Anne-Louise Smallen, Lic. Ac.
One day this month, I woke up hardly able to stand, shivering and drenched in sweat. My first thought was: “Great, where did I get catch that flu?” Too exhausted to think, I went back to sleep and slept for 14 hours. I woke up remembering one of the most profound lessons I learned from Bob Duggan, the director and founder of Tai Sophia Institute (now called Maryland University of Integrative Health). This lesson was part of the Lifestyle Inquiries he encouraged us to learn as practitioners.
The first and most important lesson Bob drilled was:
“There is only one teacher that will never lie to you. Your body will always tell you the truth about why you feel the way you feel. Discovering and following the clues to your discomforts and illnesses by carefully listening to your body is your high road to health.”
Naturally my body did not catch a germ somewhere, it was telling me to rest. And when it got its way it gave me a break!
I think Bob’s thinking was superbly simple and completely right. Listening to your body is worth the effort. For example, you might have a chronic shoulder and hand pain that you treat with painkillers and occasional acupuncture treatment. The pain gets temporarily under control but recurs on a regular basis. It might be worth noticing all the circumstances surrounding the exact time when your body gets that familiar pain. Each time, notice your state of mind, your location, your feelings, etc… You might find new information.
For example, you might notice that the pain tends to start when you are driving. Your muscles are tense, you grip the steering wheel, you feel frustrated and angry at the traffic and the other drivers.
Keep asking yourself, what can I do about that? You might find that it helps to consciously relax your grip on the steering wheel, breathe deeply and intentionally relax your shoulders. You might also find that it is worthwhile for you to pursue peace of mind by listening to soothing music in the car if music helps. Choose to take the frustrations away. By pursuing and finding solutions to small clues, you learn to become your own health practitioner and follow your inner guidance to better well-being.
Another example would be struggling with sugar addiction. Why is your body starving for sugar? Don’t assume that your body is wrong to do so and leading you astray. Instead, look at why it is doing that. What did you eat that day? If you did not feed your body what it needs, is it looking for a quick, sweet pick up? How do you feel when these cravings overtake you? Look at your emotions and the trigger that started the craving. Are you bored, sad, lonely? Then human contact might be the better food for you. It might seem difficult, but it is the food you really need. Then isn't that worth pursuing?
Or, is your body really not getting what it needs and why? Is it feeling better when you give it real food? Is it happier when you chew your food thoroughly? If you eat mindfully, enjoying every bite instead of letting the news on television divide your attention, do you find that your cravings diminish? Are there activities such as walking regularly that “fill you up” enough to replace the reward of a nice sweet piece of pie? You are the detective in this worthwhile
Let what your body tells you become your number one practitioner. It is the first to know, it tells you, and it is immediately grateful when you listen. Your body does not lie to you!