Body talk

I wrote yesterday about my recent goals epiphany: I need to put myself first, seeking out both adventure and nurturing, and not worry so much about whether my art is a good enough career. This epiphany came about in part because I realized I don’t listen to my body enough. Just as my inner critic has more of a hold on my mind than it should, so too does my mind control more of my whole being than it ought to. We’re all equal parts body, mind, and spirit, right? My usual breakdown goes more like this: mind 75%, spirit 20%, body 5% — and that’s only if I’ve been doing yoga lately!

I’ve known for a long time that I ignore my body when I’m hunched at the computer, but over the weekend I realized it’s not only then that it’s neglected. On Sunday morning, I was out in the beautiful sunshine, taking a walk on the trails, when it suddenly struck me that I wasn’t feeling my body at all. I breathed and moved my limbs automatically, without enjoyment; meanwhile, my brain was full of thoughts (mostly meandering, floaty ones). Even though I was “exercising,” I wasn’t conscious of what I was feeling in my physical being. So I started taking deeper breaths and bringing consciousness to my limbs and my core. It felt foreign.

People you’d think of as New-Agey — yogis, massage therapists, and such — are always saying that we hold our life experiences in our bodies. I really believe that science will someday find this to be true. I know that in my body, every time I feel anxiety or pressure or exhaustion, it translates into tightness and discomfort, and an evening of laughter or massage isn’t enough to cancel out that physical negativity. And I know for sure that traumatic experiences store themselves deep in my body; the tension created by Tisha’s death still has yet to dissipate.

We can process much of our lives with our conscious minds, which are very good at thoughtful analysis, and with our unconscious too, which creates linkages and generates ideas the conscious mind overlooks. But unless the mind is also talking to the body, there will always be some processing that’s getting left out. I wonder if turning off my brain lets my body do a little more of its share. I suspect it does, and that’s why I’ve experienced so many more revelations about myself lately — for once I’ve let myself take a break and just breathe for a while. Maybe this is my body’s wisdom emerging, now that I’m listening, to tell me what to do. I’ll try to give it more opportunities to speak.

On that note, this evening I did Jason Crandell’s half-hour sidebending practice at YogaJournal.com, and it was amazing. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re new to yoga; in that case, you might want to try this gentle, 20-minute seated practice.

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