I am allowing myself the luxury of listening to my body today, and my body is saying “Stay in your pajamas, wrap up your chilled neck and chest, try an espsom salt bath later. Recline. Nap.” My body is chilled and achy. I feel no pull to do anything other than nothing.
Here in my cozy, warm bed with the wall heater humming along, I have been pondering just how easy it is to avoid listening to the body. It occurs to me, too, that many, many people don’t know how to listen to their bodies at all. My 91-year-old mother tells me about all the sickness, stomach problems, headaches and what-all that plague the old folks in her retirement apartment plaza. She says, “None of these people listen to their bodies! If you have diarrhea all the time…well…change your eating habits!”
My mom always listens to her body. When her body tells her to take a slow day, she does. When she craves cold, juicy food, she eats it. When she is not hungry, she has a glass of milk. She tends to ignore most of her aches and pains, and always makes sure she gets up before the sun comes up, because if she doesn’t get up with the sun, she says it ruins the rest of her day. Who am I to argue with 91 years of success?
The animals in our family are masters at good self-care. Mazel, our dog, used to play fetch with us for as long as we could be coaxed to throw the ball. He never tired, ever. But Mazel is a mature five years old now, and he has days when he is more focused on sniffing and exploring than running during our daily walks. Sometimes, he goes crazy for the ball for half the walk, then follows his nose for the other half. Sometimes, after a few good throws, he is happy to just carry his ball and follow along behind us.
Now, if I were in Mazel’s body, this is what I would be saying to myself: “Better run all you can! If they skip your walk tomorrow, you’ll be sorry you didn’t get your exercise in today! Hmmmm, my feet are sore today, but buck up and push through it!! No pain, no gain! Wow, I’d really like to just sit down—but I NEED to get my daily aerobic exercise in!”
Here in my room, my mind is fighting pretty hard with my body today. My granddaughter is here for the afternoon, and she wants to play, and my mind is nagging, “Just get up and get going. Quit focusing on your aches and pains. Get up and get moving. You have responsibilities today.” But I tell myself that my granddaughter has a grandpa, too, and he can take charge today.
It is not only my mind, but my mouth that likes to butt in and shout down the needs of my body. Today, my mouth is saying, “Boy, would I like to eat that entire half of chocolate pound cake in the breadbox. Maybe with some ice-cream.”
Meanwhile, my body whispers, “A dish of grapefruit with some kraut on it would be just great…”
“…But that pound cake would be Better!” my mouth asserts.
“And there is your poor little granddaughter, just wanting to crawl on the floor and play animal-talking games with the plastic critters,” chides my mind. “What kind of a grandmother are you, anyway? Surely, your husband thinks you’re a whiney slouch…”
Out on the dining room table, Darter the cat is stretched full length in the heat of a sunbeam. I know that if I were to touch her, she would feel hot as a cinder in that sunlight. Some days, she moves slowly and with an occasional stagger. She is at least 25 years old now, and is allowed her staggers and the small saliva barf puddles on the rug. But on other days, she races through the house like a cat with her tail on fire. Sometimes, these sprints take place in the middle of the night, and end in the middle of my bed. She stops, suddenly, with all four of her feet gripped into my comforter, in case she needs to bolt away again reaching speeds of Holy-Cow! in less than three seconds. She sets her own pace in life. She doesn’t have a mind to listen to. She just listens to God.
All the animals around me provide untainted lessons in listening to the wisdom of the body. They, like we, are born to this wisdom. Unlike we, the animals still honor this knowing.
There will be days to come when I can’t stop and listen to my body, because life may flat-out insist on my hands-on presence. But for today, I am experimenting. I am staying here, in bed, sitting with the discomfort of my guilting mind, my demanding sugar-addicted tummy. I will squirm a bit at the thought of my wifely and grandmotherly failings and wonder how it is that such foolish thoughts carry such power. Power over health. Power over wisdom. Power over my self-nurturing animal self.
When the sun shines in my window this afternoon, she will find me with a snuggly scarf around my neck, stretched out full-length to catch the warmth of the sunbeams across my bed.
Hi Susan, Lazy winter days are the best days. Hibernation is necessary to humans, too. What a beautiful photo of you and and your granddaughter!
Yes, Kathey, when I don’t make myself take the so-necessary hibernation time, my body just lays me out flat for awhile!
Thanks Susan! I needed this reminder~ will take my recuperation with my antibiotic in better stride and perspective now. 🙂
Suzy, we ALL need this reminder! Being human is too complicated sometimes (most times?), and it’s so easy to forget the really important stuff!
Sometimes the body shouts so loud it overcomes the brain’s wants and dreams. It is impossible to listen, Sensitives (a term I use for perceptive people that feel the pain of others) hear the shouts of other bodies. Hear is really the wrong word. It is a special kind of seeing that allows the seer to get a body sense of the emotions of others.
We humans used to be “sensitives” but we have lost the trait to the hustle and bustle of the modern world. On our walks along the river, stream or lake i see folks tapping or holding to their ears some tiny computer, phone, social media, television, radio, digital music player all rolled into a machine the size of a wallet. Back in my day, a computer took up an entire building-just to read punch cards created by programmers. There’s no time for perception with your brain attached to a machine 24/7.
If that’s what perception in today’s world I’ll take no part (well really a very small part) in it. Spirit is in everything. Science calls it atoms, quarks, photons etc. These are names made up by researchers for little bundles of energy that make up our world. But, what animates these little bundles of energy? In fact, what is energy? Where does it come from? How does energy become what we perceive? Why is it that we cannot push our hand through a wall which is almost all empty space? What compacts these little bundles into masses of matter? Perception in science is imagination, testing, and confirming using mathematics only they understand. And we accept their representations as truth whether we understand them or not.
For me, perception, seeing hearing or whatever yo name it, is paying attention to the natural world and divining it’s truths. Spirit is here. It is every where. “Split a log and I am there. Pick up a rock and you will find me.”(Gospel of Saint Thomas.) I’m happy in my drop-out world of the beautiful Great Northwest.I find Spirit here as I have in natural settings my entire adult life. As the body fails things that came easy, come hard if at all. The body just doesn’t work like it once did. Hands don’t hold, feet don’t stand, pain is no longer a visitor-it takes up permanent residence. Does it mean it’s time to quit? I’m not a quitter.
Listening to my body whisper, “Something’s wrong,” will save my life. I was recently diagnosed with Stage 3 non-small cell adenocarcinoma (lung cancer) and on February 3rd had a lobectomy (lower left.) I have always been an avid outdoors person spiritually connected to my natural surroundings. Nature’s cathedral has been my “church” for many years. My body began to shortchange me of breath in the past year. Increasingly I was unable to engage in the activities that kept me happy and healthy. Initially, I told myself that these were menopausal symptoms, but my mind kept nagging me, “No! Check it out!” and so I pressed my doctor. I presented during a CT scan with pulmonary embolisms and was escorted to the ER and then to a room where I spent the night being injected with blood thinners and anti clotting drugs. The CT scan also revealed a small tumor in the lower lobe of my left lung.
I am now 4 weeks into my 8 week recovery, at which time I will begin chemo. My Doctors and PT tell me exercise, walk 20 minutes twice a day. Ironically, my body is telling me sleep, hibernate this cold, windy, and snowy winter away, spring is on its way. Yesterday I went to the kitchen window in my slippers and PJ’s to watch the birds at the feeder when I noticed that an opossum had found its way to my deck and hung around all day with the birds at the suet feeder. Initially I thought it might be sick, rabid perhaps, but it seemed healthy, a bit thin, but otherwise strong. I got on my computer to find out why this nocturnal visitor was so awake during the daylight hours. It seems, that during long and cold winters, they will become active during the day in search of food or an abandoned den or tunnel near a food source. It seemed quite fearless as it ambled toward my son’s feet, chasing him back into the house. I realized that as a nocturnal creature with night vision, it probably didn’t even SEE my son’s feet.
Once in the kitchen, my son said, “Suit up Mom, we’re going snowshoeing.” Initially I protested, being in hibernation state, but then, begrudgingly, suited up. We shoed through the field to the wood line and descended the steep slope to the frozen creek. I stopped and froze with the rest of the environment, listening to the music of the creek, the chirps and flutters of the birds. I breathed in as deep as my new reduced lung would allow. The air never felt fresher, the melodies of the woods never sounded more beautiful, and I have never felt so alive. We spent the next hour or so poking along the stream and admiring the ice sculptures, looking at various critter tracks in the snow, and enjoying each other’s company. It made me realize that my stagnation has been the result of my deprivation of Nature’s cathedral, my spiritual connection. These days, I think I will listen to my heart and soul and tell my body to quiet herself!
Goodness, you are on an intense healing journey! I send all my good wishes and thoughts your way. I believe deeply that our bodies know best. Hibernating in winter is always my first choice. My body says, “Be still” on cold days. How blessed you were to have an opossum come your way! I love these creatures deeply. I have many stories in my archives here about possums. They are truly yard angels. They’ve been on Earth since dinosaur days. What a lot of ancient wisdom resides there.
Journey safely, and allow yourself every comfort. Better yet, make special time for comfort.
Thank you so much Susan. I do indulge myself differently these days. I don’t always feel the need to go go go and realized the importance of stillness, quiet, and comfort in whatever form they present themselves…even if it comes to me as a beautiful hungry possum. It enjoyed the blackberries I left 😀