How Your Body Tells You What It Needs Right Now

 

The other day, I was talking on the phone with a friend who’s being overwhelmed by physical issues since her marriage fell apart – constant nausea and pain from an old wrist injury acting up.

Our conversation had a more personal focus, but she did ask me my professional opinion about what she could do to help remedy one or the other of those symptoms. As always, I suggested she talk to her wrist and stomach – listen to what they have to say, listen to what they need.

At which point, she very kindly asked, “Ok, I get the idea of listening to my body, but how do I do that?”

Of course! Here I am, constantly spouting off about something that’s obvious to me – and to someone who’s already worked with me – but that idea on its own may mean nothing to you, or you might have a notion that’s only somewhat related to what I’m talking about.

 

Let’s clear that up right now. What do I mean when I say “listen to your body”?

Starting with the obvious

Your body speaks to you on a daily basis. When you get hungry or tired or have a pain, your body sends you a bunch of signals to indicate that something needs your attention. Ideally, you eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired, and step away from the computer to rest your wrist when it hurts: that’s you listening to your body.

If you’re well tuned into your body and actually heed its signals, it doesn’t need to speak very loudly.

Sometimes, though, you ignore those signals, or you’re not in touch enough to actually hear them. In which case, your body starts to speak more loudly: you feel faint and irritable from low blood sugar, your mind is foggy from lack of sleep, or your wrist is so badly inflamed, you can’t work for 3 days.

Your body acts like a little kid looking for loving attention. Do you see what she needs after the first gentle “Mom?”, or do you ignore her until she’s escalated through “Mom. Mom? Moom. Mooo-oooom! MOM!”

 

Listening as a way of fixing a problem

More specifically, you need to listen to your body when trying to sort out how best to address a certain ailment and to understand if certain remedies are working. Let’s say we’re talking about my friend’s nausea. I would ask her to take a few days to notice if there’s a time of day it acts up more than others, if certain foods or activities aggravate it or make it better. Then, once I’ve made certain suggestions about her eating habits and herbs, she’s going to check in to see if there’s any change – for better or worse.

One issue that comes up often with clients is women who graze mindlessly or fall into some other aspect of emotional eating. There again, it’s a matter of understanding if there’s any actual hunger involved. Is the hunger for food, or for a deeper need? Maybe the need for food is a way of avoiding something else. (This is a big topic, and I’ll come back to address it more substantially in another post soon.)

 

Listening to your Body is a way of hearing the needs of your soul.

Don’t worry, there’s a how-to audio for this part at the end.

The other concept I throw around a lot is based on that Teilhard de Chardin quote about us being souls having a human experience: the idea that the body is a container which allows the soul to move on the earth. The body is how we interact in this existence. So it stands to reason that if the soul wants to send us a message, it’s going to do so through medium of the body.

The sensations you feel in your body are your soul speaking to you in a language you can understand.

In that regard, listening to your body involves so much more than noticing your symptoms after certain foods. Listening to your body is part of a healing conversation.

 

When you tune in and hear what your soul is saying to you via the body, you are engaging in a conversation with your self. You are deepening the relationship to your self – in the same way that conversations with the women in your life have turned them from acquaintances into friends into besties.

Conversations aren’t one-sided. They are a back and forth exchange – speaking as well as listening, asking as well as answering; giving and receiving.

When you speak your concerns aloud, whether to yourself or a friend, you draw them out of the shadow of fear and into the light for release.

When you share the experience of what you’re feeling in your body with your practitioner, you’re giving her a fuller picture of why your body is reacting the way it does and how to best approach its healing.

 

What I teach women is based on a technique known as Focusing – developed by psychologist Eugene Gendlin. Some people refer to it as hearing your inner voice or your soul voice or your higher self. Basically, you’re talking to YOU.

Learning how to listen to your body – having a conversation to better understand how it works, how you work – what lights you up and what drags you down – is an essential part of the healing journey.

Put your info in the grey box to access the audio guide which walks you through the steps.

In my next post, once you’ve had a bit of time to practice and get to know yourself in a new way, I’m going to offer a key to making this work as a more effective tool for how you heal and grow. (And let you know what happened with my friend and here wrist.)

Know anyone else who wants to understand how to (re)connect with her body? Share this post using any (or all!) of the buttons here.

Wallowing vs Self-Care or How to Find Hopeful Movement after all the Chaos

 

Don’t you love that time, after you’ve gone through something big – when activity and thinking and decisions and emotional turmoil seem like a never-ending vortex that would pull you along forever – and things become quiet again? It’s so peaceful, just sitting and letting the dust settle on your new life.

You learn to relax again. You get caught up on a season of Broadchurch. You chat on the phone. It’s so comfortable.

Maybe too comfortable, because that was a few months ago; you’re still in that same spot and the dust is piling up.

You’ve gone from allowing yourself a quiet moment of recharging your batteries to full-on hibernation, and you’re starting to feel gross. Sluggish. Your waistline is expanding and your joints complain whenever you try to move.

Did you really just go through everything you did only to end up here?!?

I so get this. Every time I’ve broken up with someone, every time I’ve moved or changed career paths, I get to a point where I just want to curl up in the comfort zone of what’s easiest. But there’s a fine line between taking a moment of self-care and wallowing.

The beauty of change – whether consciously chosen or from the rug getting ripped out from under you – is that it opens the door to opportunity. Lost your job? What a perfect time to open the shop you’ve always dreamed about. Divorced? You can fall in love again…primarily with yourself.

Yes, it’s ripe with potential! Yet, without channeling some of that potential into movement, into action, you will stagnate and go stale.

Look at the trees this time of year. They’ve been standing still and grey, quietly enduring the cold. At a certain point, the sun gets warm enough and their sap starts to flow again. Life literally pours into their branches and they’re awash with colour and communal activity. Without the sap, its limbs will rot and eventually fall off.

Ok, so your arms may not fall off, but your body will feel the lack of vibrant nourishment over time. As poor health, as weight gain, as depression.

Sure wallowing can be part of the process, but when does it start to hold you back from the next necessary steps? And how can you get back into movement when that stillness feels so good?

Recharging makes conscious choices: to watch some TV or eat a cookie or have a glass of wine while you cook dinner.

Destructive wallowing feels like those same activities are a way of avoiding how you feel; they can take over to the point of mindlessness. One cookie becomes a bag. One episode becomes a whole season in one night. The glass of wine replaces dinner.

Recharging sheds tears for all you’re leaving behind – sometimes buckets of them from so deep in your heart, you suddenly understand why you’ve felt so heavy all these months and years. When they’re done, you’re filled with energy and a capacity to now fill that space with creativity and joy.

Destructive wallowing is needy and cries out of self-pity.

Recharging mourns. Wallowing pines.

Deep down inside (sometimes ever so faintly), recharging holds the candle of hope that you will, and do, feel better.

Wallowing feels like nothing will never be good again.

Recharging stays connected to friends and family, if only internally. Wallowing is completely disconnected.

Recharging naturally shifts back into creativity and a need to move. Wallowing can get stuck.

If you’re wallowing and truly feel there’s no way out, please, get help. Call me. Call a friend. Call a therapist.

If you just need a little bit of sunshine to get the sap running again,

  • Put on your favourite music and dance.
  • Go outside and take a walk. Go for a run.
  • Think about that really great day you had a few weeks back, how you felt and what excited you.
  • Get to a yoga class or zumba.
  • Visualize a shower of sparkling white light raining down on you and washing away the grey sludge from your heart and your soul.
  • Turn the dirt and start prepping your garden for planting.

Your mother was right to send you out for fresh air & exercise. Move your body. Get outside. Connect with Nature. Connect with other people…speak about how you’ve been feeling. Breathe.

What gets you back in the game when you’d rather stay curled up in your comfort zone?

If you know anyone who’s stuck in a rut after a big shift, by all means send this along using any (or all!) of these share buttons.

How to Connect your Body & Mind

 

When big things are happening in my life, when I feel the most busy and in danger of the to-do list being in charge, the most effective way I know of getting back in control is to sit in silence for 10 minutes each morning.

It took a certain amount of discipline – ok, let’s be honest, a good deal of conscious effort – to start getting up early for this, but it has been worth it. If nothing else, I love that the house is all mine, that the time is all mine, that the quiet is all mine to enjoy and use as I need & desire.

This is something I do before I get dressed or check my phone/email/Facebook or my to-do list; before I even think about making breakfast or lunches. I spend 15-30 minutes getting clear on who I am in this moment, and rewiring the disconnect between my mind and my body, before any of the outer world starts its inevitable invasion. As soon as I get up, I meditate.

This isn’t something that came to me easily.

Every time I tried, in a yoga class or because I knew I “should”, I would get squirmy and my ever-chattering mind would take me down rabbit holes of whirring thoughts & worry. I figured, “I’m just no good at it,” and gave up on myself far too quickly.

Of course it wasn’t working. Those occasions were so few and far between that I never got any real practice. How many times have I explained to my kids that skating or drawing or swimming or guitar or spelling gets better the more you do it. As with any of those activities, the more often you try, the better you get, the more it evolves with you, hence the word practice for meditation, for yoga, even for professional services. It’s about the repetition, as much as it’s about testing out different techniques, stretching your limits and honing your skills. If one way doesn’t work, try something else.

My homeopath directed me to a website that got me over the hump. It had straightforward explanations and a simple guided audio to follow for 8 days. (headspace.com if you want to give it a shot – I’m not trying to sell anything here, just sharing resource that’s free and effective.) Their analogy of thoughts in relation to self, like the clouds covering the sky, was the lightbulb I needed to understand and be able to follow. The blue sky is there regardless of the size, shape, density or colour of the clouds blocking it from view.

It took quite a few tries – religiously practicing every day for 10 minutes – before I got past all the clouds (thoughts in my head) to the blue sky beneath them. What I discovered there was the most remarkable place of grounded, open, strong and vulnerable beauty.

I was in touch with Me, my soul, my being at its very core; my power.

Sometimes the contact is fleeting, other days I can sink into it fully. Even if I never get there at all on a given day, knowing that it’s perpetually present in me is enough to fuel my day. “I am here!”, no matter how good or how shitty things might get later on.

Now that’s the other remarkable par: days don’t get too bad anymore. This shift was entirely unconscious and so subtle it took a while for me to notice. It seems that knowing my truth is there and constant, the rest of life’s ups & downs don’t hold the same barbs that would get me caught up in drama or anxiety. I am better able to ride those waves of life with more flow.

In the 2 years since I truly started a meditation practice, it’s grown and evolved to include prayers to the natural universe for support (usually while I walk); petitions for concrete help when I need it; pulling Tarot and other cards as inspiration, motivation or a theme for the day’s mantra. I also nourish my soul and enrich what has come out of meditation with affirmations and journal writing.

My morning routine has become the ritual that allows me time for myself, to nourish my whole being, and to start each day with intention. In the coming weeks I’ll be discussing how to stay focused despite the emotional whirlwind that is your life right now. (Sign up in the box below so you don’t miss the coming instalments of how you might do the same.)

What do you do each day to connect the different parts of your self? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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How to Nourish YOU for the Coming Year

 

I step out my front door after a heavy snowfall. The expanse of white blanketing my lawn is pristine – not a rabbit trail, nor a wind drift in sight – it’s pure, clean and full of possibility. I get a satisfying thrill to be the first one to make a mark. Today, it’s a footprint. Other times it’s an angel.

That’s exactly how I feel on the first of the year. As if by turning to a fresh page on the calendar, I’ve wiped everything clean and get to start again; I get to make my mark on the year in any way I desire.

I get to step forward as the person I want to become.

I get to feed and dress and entertain myself in a way that reflects the wants and needs of that “new” me.

I get to enjoy relationships with a whole new heart.

I get to share my reaffirmed values through work and service to others.

The possibilities are vast – all emanating from me.

All starting from that 1st step.

2017 is going to be a big year. I can feel it.

Am I feeling the excitement brewing as Canada turns 150, as Montreal turns 375, as most of my friends and I turn 50, my eldest son, 25?

Politically, we’ll see a whole new world – terrifying and thrilling in equal measure.

Maybe I’m tuned into the cosmic pull of numerology. 2+0+1+7=10, the culmination of one cycle and the start of the next; as well as (1+0=1) the very beginning. Maybe I’m feeling the onset of the Year of the Fire Rooster – vibrantly social and healthy.

Whatever influences and environment and waves push and pull against you through the coming year, at the centre is you. YOU are the only part over which you have control. YOU are the only tool you have for creating waves – through your own care & feeding, in how you interact with others, in how you vibrate in the world through work & community – your footprints.

Will they be made of carbon or snow? Of fairy dust or hard facts? The choice is yours.

It all starts with you.

Before you make that first step each day, though, be sure to start out knowing who you are in that moment. Connect with YOU first. Action comes next.

Huh?!? What does all this mumbo-jumbo mean?

It means that the best way to be yourself, to feel like yourself and stay nourished through your day, is to start each morning with a bit of ritual: a morning routine.

A morning routine ensures that you start your day nourished body, mind and soul.

A morning routine wipes the slate clean like that freshly fallen snow. Without necessarily getting rid of yesterday’s transgressions, it contains forgiveness for them, and hope for tomorrow’s wins.

A morning routine ensures that you have had time to yourself and for yourself, no matter what the rest of the day holds. It gives you the space to focus inward before engaging outward.

When life rips the rug out from under you, a morning routine maintains a constant, a beacon to which you can tether yourself to get safely to the other side.

A morning routine connects all parts of you into an integrated whole from which you can better make decisions about work, food, leisure… basically, how you want to spend your time, energy and money through the coming day.

The daily practice of a morning routine fosters discipline. Not the strict, whip-cracking type. Ritual establishes boundaries as a safe container for who you are, what you will & won’t do, what you will & won’t let in…or out…of your life.

A morning routine starts the conversation in which you can listen to your body – her needs, her hopes, her fears.

A morning routine gives you the space to connect with the Divine, a conversation with a greater power. This includes the petitions for what you need as well as listening for a response.

If there’s time for nothing else on a given day – the connection to self and spirit are the non-negotiable pieces to my morning, in the form of breathe.

Feeling my breathe move into my body’s centre, then settling into that space as it leaves.

That way, I start each day with a calm nervous system.

I start each day with a dose of oxytocin – bi-product of connection, which lowers cortisol levels, with its residual waves to improved blood sugar, immunity and libido.

I start the day, saying, “This is ME.”

I take each step from there.

Your morning routine will likely look different than mine. It will vary, depending on whether your day includes a marathon or a day of leisure, kids or just you, being at home or on the road. Your routine may alternate depending on the type of work you do, or where your values and priorities lie.

One thing that remains the same for each of us, whether you will be teaching kindergarten or spear-heading a corporate merger, starting out your day grounded into YOU will set you up for more energy, success and happiness at the end of it.

My morning routine has evolved over time and continues to evolve as my needs shift through the seasons and the circumstances of life. For the next four posts, through the months of quiet hibernation in winter, it’s the perfect time to share some aspects of my morning routine, not as specific rules, but as guidelines for possibility.

How you make your own routine is up to you.

Do you have a morning routine, or a non-negotiable bit to your day? We’d love to hear about it! When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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How to Have a Wholly Healthy Holiday

 

It’s mid-December. Life just got a tad more hectic and will stay that way until the kids go back to school in January.

You kick yourself for not having honoured last year’s vow to be organized earlier. You harp on about the excessive consumerism and the social obligations – loud office parties and stilted conversations with people you only see once a year. There’s cooking and shopping and wrapping and planning. There’ll be food from your naughty list on offer everywhere you turn.

Your belly clenches in anticipation, even as you fear you won’t get it all done, so you run too fast, stay up too late, say yes to more events and volunteering than you know is good for you. You start to feel your life getting away from you; you’re scrambling to keep it all packaged in a manageable bundle. (Writing this, I picture my arms flying through the air, trying to gain control over some invisible chaos.)

How can you get it all done without burning yourself out? How can you actually enjoy the celebrations after all the work?

How can you maintain the spirit of the season without compromising your own spirit?

The hustle and bustle of Christmas tips so easily into stress & overwhelm when there’s no connection. If you’re anything like me, a certain amount of what you do at this time of year comes from outside expectations – your husband and kids’ needs, of course, but also what your sister-in-law or your mother expect of you, office obligations, and maybe a small dose of keeping-up-with-the-Jones’.

When you lose sight of the meaning behind the traditions in favour of trying to do it all, you end up losing sight of yourself in the process.

The other morning I headed out the door for an early appointment, into the soundless dark of that first deep snowfall. Because I’d taken on an extra contract recently, my time for all the Christmas necessities became suddenly limited and I felt that panic welling in me by the minute. My thoughts threatened to spin out of control as I walked to the bus. There was something about the peace of the day, however, that drew my attention more strongly.

It was one of those mornings when the carpet of snow muffles every sound. The only thing I heard was my breathe, so I settled into it and the way it shifted and vibrated with my steps. The sun was just coming up behind the clouds, sending the bare trees into dramatic relief against the lightening grey. No birds sang nor squirrels chattered – they were still huddled in their cozy nests. Even my usual morning petition to earth and trees for support through my day fell flat as I felt their own energy had settled deeply below the surface.

I heard a voice inside me say, “Enjoy the quiet. Enjoy the absolute peace.”

To use traditional Chinese terminology, this is a yin season – we’re approaching the most yin day of the year on the 21st – inward moving, cold, dark, moist, introspective and receiving. Your instinct is to follow that energy –the desire to curl up under a blanket with a book, have more nights in with your family, make pots of soup – that’s you putting yin into action.

Christmas is an affirmation of the return to more yang – outward, hot, light, expansive and giving. A natural celebration of those qualities we so love; they help us connect to the world around us, and traditionally offered survival as people share limited resources for food and heat through the winter. Yet, as we North Americans love to do everything to excess, the holidays are over the top, to the point of frenzy.

The stress of the year comes, in part, from the struggle between the two poles of energy clashing.

This year, in order to maintain your energy, your sanity and your joy through the season, balance those the seasonal extremes regularly.

Connect daily – hourly – with the yin energy of the natural season (of which you are an integral part) to offset the yang of the seasonal holiday.

Here’s how:

  1. Soups, stews and congees – food cooked with water or other liquid – nourish deeply with their easily assimilated nutrients and gentle warmth. Eat one or the other daily. Squash soup, with a hint of curry, apple and coconut is my favourite, like a warm blanket in a bowl. Bonus points for drinking/using bone broth.
  2. Foods that tonify yin include millet, barley, rice (eaten as whole grains, not in flour products); beans, especially black, kidney, mung or green; beets, black- & raspberry, seaweed. Easy on the red meat, sugar/refined carbs and alcohol; remember the gratitude for the bounty along with the indulgence – celebrate conscientiously.
  3. Turn inward daily with quiet practices such as meditation, yoga, journaling, put on a fire (or a candle) and get lost in its flames. Give yourself an opportunity to turn off for a few minutes every day. Trust that it will all get done; trust that what gets done is enough.
  4. Take a walk in the early morning or the evening. Let the quiet penetrate you, and notice your limbs soften as the frenzy drops away. Though the earth is frozen, you can still tap into its energy by consciously feeling your feet connect with the snow and pavement at every step – imagine red roots running into your soles, nourishing you with the distant warmth of the core.
  5. Balance the giving with a healthy dose of receiving. We’re good at the first – not so much the second. Practise receiving compliments, an offer of a cup of tea or help in the kitchen. At a recent party, several people commented on how good I looked – after the 2nd or 3rd time, I noticed my shoulders curled in and my chest collapsed even as I thanked them. Open your heart and let the love, the gift, the compliment in. As Dr. Northrup says, it gifts the other person with the joy of having their words and other offers of love accepted. (You can start right now – see below for my present to you.)

What gets you the most stressed out at this time of year? What practices help you stay balanced? When you share in the comments, you open the opportunities for others.

*****   *****   *****

My Christmas gift to you:

Over the last few years, I’ve found a word to be my touchstone, my intention and my guide for the year. Better than a resolution, it creates a container in which to take action with healthy practices, it creates a filter through which to set my priorities and make decisions, both personal and professional.

On the 21st, the darkest day of the year, I will be posting an audio guide for helping you connect with YOUR word for 2017. Solstice is the perfect time to explore your needs and priorities and set that intention, so that it can come into the light as we head to the new year.

Access will be exclusively for the community in the Whole Health Dinner Party space. Learn more and join here.

Now practise the joy of giving: Share this post with 2 of your friends using any (or all!) of the links below.