Listening to Your Body and Its Needs

In order to heal our bodies, we have to give them credit for their innate wisdom. You don’t need to know exactly why something is happening in your body in order to respond to it. You don’t need to know why your heart is racing, or why you feel like crying. Understanding comes after you have allowed yourself to experience what you’re feeling.

So if you are feeling “out of sorts” or “off balance,” just be with that feeling, allowing it to come up. After you have let yourself experience it, take a moment and go back over the events of the last few hours or days. If you are feeling ill or having symptoms, reflecting on recent events may give you a clue about what might have brought them on. Many illnesses are quite simply the end result of emotions that have been stuffed, unacknowledged, and unexperienced, for years.

Here’s an example from my own recent experience. A few months ago, I woke up with the visual signs and hand and face numbness that are the symptoms of an impending migraine headache. I had developed classic migraines at the age of twelve, had one or sometimes two headaches monthly until my sophomore year in college, and then didn’t get another one for twenty years. While growing up, I was a definite migraine personality, pushing myself mercilessly in school and in all my activities. On a regular basis, I “shorted out” my body’s electromagnetic system from stress.

So when I began to get that old, familiar, sickening feeling, I immediately used it as an opportunity to learn. I put an ice pack under my neck, lay down, kept the room quiet, and concentrated on making my hands warm. (I had learned from a biofeedback therapist that migraines can often be “aborted” by relaxing totally and warming the hands.) Fortunately, I managed to avoid getting the kind of full-blown headache that in the past had left me in pain, nauseated for most of the day, and very weak. After about an hour, I was able to go about my activities, but still felt very subdued.

I thought back on the previous three days. I had been tearing around the house, trying to pick up and organize years of clutter in two days. Toward the end of the weekend, my temper had been short, I had scarcely taken time to eat or go to the bathroom, and I hadn’t taken a break from the bending and cleaning for hours. I had gone to bed with a dull headache.

The next morning, I woke up with the migraine symptoms. It was clear to me that my ability to put my bodily needs for rest, recreation, and nurturing aside for long periods of time was very intact. But now my body wouldn’t let me get away with it nearly as much as it used to. Hence the migraine. I took it as a warning.

The purpose of emotions, regardless of what they are, is to help us feel and participate fully in our own lives. To become aware of our inner guidance system, we must learn to trust our emotions. This isn’t always so easy, because many of us have been taught to live our lives as though we were in a constant emergency situation. We think, Oh, I’ll deal with that painful emotion later.

Right now I don’t have time. I have to get that report out, or cook dinner . . .This delay or denial requires our bodies to speak louder and louder to get our attention. The next time you feel moved to tears or moved to laughter, stop and experience it.

What you have in your mind?