Crazy as it may sound, your mind doesn’t always know when you’re in pain – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually—but your body always knows.
Your mind is often so busy that you can have big in-your-face symptoms without even recognizing that your body is screaming: “Stop! Listen to me – I’m here to help!”
Here’s an example. When I was still working for a large organization I was moved from a familiar, comfortable role into a new, and in many ways more stressful one. The first week in the new situation I noticed a wart on my right thumb. At first it was no big deal. But for the next six years it plagued me. I tried everything—modern medicine, traditional wisdom recipes off the internet, and a few weird combos of my own—and that sucker would clear up in one spot and almost immediately show up on another finger, or another two fingers. Seriously!! For six years!!
Then I left that job to expand my private therapy practice. Literally, the week I left the wart went away and has never come back.
I’m not saying that every time you have a physical symptom you should quit your job!! I am saying that in spite of my meditation and mindfulness practice, in spite of knowing and teaching about the importance of recognizing and managing stress, I was pretty clueless! Stressed beyond my body and mind’s ability to handle it effectively, my body was trying to get my attention. It was showing me that my immune system was a bit compromised, and for six years I didn’t get it!
Looking back I hear echoes of my self talk: ‘Just work a little harder, be a little more organized…”. But I didn’t need to work harder—I was working my butt off! I needed to work in partnership with myself instead of pushing myself like a donkey to do more. That simple acknowledgement might have opened the door for creativity to surface with a better solution than repeating the same self-talk over and over. Maybe I’d have moved earlier to expanding my private practice. Maybe I’d have recognized that some of what I was doing didn’t really need to be done.
I’ll never really know what I might have done differently. But I know what’s different today. I use my body to tell me what’s going on with me. I respect what it tells me. I check in many, many times a day to see how it’s doing and if it has anything new for me. And then I get quiet and I listen.
You don’t have to wait six years!! Use your body. Check in with it often. Ask it how it’s feeling! Notice when it’s tight, and invite it to relax. Breathe into the tense places. And most important, ask it what it needs. You may be amazed at the wisdom it offers when you actually listen for the answers.