, and the isolation that comes from our digital preoccupations that keep us from engaging with one another. It’s really hard to do, I know because I struggle with it too; but the simple truth is: you will feel better physically, be happier and more healthy if you make sure to close the laptop, turn off the TV, shut down the smart phone and take a moment to be quiet, to move, even if it’s just for a short walk, and connect with people (real ones that is, not through a screen), every day. You don’t have to commit to an intense, time consuming practice like Yoga, meditation, or working out for an hour a day, to make a difference in how you feel. It’s these simple day to day practices that can change your life, and health for the better.

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Bodymind Health Tip of the Month

Dialogue with your body

The next time you experience a physical symptom, whether it is a headache or an illness you have been struggling with for a long time, stop your automatic response to fight it. Do not stop yourself from seeking medical care if it is warranted, or form taking necessary medications! But when you are medically safe and have responded appropriately, take a moment to “be” with your experience.

You may take time out to sit in a quiet place, perhaps with a journal to write or draw if you are moved to. You may also simply pose the question to your body and let the answers come to you over time as you go about your life.

Bring your awareness to the place in your body where you feel the symptom, or know the illness resides, and simply “sit” with it. In a mood of listening with curiosity, like a compassionate friend, ask this place in your body what message it has for you, for your life, for your healing. Another question that might make sense is: “What is your purpose; how are you trying to help?”

See what you notice about this place, listen for thoughts, watch for mental images, feel for sensations and qualities. The trick to dialoguing with your body/ your illness, is to soften your mind’s active thinking process and trust what comes, even if it seems like you are actually making up the answer in your head.

Some messages may be very direct and make sense when you consider the symbols of each part and function of the body. For example, your recurrent sprained ankle might convey that you are afraid to “step out” in your life. Your sore lower back may communicate symbolically that it feels that you are not supported in life, your chronic hoarse throat may offer that it is dangerous to express yourself, to speak a truth that you or others might not want to hear. Or the answers may be far more indirect and seem at first to have nothing to do with your symptom or that part of your body. Symbols are not always clear at first.

There are many ways to receive unconscious information, and everyone is different in the way they perceive. For some of you, images come clearly and readily. For others, words, phrases or thoughts might come as though someone was speaking to you. Still others may get physical sensations, or vague inklings of thoughts that clarify over time.

In addition to watching for images in your minds eye, you may want to try to draw or use some other form of art. Often images appear in our drawing that we weren’t even aware of. Writing is another way to allow the information to come forth; either journaling or writing with your non-dominant hand. Dreams are an extremely rich source of information as well. And finally, movement for some is a powerful way for the unconscious body to express itself.

It can take some time to open up your particular lines of communication with your body and deeper Self. The first step is the most important; the willingness to stop and listen to the wisdom within your body’s expression, instead of rushing to quiet it.

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The Healing Power of Illness—How Seeing Illness as a Messenger Can Help You Heal

There are lots of good physical reasons why we get sick. Getting rear-ended in a car can result in whiplash. Cystic Fibrosis is a genetically transferred disease, and the flu results from a viral infection. When we eat food that does not nourish us we don’t feel well. When we cut our finger chopping onions we bleed.

There are many things that go wrong with our bodies that have to do with direct or indirect physical causes. There’s no doubt about this. And whether we use a conventional medical treatment or an alternative intervention, we need to address our physical ailments in a physical way.

I’m starting this article with this “disclaimer” because many people assume that if I suggest their illness might in some way be connected to their emotions or psychology, that I’m really saying it’s “all in their head” or that “it’s not real” and even worse, that they did something wrong to “cause” their illness.

This is a common misconception as the mind-body conversation heats up in healthcare. The term “psychosomatic” (defined as bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance) is a dirty word and implies that we are imagining our physical symptoms, or if they are real, it’s because we are mentally ill. We still tend to see illness as coming from a physical OR an emotional cause.

As I have been discussing in my newsletters, I see the body as inseparable from the psyche. Our chemistry is constantly changing in response to our conscious and unconscious thoughts, beliefs and emotions. And our physical state dictates our moods and outlook. Every physical symptom is connected to an emotional or psychological state, and vice versa. The fact is that we are psychosomatic beings! I’d like to hereby take back the term “psychosomatic “and embrace it as an essential principle in healing!

In addition to the direct and immediate influences the mind and body have on each other every moment, the body also tends to symbolize our emotional and psychological state over time. Our physical imbalances often reflect, in a symbolic way, our emotional and mental struggles.  We may not be able to prove a scientific link between heart dis-ease and heartache for example, but the unconscious psyche, speaking through the body’s symptoms, can often tell us what’s needed to bring our body, mind and life back into balance.

By being curious about our symptoms as metaphors for our lives, we open an entirely new realm of possibilities for healing the root cause of our illnesses.  To do this we must make a big shift in how we respond when we become ill.

If you’re like me, your automatic response to a symptom such as pain is to try to get rid of it. We see pain, illness, discomfort, dysfunction as something bad to get rid of so we can get back to “good”. We may even, if we look closely at our subtle beliefs, feel that there is something wrong with us if we are not strong, healthy and happy in every moment.

So when we get recurrent headaches, for example, we may run for the aspirin and if that doesn’t help, we may go to a doctor for a stronger medication and a diagnosis that will lead (hopefully) to a treatment that will get us out of pain. Even alternative therapies can be used to try to get rid of symptoms.

By shifting to an attitude of curiosity about the meaning of our symptoms and slowing down to listen, the information we get could lead us to a “treatment” that is more effective than a quick, automatic intervention . Here’s an example.

I worked with a woman who suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 8 years. The first seven years she frantically tried every possible treatment, conventional and alternative, to get rid of the debilitating fatigue that was robbing her of her life. Some treatments like nutrition and acupuncture helped a bit, but nothing cured the disease. Finally, in our work together, she stopped fighting the fatigue and began to listen to it. She treated it as an ally (albeit an unwelcome one).

When she asked herself the question “What am I tired of?” the answers sprung forth from her unconscious: “I’m tired of trying so hard to be someone for other people, and not being who I really am. I’m exhausted from taking care of everyone else and not myself.” These insights came over time in the form of thoughts and images that she never would have discovered had she stayed so busy fighting  to conquer the fatigue. As she began to heal the underlying issues that led her, from an early age, to live this way, her vitality gradually returned. By “listening” to her illness as a metaphor for the underlying imbalances in her whole “bodymind”, she was able to address a critical root cause of her perpetual stress and depletion.

It is most useful to begin this work with a guide, a therapist who can help you learn how to listen to the expressions of your body and unconscious mind. There are many body-centered and integrative therapies that use these methods. Art, dance and expressive therapies are also powerful, as is Jungian psychoanalysis. More and more bodyworkers are learning the skills to help their clients make connections between their muscular tensions and their life issues.

It is my vision that all clinicians in conventional medicine and psychology will incorporate these principles in their assessment and treatment protocols and help their patients explore the messages and meanings within their illnesses. I vote we add a question to the physical assessment interview: “How might this symptom be a refection of what is going on in your life?”

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Getting our bodies back: Practical tips for reconnecting body and mind

Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body ~James Joyce

Way back in the early 1600s a philosopher and mathematician named Descarte decreed that the mind and the body are separate things and do not affect each other. His was the famous quote: “I think, therefore I am”. This idea greatly influenced the development of modern science, medicine and philosophy. Today we are beginning to challenge this notion of mind-body dualism. But we have a lot of deeply ingrained habits to break.

As a culture, we focus much more on what we think than what we feel. Some of us, though not all of us, are aware of our emotional experiences as we go through our day. Even fewer of us stay in touch with the sensations and needs of our bodies.

If we can learn to make (or re-make) these connections between our mental, emotional and physical experiences, we can take better care of our bodies and use them to shift our moods and even ways of thinking!

Far from disconnected, our physiology is both reflected by and is a direct reflection of our thoughts and emotional states. Our nervous system, endocrine and immune systems; virtually every cell in every system of our body changes with every thought and feeling that we have. Our bodies will literally tighten, collapse, be stimulated and suppressed to “posture” or sculpt our moods. Likewise, the state of our bodies can create certain moods. These changes are often so subtle that we can barely perceive them…until we practice tuning in to the clues we are given.

All this talk about listening to and feeling the connection between our psychology and our physiology is great but…how do you actually make those connections? Here are some more practical tips to guide you on your way back to wholeness.

How to reconnect to your body

For some of you, simply remembering to feel your body will open up your senses to what your body is feeling. But for many of you, even finding your body and what it’s experiencing can be tough. I suggest you start with one of two techniques.

Body Scan:

When you notice that you are upset or in distress, take a moment and do a progressive body scan:

Start at the top of your head and move your attention down through your face, jaw, throat, neck, shoulders, chest…and so on. At each point, ask yourself what you feel physically. Is there a sense of tension? pain?, numbness?, heaviness?, tingling?, can you feel this area at all? Do not judge your answer…there is no right experience. The notion of “right” or “wrong” is the product of a way of thinking that assumes there is some outside, objective rule that holds authority over your truth. That’s what gets us into trouble! That’s a big reason we get so disconnected from our emotions and bodies in the first place!

Beginning to trust your own experience is a vital step toward accessing the wisdom of your Bodymind in returning to balance and health. Notice what happens in your body when you wonder “uh oh, am I doing it right?” If you’re like me, it stiffens, tightens, disconnects and stops moving. These are all states that produce dis-ease.

Monitor your “Stress Barometer”:

Another technique you can try is to pick one area that you know, or suspect tends to react when you feel stress or upset. This place is your stress barometer. It may be the pit of your stomach, your shoulders, your jaw, a tingling in your skin, or anything you notice anywhere.

Set up some kind of reminder system that will cue you to notice what’s happening in this area. When I was a nurse practitioner I would draw a symbol like a star in red ink on the top of the paper schedule I left on my desk. Between every patient appointment, when I returned to my desk to see who I would be meeting next, the mark would remind me to stop, drop my shoulders, bend my knees to ground, take a deep breath and check in with my mental/emotional state and allow what I was feeling a moment simply to be. Another breath and I would be back out to the waiting room, calling a new person in with a clearer head, heart and body. I was able to be much more present and effective with my patients than when I kept going, ratcheting up the tension in my muscles and storing up my emotions, disconnecting more and more as the day wore on.

Basically, the formula is to open what’s closed, move what’s stuck, expand what is contracted, energize what is depleted, quiet what is frantic. When you notice you are tight, consciously take a deep breath and let go of the muscles as best you can in this area. Where you are jittery, take a breath imagining that the breath is flowing right into this area and carrying the jitters out as you exhale. Where you feel heavy or tired, take a breath and open your posture to bring expansion and movement thorough that area.

For example; someone who feels self conscious or shy in a social situation might unconsciously try to shrink from view by collapsing their chest, pulling the chin in, stiffening the spine and freezing so as not to move and be seen. By noticing this emotional experience and the physical posture that goes with it, this person may be able to affect their fearful state by raising the chin and opening the chest, and loosening the spine by walking around a bit.

At times of fear, anxiety, or “spaciness”, or just to bring yourself to a state where you can feel your body more; practice a simple grounding exercise: Bring you feet hip width apart and bend your knees. Feel the weight of your body weighing down your legs and gently push against the floor as though you were trying to push the floor down into the cellar.

Finally; while awareness of your body can help you make changes to improve your bodymind balance and health, “Healing” isn’t always about trying to get out of discomfort immediately! Often the discomfort itself has a purpose, and a message for a shift you need to make on an emotional level, or an issue that needs to be attended to. So as you tune in, do so with an attitude of curiosity (not judgment and resistance) and willingness to listen to the clue, the message the discomfort is giving you. Stay tuned; I will be writing more about listening to and deciphering the healing messages within your dis-ease in future issues of this newsletter.

The root of the word “Healing” is the Greek word “Holos” which means “Whole”. To truly heal then, we must turn away from Descarte and address our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits as expressions of each other and attend to the balance of the whole.

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Bodymind Health Tip of the Month

Identify your “Personal Stress Response” and get yourself “Back To Cool”.

At times of stress, no matter whether you are being attacked by a grizzly bear, cut off on the highway, or about to walk into a meeting with your boss, your nervous system reacts with a standard set of physical responses.

At times of perceived threat, whether it’s a physical threat, an emotional one, an actual threat, or an anticipated one (or one that we make up all by ourselves that isn’t actually true!), our magnificently brilliant nervous systems don’t know the difference!

© by Parvin

There are countless changes that happen in almost every organ and system in the body, on a gross level and a micro-chemical level. Some of the most common effects of stress that we can become aware of and do something about are listed below: Take a moment and remember the last time you felt upset or stressed by either a big event or a little moment; What happens in your body?

Often our stress response includes these three components:

1. Breath: We Hold our breath or breathe shallowly,

2. Tension: Our muscles tighten, often in the neck, shoulders, jaw, belly, arms…usually more in the upper body (getting ready to fight). We get a knot in our stomach or tightness in the chest or throat.

3. Center: We jump up, imperceptively; we become ungrounded, light on our feet and ready for flight. We may feel jittery, shaky, fluttery, sometimes even spacey or light headed, or our thoughts race, or go blank! We become hyper-vigilent. We may feel jumpy, or go in the other direction and freeze.

It’s easy to imagine these effects happening if we were being chased by a bear…but these things will happen ANYTIME you feel stressed, even at the littlest thing, and even if you’re not aware of it, and even if you’re making it up!

The problem is that most of us never unwind this response and our bodies and minds get stuck in these patterns, which leads to dysfunction in all systems of the body, including our immune system, cardiovascular system, and our mood.

The key is awareness.

As you go through your day, begin to tune in to these three effects and see if you can notice what your body does when you feel stressed (in the moment or perhaps in hindsight).

Then, once you are familiar with your particular patterns, you can practice reversing these effects (unless of course you are actually being chased by a bear, in which case, you may need that tension, alertness and lightness on your feet!!).

Remember the three effects: Breath, Tension, and Center; by their initials B.T.C…which also stand for “Back to cool”.

To get “Back to cool”, follow these steps:

  • First: Open your breath, take a long, slow deep breath and then keep your breath deep and flowing freely.
  • Next: Consciously drop your shoulders, release your jaw, open your contracted chest. Expand whatever has contracted.
  • Last (but not least): Plant your feet firmly on the ground, bend your knees and feel the weight of your body dropping down into your hips. Let your legs hold you up…they’re much better at it than your shoulders are! Sometimes even putting your hand on your lower belly and imagining that your breath is filling your hand, will help you feel more grounded, and therefore, more stable and safe, both physically and emotionally too.

Your body listens to your emotions and your nervous system, and your nervous system will listen to your body when you make conscious changes in your physiology and even just your posture! You can take back your health.

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What does healing mean anyway?

I think this poem by Mary Oliver speaks of what healing really is:

© by Parvin

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Do you want to be healthy and happy? What a ridiculous question! Of course you do! Everyone wants physical health and emotional happiness.

And we spend a lot of time and energy searching for the answers to get us there. You may have opened this newsletter looking to find some help in getting out of physical or emotional pain. You are not alone. We all want to get “there”.

What if healing was about not trying to get anywhere? What if the state of health, or wellness was possible right where you are?

There is nothing wrong with wanting health and happiness, or to survive a life threatening illness. I think the problem is that we sometimes go in the wrong direction to find it.

Maybe the way to find the freedom of health and happiness is to stop striving so hard to be different than we are, pushing and trying and efforting to be something more, better, different.

It’s the pushing, trying, judging, falling short and pretty much feeling that we are not right in some way that creates fear, anxiety, depression, and leads our bodies to become stressed, tight, and exhausted. This is the very state of illness!

When we respond to our challenges with acceptance, curiosity and willingness (yes even to pain and fear), it gives us the chance to listen and discover what this symptom might be expressing on a body-mind level. The very thing we usually fight can actually lead us to the real source of our dis-ease and give us clues about what is really needed to resolve it at it’s source.

Think for a moment about what it really means to heal emotionally and/or physically. How would you describe the state of health that you seek? Write them down if you’d like.

The words I come up with are freedom, ease, peace, vitality, balance, acceptance. Are these similar to yours?

I think that the way to find these things is to stop striving so hard to be different than we are, pushing and trying and efforting to be something more, better, different. It’s the pushing, trying, judging, falling short and pretty much feeling that we are not right in some way that creates fear, anxiety, depression, and leads our bodies to tighten with these feelings and stress. This is the very state of illness!

So I’ll cut to the chase. My working definition of Healing is freedom; freedom in the natural flow and movement of our physical, emotional and spiritual selves.

And dis-ease occurs when that freedom is blocked, thwarted, or restricted in some way.

Let me explain;

© by Parvin

Our physical health depends upon the free and natural flow of the chemical and energetic pathways and structure of our bodies. When these get blocked, we get sick. Our blood needs to flow free and full in our blood vessels. When those vessels are blocked by atherosclerotic plaque, or constricted by the stress response, our cardiovascular system is compromised. When our lungs are not able to expand and contract freely because we smoke, or have asthma, or don’t breathe deeply because of chronic stress or lack of exercise, our system is starved of oxygen and energy. All of these lead to a cascade of other breakdowns in other organs and systems and our health deteriorates.

On an emotional level, when we are able to feel, express, process and resolve our emotions, we can return to a state of equanimity. When that process is blocked by repression, denial, or disconnection from our emotions, we can become depressed, chronically angry, anxious, etc. And these states in turn affect the body by causing physical restriction and contraction, not to mention the chronic activation of the stress response.

And on the spiritual level (whatever that means for you), or the level of soul; if we deny, abandon, or are afraid to follow our truth, allow our life’s path to unfold, and contribute our unique expression to the world, we can end up in despair and resignation. We must have a sense of meaning in life to thrive.

From this perspective, just trying to fix the effect of the block, or lack of movement, without being aware of what’s causing it, doesn’t bring us health. We have to address the block. It may be an unconscious defense pattern learned early in life, it may be a belief about ourselves or life that keeps us from participating fully in life, it may be held emotional pain. It can also simply be that we are not moving our bodies and our mood is spiraling down with the stagnation. Instead of fighting the resulting symptoms, it makes more sense to address the block!

Our medical system can end up contributing to this FIGHT against illness. They focus on fixing symptoms, or repairing systems that aren’t working right. Illness is the enemy. Now again, there is nothing wrong with fixing something that’s broken, but often in doing so, we miss the root cause that generated the breakdown.

We look for the physical, external causes of our illnesses, but rarely do we acknowledge the internal causes of our dis-ease.

Instead of trying to eradicate our symptoms and fight our illnesses to try to get to a better place, I believe it is useful to actually stop resisting and to listen to our bodies and emotions to find out what the breakdown is a reflection of; where is the block in our natural flow of physiology, emotion, thought patterns or soul? How are we not allowing our bodies and selves to move freely? What is getting in the way? For High Blood pressure or heart disease, it may be that we are living in constant stress at work, or are too afraid to be in relationship.

Now, this doesn’t mean that there may not be very real physical causes for our illnesses. Our genetics might be creating an impairment, we may not be able to make insulin in our pancreas, we may break a bone, or get memory loss as a consequence of aging. Sometimes an illness is just an illness.

The promise of body-mind approaches to healing is that they add a critical new piece of diagnostic information that may give us valuable clues about why we are suffering. But to listen to these clues, we need to actually have a conversation with them.  We may find when we explore our heart disease on a body-mind level, that we have unexpressed sadness that has not been resolved.

© by Parvin

That sadness may be being “postured” in the body by a subtle collapse in the chest, diminished breathing, which blocks the flow of oxygen, blood and energy in that area. Our bodies posture, or symbolize our moods.

Try this. Read these words out loud to yourself three times. Whether they are true for you or not, just recite the words:

“I am not enough. I’m not doing my life right. I don’t look right, I am ashamed and have no hope of being happy.” It will always be this way.

Now take a moment to notice what you are feeling in your body. How is your posture, your breath, your gut, your energy level? Can you say these words and feel vibrant? I sure can’t.

Many of us have these kinds of subtle beliefs and messages running unconsciously… affecting our bodies and contributing to physical dis-ease.

OK NOW! Before you read on, sit up, raise your chin, take a big breath into an expanded chest, open your eyes wide and say the word “yes” three times.

Feel better? Ok phew, sorry about that. But the best way to understand this concept is to feel it in your own body.

Notice I didn’t instruct you to say a positive affirmation like “I am enough”. Positive affirmations can be helpful but what’s more helpful is to say yes to whatever you do feel. By “YES” I mean, instead of running from the emotional experience or negative belief, turn toward it, breath into it and listen to it. By listening you will learn what it needs to be resolved, thereby dissolving the block that it is creating. This is certainly easier said than done, and it’s vital to have a helper to guide you in the process. It can take a while but as you learn this kind of practice, you can address the blocks and imbalances as they arise in your Bodymind, instead of leaving to fester for years and take over your experience of yourself, your body and your life.

We all have these Bodymind patterns that develop early in our lives in response to our early experiences. What we learn to believe, how we learn to behave, think, and deal with our emotions all become conditioned early on in life. Out of these we develop personalities, defense mechanisms and strategies for being in the world and in relationship. And all these conditioned responses live in our bodies as well as our conscious and unconscious psyches. Over time, the stress they create on our physiology as well as our emotions, can be profound.

If we try to fight these, or eradicate their effects, they’ll still be there. If we want to heal, we must listen, learn to understand and address our underlying bodymind patterns. They are not bad and wrong failures, they are primitive response to life that are trying to help us. If we can listen and become aware compassionately to right where we are and exactly what we are experiencing, like pushing a thread into a knot to untie it, instead of pulling it and making the knot tighter, what is blocked can open and move and become free.

To borrow two holistic healing slogans:

What you resist, persists.
And what you can feel, you can heal.

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