Monday, December 18, 2006

Body Guidance

"For healing to occur, we must come to see that we are not so much responsible for our illnesses as responsible to them. ...see it not as the enemy to be 'curecd' but as an aspect of [our] own inner guidance that [i]s trying to direct attention toward health enhancing changes in [] life."
Dr. Christiane Northrup, M.D. Women's Bodies Women's Wisdom

This amazing book came into my life by accident, as wisdom sometimes does. My aunt Betsy had sent it to my mother for Christmas. It sat on the coffee table, and I couldn't take my eyes off the title.

This was about 10 years ago I think, and I doubt if my mother ever had a chance to read the book (she wasn't interested at the time) because my sisters and I nabbed it. Since then I have lent it out to many women. One woman got a second opinion about a hysterectomy and ended up not having or needing one because of this book.

It led me to teach a journal writing course called Writing the Body a few years later, incorporating some exercises I learned from a workshop with Marion Woodman (i.e. having a dialogue with your uterus) with some ideas of Northrup's. I love the idea that our bodies' connection with the emotional system is so linked, so metaphorical. Breaking a leg meaning 'having to stand on one's own two feet', for instance. Breast cancer linked to too much giving, ie breasts = nurturance.

My own connection to my body seems to be blocked at the neck. I've been taking yoga classes for about ten years and although I am still a beginner in the asanas, I just started a daily practice to keep me grounded and in touch with the belly during the day. Being conscious, or mindful as some people say, requires a lot of practice. It's so much easier to live in your head!

Inside my body are so many emotions, ignored, not wanted, neglected or denied. The emotions stuffed down 'there', eaten in haste, swallowed in shame. Listening to the belly wisdom or body guidance, is about getting in touch with what is there, about letting it be, not trying to push it away, or run from it. It catches up with us anyway, in back spasms, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, chronic shoulder and neck pain, arthritis, a myriad of messengers begging us not to live in denial of our feelings.

I believe it's harder still to live with the illnesses that are a consequence of too much stuffing down.

I notice how my belly tightens when I'm hearing something that makes me anxious or afraid. Breathe into it. Stretch into it. Accept what is.

Take it easy, I remind myself. Don't sweat it. Breathe deeply.

Then I also remind myself, my body guidance will not become natural and instinctual overnight.

Fill the belly bowl with breath, let it out, and release.
one more time, now...



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