For years it never felt safe to be in my body. It seemed alien, a container that was much too small. I felt trapped. I wanted out. Overwhelmed by too many feelings, I hovered numb just a few inches above my skin, disconnected. This whole earth experience felt so alien, in fact, that as a little girl I used to sit on my garage roof, look at the stars, and hope a spaceship would come take me away to a place I really belonged.
Now, I realize that this body we’ve been given for such a short time is the divine vehicle for our healing. I believe that parents must educate their children about the adjustment it takes to be in the body—to go from a spirit form that is abolutely huge to a time and space--limited physical self. Being so enclosed in a physical form can be a cause for panic on a primal level. Our adjustment to the body is a spiritual issue that can lead to better psychological adjustment while we’re here on earth.I teach all my patients this. I’d like you to begin that adjustment too, and be in your body as much as possible. Then you can stay healthy or better deal with illness or pain if either comes.
You can't heal your body unless you're in it. Sounds reasonable, right? Then how come the instant most of us get sick we check out, the sooner the better? We feel pain or discomfort, we get scared, we withdraw. We're out of our bodies so fast, the last thing on our minds is to rally every iota of awareness and energy to the part of us that most needs attention. You might ask, How would this help? Let me explain. Intuitive truth 1: The more love and consciousness you bring to your body when it is ill, the better chance you'll have of mending it. Intuitive truth 2: If you resist discomfort, it will persist. If you soften around it, it will lessen.
Let's get specific. You have what you're going to discover is appendicitis. First signs? You're in agony, curled in the fetal position on your bed. Your body is sending out a frantic SOS. Something's really wrong. You have no choice but to listen. You head for the emergency room. You need surgery. No way out. Next thing you know, you wake up in recovery, sans appendix. You made it. Your acute pain obviously had a purpose. It got you, fast, to the hospital. Some pain is short-lived. You have it. It's treated. It's gone. Even with pain of this kind, however, there's no question that informed attention is an asset. From the onset of a health crisis, focusing your intuition can get you past all-too-human resistances. For instance, people frequently die of heart attacks, failing to heed the warning of their angina. As they say, Denial is not just a river in Egypt. Intuition combats denial. By tuning in to pain, you'll get a more incisive take on how to deal with it. But, in general, here is a strategy that never fails: Loving-kindness. Conscious softening. Releasing resistance and fear. Not forsaking the body. This is where you begin.
What if pain becomes chronic? My patient Meg, a corporate attorney used to being in charge-a control freak, really-was diagnosed with a bulging lumbar disc. Compressing the sciatic nerve, this disc caused excruciating pain in her lower back and down her leg. Pain became Meg's enemy. Drawing on techniques honed in years of legal warfare, she went on a crusade to eradicate it: anti-inflammatory drugs, ice packs, acupuncture, physical therapy, and gradual exercise. She did everything her doctor told her. Still the pain was there. The more she dreaded it, the worse it got. One day she hobbled into my office, cane in one hand, and cell phone in the other. An impossible juggling act, heart rending to see. On the verge of tears, she said, "I can't take it anymore. I hate this pain. I just want to get rid of it." Of course she did. Any of us would. But Meg was working against herself.