Let me paint a picture for you. It’s an average morning. A minor tornado swept through the kitchen as your kids hustled out the door for school, but you are now settling into the day with a big cup of coffee. You run through today’s to-do list in your head while tidying up, and it is then that you notice a lost textbook on the floor. Loose papers stick out of the book and you know you will soon receive a phone call asking for forgotten homework to be dropped off at school. You feel more annoyed than you’re willing to admit about this unexpected errand. With a little huff you bend to grab the book and as you lift back up, you feel the all too familiar twinge of your back going out.
Rage, helplessness, sadness…all these emotions rush through you as you try to find a comfortable position to catch your breath and calm your back. Multiple pregnancies and old athletic injuries have compounded into unpredictable outbursts of pain in your back. It doesn’t help that you really don’t have the time to work out and strengthen that part of your body either. The pain is debilitating and it seems to have the power to throw your whole life off track until you see the chiropractor a few times and get it back to its “normal” state. Even when you finally feel better, there’s left over resentment towards the betrayal your own body continues to serve you. You can’t help but wonder, when is it gonna happen next?
If you don’t directly relate to this scenario, fill in the blank with whatever injury or illness you feel plagued by. For me, it’s my plantar fasciitis that runners unfortunately know too well. Maybe for you it’s a knee, hip, or shoulder. Maybe it’s vertigo, migraines, or an autoimmune disease. It can feel like these conditions and pains rule what we are able to do, and over time we might start to reject our body for not doing enough.
I’d like to remind us all that our bodies are completely and utterly miracles of epic proportions. I’m no scientist, but we are composed at a microscopic level of cells that are almost whole universes on their own. But in quantities of millions, they become organs, muscles, blood, eyes that see what other conglomerates of cells can be, ears that hear vibrations moving through the air, a tongue that can taste foods designed to keep our bodies running all the way down to that cellular level. Doesn’t that sound like a heck of a miracle? And even more miraculous, our bodies are so expertly designed that we aren’t meant to feel injuries or sickness. There shouldn’t be chronic pain and untreatable disease, so why is there?
I don’t have to be a scientist to know that each and every one of our cells has its own intelligence, because it’s something I experience in my own body everyday. What if your chronic pain isn’t the fault of your body, but is the fault of your own actions? What if the real victim is your body, and it knows this because of its intelligence at the cellular level? What if your pain is simply your body trying to communicate that something needs to change?
I invite you to consider these questions, because it is my belief that pain and illnesses are blessings in disguise. They are our bodies means of guiding us through life. But when we resent pain and sickness, when we disassociate from our bodies out of anger, we become blind to the message in front of us. For me, like I said before, it’s my plantar fasciitis and it comes with a clear message. My pain in my foot is screaming at me to stop running so much and to diversify my workouts with some low impact options. In the example I began with, it’s the low back screaming at you to make the time to heal old injuries with modalities like acupuncture, yoga, and movement therapy.
Now I realize you might be resistant to what I’m saying. The reality is, most people don’t want to believe that they are in part responsible for their pain or illness. It’s easier to play victim to genetics or circumstance. If you want to ignore taking responsibility for the state of your body, then you can continue to live with the pain you’re living with. Or you can take the painful step of admitting your role in the state of your body today, and take action that will change the way you feel for the rest of your life.
It’s nearly impossible for me to describe how difficult it is to admit responsibility for low back pain (or whatever pain it is that you feel). It might take admitting laziness in not getting to the gym, dealing with emotions by eating food which has put extra weight on your back, or depriving yourself of good nutrition and weakening your body’s ability to function as it was designed. Big pain in the body calls for big changes in lifestyle. But when we listen closely, we can notice more subtle messages as well. If I wear high heels for a whole day, my plantar fasciitis is sure to tell me not to put fashion over my well being. If you eat a dairy loaded dinner as a lactose intolerant person, your body will make it clear it doesn’t like that. And to frame this message more positively, if you go on a beautiful hike outside your body will sing “yes, let’s do this more!”
We all abuse our bodies, whether it be diet that leads to chronic illness or one bad meal that makes the body say “no no.” We are human and our lives will never be perfect. The important thing is to listen to your body when it speaks, because it’s intelligence is infinite. Our bodies will always forgive us when we take corrective action, but if we ignore them or shame them, they have no option but to speak louder. Ask your body what it needs of you, sit with enough silence and vulnerability to hear what it says, and see that you are not a victim but a lucky owner of a beautiful body.
I would love to hear from you!