Coming Home to Our Bodies

breathing through painHow do we hear the messages our bodies share with us? How can we practice taking our bodies’ messages seriously, and listening deeply? Sometimes these messages show up as dreams, and sometimes as disease. Sometimes they show up as pain, and instead of listening to the messages, we run to a doctor or chiropractor to just make the pain stop. When we do this, we never really get the message.

Body Dialogue is a practice of listening deeply to the messages from our body. And even though I teach that practice, I am always learning, too.

Earlier this summer, as I was preparing to embark on yet another 7 week trip to Israel and then to Ireland, the pain from muscle spasms in my back absolutely flattened me. What is this pain trying to get me to hear, to feel, to know, I thought. How can I breathe into each fiber and open to the deeper message?

I remember only one other time when my back caused me such pain: another, much shorter journey, years ago. I was to move from a dark, crowded space in my old New York City apartment into a huge, light-filled space. It was outside my frame of reference to believe I could live in such a welcoming, luxurious solace in the city – this new apartment that overlooked the Hudson and had nine windows on the river. Nothing at that point in my life had offered me such luxury. I was almost embarrassed that I could afford it. What would my friends say when they came to visit, I worried. How could I possibly justify spending all that money so my family and I could enjoy the views, the light, the peace?

One friend, a clairvoyant, suggested that I bless the space in a ritual that would allow me permission to enter it, and so I did. I created a ritual for my family as we entered the space. My two-year-old daughter brought her favorite toy mouse Jerry, and my son brought his baseball glove. We lived there for 19 years happily as a family of four with constant guests and visitors. The house was never empty. Then, ten years ago, we left that home after I left my marriage of 32 years, and I embarked on another new journey – one that I never imagined.

As destabilizing as it was to leave a dark, cramped apartment to move into the light on Riverside Drive, the steps I have been taking, and am taking now, feel equally momentous. But the big move, or transition, is not a physical move this time. It’s an internal move. I hardly have words for it. Before, I was shifting out of a too-small home with my family of four. This time I am moving out of a too-small home in my body.

The right side of my body has been compromised for 20 years and probably before that, in part from scar tissue and restriction stemming from a hysterectomy. But now I wonder whether my right side, which represents my masculine, my animus, had been compromised way before that — since I was a child and learned that girls are not as good as boys and girls need to make themselves small so boys will like them.

Is it possible that these spasms, as I prepared for my trip, were my emotional and mental body saying “No more. No more making yourself small.”?

Maybe that old contract has expired. Maybe now I am ready to occupy my full height, breadth, and girth. Maybe it’s time to move into my “house,” come home to my body, and take my place in the world.

Those back spasms earlier this summer brought me to my knees in prayer and gratitude – gratitude for my ability to listen to the pain. Make no mistake — I was not happy as I anticipated 15 hours of travel, a week after those spasms. But I can always ask for help and I have. Sometime we just need to ask for extra support.

I am listening to my body, to hear the messages hidden in the pain. This much I have learned – pain means the body is trying to tell us something, and often the lessons are surprising, and profound.

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