Each of us has a place in our body that gets hit first and hardest by the blows of life. For me, it’s been the digestive system (What is it in my life I can’t digest?). For some, it’s the upper back and shoulders (What can I no longer bear to carry?), or the lower back (This load is too heavy!). Many will sympathize with the sufferer of a stiff neck (Do I think I’m above it all?). And what about the pelvis, hips or legs (I can’t stand it any more!) or the aching head that drives us to a dark, quiet room and away from what’s unacceptable in our lives.
The organs also play a part in this body-communication system, which is why some people are breathless or have no voice during difficult times. Or the liver is inflamed by repressed anger, or the kidneys refuse to drain some of the waste out of the system. Perhaps you’ve dreamed of toilets that won’t flush, as I have. Or starving animals looking to you for help with anguished eyes.
Folks, the body is calling out to us all the time and we don’t take the trouble to learn its language. It has a messaging system all its own, and the more urgent the situation gets, the more we suffer. What’s important to ask here is how we can help assist the return to balance, specifically by attending to our wounded part — rather than turning away from it or accusing it of failing us, as in I have a bad shoulder or darn that hip!
One way to begin that healing process is to think of the suffering part of me as if it were a child in need of comforting. It needs my attention, my thoughtful care, whether with a warm heating pad, an ice pack, arnica, a massage, or just plain R&R with a touch of love. Accusations, such as “There goes my darn back again!” never help. In fact, they are truly counter-productive. The body may not speak our head-language but it definitely has a language of its own and can hear our accusations very clearly! We need to tune our hearing to a different drummer, another messaging system within.
So if you find yourself off balance right now, you might experiment with this approach. Start with acceptance. Try out a few responses to pain or fatigue like: “I’m not perfect; am sometimes wrong; often forget things; fall down and hurt myself; spill what I’m pouring,” or by rephrasing whatever you are ready to criticize yourself for. That way you can lay the groundwork for giving up harmful self-accusations or darn-that-body! attacks.
Next you might do some research on whatever area or organ is your current place of suffering, to learn what herbs or treatments, as well as your TLC, could help it heal. Take back pain, for example. It’s scary to suddenly have pain, sometimes to be barely able to move. But if you look it up, you’ll soon discover that 80% of back pain is non-specific — doctors can’t find much that’s wrong, and tell you it will soon pass. Most back pain responds to rest and heat, followed a few days later by gentle exercise. Avoid extreme methods like surgery or steroidal injections until you are sure your own attention won’t do what’s necessary. Reassure your back that it doesn’t have to carry more than it’s meant to. Then ask it what it is trying to tell you. Exactly what are you insisting on doing that is more than you/it can carry?
As for the pain in your joints, neck — shoulders, hips, ankles and feet — much of it is stress-related or use-related, which is to say, not what I do but how I move myself around in my world. If so, your best bet is the Alexander Technique, which, unlike massage therapy (which feels good but whose effects don’t last), can teach you how to move with released tension. As you discover how you’ve put six times more pressure on your joints to sit, stand, walk, or lift your arms than is necessary, you will be amazed at how easy it becomes to move. When I went from tense, stressful 12-hour days as deputy chief of reporters at Fortune Magazine to train for three years as an Alexander Technique teacher, I discovered another way of being in my body, filled with living presence.
You can experience it, too.