Monday, December 20, 2010

Embodying Those Holiday Feelings

What is it about the holidays? They stir up all kinds of thoughts and feelings, tastier than a big bowl of egg nog and filled with equal parts bite and sweetness. It's not an easy time, one so many of us both embrace and dread.

If we pay attention, many of the feelings that move through us in our lives contain not only the 'story'--what we experience and talk about as the narrative of what's happening--but also a physical component. Every feeling we have can be located somewhere in the body, listened to, and moved through.

In fact, it can be freeing to realize that--although we may have infused them with drama, judgment and interpretation--our feelings are actually very simple when we pinpoint them in our bodies. Grief, for example, can show up as a heavy feeling in the heart or shoulders; a sense of our breath being constricted or our body weighed down. Anger can have a kind of heat and energy to it, a change of breath, a sense of restlessness in the limbs.

As we get curious about and explore our feelings through our bodies without judgment, something interesting begins to happen: they move through us. Like a child that has a temper tantrum and then is done, our feelings--when attended to in this most basic way--can work their way through us more easily when we allow ourselves to sit with them without judgment or story.

As feelings arise this holiday, I encourage you to get curious about where they live in your body and see if you can try also exploring them in this simple way. What do you notice about how each feeling affects your breathing, energy or sensations in the body? Let go of what you think happened or what you should or shouldn't be feeling and just notice what you experience right now in your physical self. Do things change as you bring your awareness and curiosity into this most basic and primitive place? The results may surprise you.

For those of you who find yourselves moving through difficult emotions this holiday, I also encourage you to listen to a radio series created by a colleague, Andrea Hylen--and in particular our interview on todays' show about how to work with grief in the body. We talked a lot about this way of working with emotions, learning to listen to the body's wisdom in order to let grief move through us, as well as speak to us in whatever way we most need to hear. You can find our show at the link:

And I encourage you to listen to the whole series, many episodes of which will be available 'on demand.' Andrea--who has experienced the loss of her husband, son and brother and who knows a thing or two about working through and managing grief--answered a calling to create this series for listeners during the holidays. Her hope is that it will offer a helping hand and a feeling of support at a time that often causes us to reflect more deeply on loss and change.

I wish you all a delightful and healing holiday--and plan on writing my next blog on how to stay connected to the best vision for your body in 2011. Stay tuned!

All my love,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Whose Body Is it Anyway?

Why is it that many European languages don't use the possessive when referring to the body? In French it's 'les mains' or in Spanish 'los manos,' meaning 'the hands.' Of course in English, we speak about our bodies and their parts as 'mine.' I frequently lamented as a teenager about the state of 'my thighs' or 'my face.'

Recently I wondered about the effect of this languaging on how we feel and move in our bodies. Does it hurt us or help us to so personalize every part of our physical selves? Are we more likely to take personally how we look as a reflection of who we are?

Friends of mine have frequently commented on the ease that Europeans seem to have with their bodies that Americans don't always have. They seem less concerned about diet and yet overall have lower rates of obesity. They drink wine and eat chocolate without flagellating themselves about their caloric intake. Humorous diet books have been written citing French women as the model of elegance and natural self-care.

What might we have to learn if we let ourselves think of our bodies as a thing independent of us, rather than something that belongs to us? For one thing, we give them--as my work also does--an identity separate from us, something to relate to. We become better able to consult our bodies not just as an extension of us but as living, breathing beings with their own wisdom and perspective.

No healthy relationship can exist between two beings that are so fused they can't see the space between them. And yet I wonder sometimes if this isn't what we've done to our bodies: literally named them as belonging to us rather than free or separate. It might be interesting to reframe them as neutral, as beings to come back into relationship with rather than already being smushed against.

There's another benefit to this shift too. Often, when something is hurting or diseased, we're better able to care and acknowledge it when we don't take the symptoms personally, when we're not too attached to what it means about us. So many clients I've worked with who are ill struggle not only with their illness but also with the sense of personal affront they feel that their bodies that 'did this' to them. Their identities may be profoundly affected by a sense of being betrayed by their body. Creating space between us and our bodies affords us a new way of seeing what's happening; we step into relationship rather than feeling forced into it, conscious in our navigating of this tender interdependence rather than oppressed by a mandatory connection. We begin to be curious about what our bodies are trying to tell us rather than ashamed about what a symptom says about us as a person.

Ask yourself how personally you take your body and how much you let it be its own self, something you are in relationship to but not fused with. What can you do to begin to cultivate more space, to not take the movements and challenges of your body as personal attacks? How can you begin to understand it as you would anything outside of yourself, gently and with compassionate perspective?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meditating On the Body

Have you ever tried to meditate? One of the first things they'll usually teach you is to follow your breath: breathe in and out, they say, and watch your breath moving in and out of your body. When your mind starts to wander, return to the simplicity of that task, watching again as your breath comes in and then out of your body.

It sounds easy, but of course it isn't. Our minds wander all over the place. We start thinking of what to make for dinner, the fight we got into a few hours ago, what to wear the next day. It takes discipline to return to the breath, find it again, and let the thoughts drop away.

A wise meditation teacher told me years ago not to worry so much about trying to get my thoughts to stop--a condition he said was practically impossible as a human being--but instead to just not get carried away by them. The key was to be able to watch them as an observer rather than investing them with drama and meaning. Then they could come and go without causing such stress or anxiety.

It's interesting to me, as someone who works to reconnect my clients and myself to the wisdom of our bodies, that something as simple as returning to our breath can begin to teach us this powerful lesson. Our bodies live in the here and now, and every moment our bodies function in incredibly intricate ways without our having to 'do' anything. We breathe, eat, digest food and eliminate waste without even thinking about it. Our bodies remind us how to be.

The other day I was meditating when the pulse of my wrist caught my attention. I could see my heart pulsing gently against my skin, steady and slow. I found myself drawn to just watching that pulse, in awe of the fact that my body knows how to do that about every second, and that my entire body is flushed with blood with every beat of my heart.

In a world that is often busy and hectic, our bodies--and their pulse and breath--provide a kind of metronome for our lives. At any moment, they provide us with a slow and steady consistency we can return to and remember the most basic and essential rhythm of our lives. That's another reason why reconnecting to our bodies is so important, and why we suffer when we get disconnected. Our bodies remind us of our simplicity, our essence. They bring us into the present moment of our lives.

The next time you find yourself spinning out of control with the gazillions of things you have to do, take a moment and consider your pulse. Or watch your breath as it moves in and out of your belly. Sometimes all it takes is a moment--that seemed to be all I needed. Remember the awe and the simple consistency of the bodily functions that make us human every day and every minute of our lives.

Meditation can take lifetimes (literally) to master, but the power of reconnecting to our body's purest rhythms can happen in a moment with conscious attention. Notice what happens in you as you reconnect to your breath moving in and out of your body, to the steady beat of your own heart.

Our bodies also remind us of the grand mystery of life, the miracle of being born with all of these functions interacting and moving through us. Let us remember them when we are most lost or stressed, when we think we must figure everything out with our minds or our 'doing' selves. Our bodies and their stalwart constancy have much to teach us about the wonder and presentness of simply being alive.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Wisdom of Limits
"Why did you do it?" I remember asking a teen client of mine years ago who was a cutter. Like a growing number of teens, she cut herself on purpose. Although different from a suicide attempt, cutting is often a cry for help.

She thought for a moment and then said, her eyes welling up, " I think I just wanted to feel...something. I wanted to feel like I was alive."

Today, doing the work that I do with the body, I think cutting is also about something else: feeling our limits. Many of us--teens and adults--feel lost, overwhelmed and pushed in a society that's always demanding something else. By contrast, our bodies limit and confine us. If we cross their boundaries--as my client did--we pay in blood and very real scars. Our bodies tell us where we begin and end. They give us an identity, a shape, a form.

Many of the clients I work with who are sick or have chronic illness grapple with the same issue but in different ways: they know that even if their minds want to push them past the limits of their energy or health, their bodies will pull them back into the confines of rest or a resurgence of symptoms. "If I push too far, I'll pay for it later," a client recently admitted.

The limits of our bodies create a lot of different feelings: in the case of my cutter client, perhaps a momentary sense of relief that belies the need for deeper work. In clients with chronic or terminal illness, the body's limits create an often frustrating battle between desired outcomes and the need to take things one slow step at a time. And of course there are other limits that show up in our body relationships too: the desire to lose weight faster than our bodies can, or to be able to do the things physically that we did when we were younger--the things that have become more difficult as our bodies change and age.

It's an interesting set-up. And yet there's wisdom in it. Our bodies' limits teach us patience, boundaries, self-care. Our bodies create limits where we might not. We feel their pain, their stretch into new ground; we know when we've gone too far.

Too often in the rest of our lives we're missing this mirror. We try to do too much, shove in too much, think too much. As a teenager battling my own body and self-esteem issues I remember staying up late at night eating spoonfuls of peanut butter mixed with chocolate chips until my throat began to sting. My body knew it was too much. I just didn't want to listen.

In some Native American thinking, the place of our wound becomes the place of our power, and I wonder if the same isn't true with the limits the body gives us. Once we know and respect our limits, we move in the world differently. We have greater compassion and patience for ourselves and others. It's a constant, ongoing journey but one we take every day as we learn to be in a more intimate, listening relationship with our own bodies.

The cutter I worked with came to realize that she had pushed herself so hard through her young life that she sometimes didn't know who she was or what she felt. As she learned to do the work of listening to herself, she created healthy boundaries she could feel without taking a knife to her skin. For many of the clients I work with who have chronic illness, respecting limits means truly drawing boundaries around their judgmental, impatient minds and allowing themselves to be more lovingly right where they are. For those clients trying to lose weight like I once was, facing the body's limits often means facing deeply buried judgments that need to be healed before any real change on the outside is possible.

What do your bodies limits have to teach you about slowing down, self-care or self-love? How could you listen to those limits, allow them and stop fighting them? What is your body trying to tell you through its limits and what would it mean to your life if you listened?

Understanding our limits is part of the work of entering into a true relationship with our bodies, and it's one of the many gifts they have to give us. In any relationship we're in, we take on limits as part of the contract of being together. We agree not to see other people, for example, or to make time for each other to truly connect. It's an unspoken part of our body relationship that our bodies will also ask us to have limits. Much as we would like to push past them, believe we're immortal, they will often catch up with us. What they have to teach us about ourselves and our lives--despite the challenge or discomfort they may initially create-- may be their most important role in our lives.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is It Love or Is it Obsession?

There's something else that can get in the way of a good relationship with our bodies and it might surprise you. It seems like a good thing, but it's actually not. It seems like you're being loving and attentive, but it's actually too much. What do I mean? I mean it's possible to be too obsessed with your body relationship.

A healthy relationship requires balance, give-and-take, a sense that both voices are heard. Often when we start to reconnect with our bodies, start to realize that we can work with them instead of against them, we'll over-compensate. Clients will sometimes go on fasts or diets, change their exercise to be more attentive and conscious of their bodies, take more naps and slow down the pace of their lives. Those changes are beautiful and important, but they can also become extreme.

In a healthy relationship, you can also tolerate times when it's not possible to be the perfect partner. In a busy life, one of the hardest things to do is, in fact, to find the right balance between the demands of life and the demands of a conscious relationship. We often need to pay attention to whether we might be sliding too far toward the relationship and away from the rest of our lives.

Seems counterintuitive, doesn't it? I mean, isn't it a good thing to be paying attention to our bodies, indulging newly perceived needs for sleep, exercise and good, healthy food? Yes. But watch for warning signs of whether or not the relationship to your body is becoming obsessive and not just loving. Does it, for example:

1)Create isolation rather than connection with others?
2)Become another thing you need to do perfectly rather than the best you can?
3)Affect your functioning by taking too much time away from things you need to do to survive, like work?
4)Interfere with balance in your life by taking most of your attention and energy?

Initially, reconnecting with our bodies may require a period of truly slowing down, listening, and retraining ourselves to do the right things for our bodies. But keep in mind that the best relationships--after the initial honeymoon period--should ultimately enhance our lives rather than interfering with them.

As you begin to gain better trust in your body relationship, it should allow you to be more involved in your life, lighter and more free and not constantly burdened and distracted by its needs. As your relationship with your body becomes more comfortable and dependable, you can and should sometimes make mistakes and have to reconnect; you still have learning and growing to do. As with any relationship, the most important quality for success is openness and honesty, not being perfect.

Watch for how this dynamic of perfection and obsession may come up in other relationships and see if you would be willing to let it go in the relationship you have with your body. How does it feel to let yourself be good enough instead of absolutely perfect? In conscious dialogue with your body, make sure that your needs get heard and expressed too. Allow the healthy relationship you have with your body to expand into a better sense of balance and trust in all aspects of your life.

Ironically, as with other relationships, our bodies prefer a healthy, balanced relationship with us. It's too much pressure to always be the center of attention! If you feel like your body has been asking this of you, be willing to say 'no' and ask for what you need in return. Make room for a life beyond your body relationship, even as you grow and strengthen it. Both you and your body will be happier for that choice.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Other Side of the Story

So what's another thing that stands in the way of a positive relationship with our bodies? Never looking at things from the other side of the story. In other words, never checking in with the body's perspective. Of course we do this in all of our relationships: we always want to be right, or we may be so sure that our way is the only way that we can't step out of our own view to take a look at someone else's.

A great deal is lost when we do this with our body. For one thing, without looking with compassion at what our body is experiencing on the other side of this relationship, we may not have to really examine our behavior when we are overly critical, abusive or distant toward it. When we begin to explore things from the body's perspective, begin to pay attention and actually care, we have to acknowledge how we may be harming it. We might, out of our realizations, have to change. Allowing our bodies to matter also changes our behavior toward them.

It's interesting to consider what your body's perspective has been on your whole lives together. What have you gone through? How have you treated it differently depending on how it looked, acted, or how you felt about yourself? If your body could write a biography about its life with you, what would it highlight and what would it be sad to remember? When have you been an ally to your own body and when have you distanced yourself or taken on negative beliefs toward it that created awkwardness or sadness?

In my work I sometimes have clients outline all of the major 'body events' that have taken place in their lifetime, and the beliefs or impressions they may have taken on as a result of those events. Several women, for example, have felt strong and powerful, grateful for their bodies, through the process of giving birth. Others remember childhood teasing and the moment when they decided their bodies were too fat, too short or too slow. Without realizing it, the critical voices outside them became their own toward their bodies.

You and your body have an entire history together. It has a story to tell as well as you. The next time you find yourself criticizing it, ask yourself when you took these beliefs on and how your body has felt about putting up with them. If you really pay attention now, is there anything that you would want to do differently to reclaim your relationship? What would you like your body to be able to say about you and the kind of partner you've been or not been to it?

Use this perspective as a check-in point for yourself from time to time, continuing to ask yourself how your body would relate the story of what's happening between the two of you in any given moment. Watch to see if you're being fair, being a good partner. Is there anything you can learn by acknowledging the body and beginning to respect its side of your life story?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Blame Game

So what are some of the things that stand in the way of a healthy relationship with our bodies? I want to spend some of the next few blogs talking about the obstacles to having the kind of relationship with your body that lights you up inside, makes life easier, allows you to work together rather than at odds with each other.

One of the biggest obstacles to a great relationship with your body comes up in many other kinds of relationships too: blame. Think about it, how many times do you want to point the finger at how awful your life is, how it's just not where you want it to be because your body won't cooperate? It's not thin enough, not healthy enough, not moving fast enough.

One woman I worked with--and I can relate--said that it feels sometimes like everything that's going wrong in her life comes down to her not being thin enough. If only her body would lose weight and be thin, everything would be alright. Sound familiar?

If you're dealing with symptoms of an illness this one is even more challenging. Not only might you be angry and frustrated with your body for not doing what it once could, but you might even take on some blame or guilt yourself, wondering if you did something wrong, if anything you did created what's happening now.

Either way, blame is not a useful emotion. It keeps us stuck in our lives because we either take on too much responsibility or not enough. As long as you can point the finger, you don't have to deal with the ways you might have to transform yourself to stay open to healing. And if you take on too much blame, you stay mired in the past rather than focusing on what you can do now, one day at a time.

What's the solution? Look for your own all-or-nothing thinking and the way it might keep you mired in despair and hopelessness. Make a commitment to take blame out of the equation and think about what you might replace it with. Sometimes I'll ask workshop participants to write out the following sentence: "I am willing to replace blaming myself/my body with ________ (fill in the blank with a more useful quality) in order to create a better life for both of us."

What might you put in that blank? Would it be love? Kindness? A commitment to listen and work together?

If blame wasn't taking up so much space in your head, what might you start taking responsibility for? One client realized that once she could no longer blame her body alone for her weight gain--as if it was purposefully defying her--she had to start making a commitment herself to better self-care, diet and exercise. But instead of doing those things resentfully because she felt she 'had' to, she could see doing them as part of building a health relationship where she and her body worked together.

What if it's blame and guilt that you've taken on for whatever your body is going through? Recognize that blame and guilt may be serving as protection against some deeper feelings of loss and helplessness, and that they are false protections. Life is full of random events and it's hard to realize that often there's nothing you could have done to change what's happened. Figure out where you need to take responsibility in order to make positive changes and where you need to simply let go and grieve with your body so you can move forward together.

An exercise I find incredibly useful in many stages of healing the body relationship is simply to write a letter to your body. Try asking its forgiveness or offering yours. Express the things you may have been blaming it for and be honest about how you'd like to do things differently in the future. Share with it the qualities you'd like to bring to the relationship instead of blame. Then listen and see if your body responds. It almost always does--maybe not with words, but often with a quiet, grateful pulse of gratitude and connection.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Body's Intuition

Why is it so important to develop a relationship with our bodies? Past blogs have addressed the way that a healthy body relationship improves our own self-talk, our way of listening to and asking for what we need in our lives, and how it transforms our choices and relationships. Another way that the body relationship can heal our lives? The gift of intuition.

Think about it. Most of our intuitive feelings come from our bodies. We're all familiar with the expression 'gut feeling' or the idea that 'the hair stood up on the back of my neck' whenever we get strong hunches or ideas. We might feel sick to our stomach, cloudy-headed or 'off' when something doesn't feel right. On the other hand, we might get flooded with energy, light and the feeling of 'yes' when we know we're moving toward something good.

So what happens to this profound channel of communication if we have a not-so-great relationship with our bodies--one torn by mistrust, judgment and discomfort? Well, it's harder to listen, harder to hear those signals. It's harder to trust our intuitive hunches because we get out of the habit of listening to our bodies. Along the way, we may lose one of our greatest gifts.

I'll tell you a story of how mine served me. Several years ago I had HMO health coverage that included dental services. As usual, I made my semi-annual trek to the dentist for a check-up. Strangely, my usual dentist was gone and the dental office had been taken over by a new staff.

After my check-up, the new dentist told me I had not one, but four cavities! Since I haven't had a cavity since I was eight years old, this was really upsetting. "Maybe you're eating too much sugar," the dentist suggested. She was actually eating a Snickers bar as she told me this. As I left, I saw two other clients being told by their assistants that they also had multiple cavities. Something didn't feel right.

I made the appointment to get the cavities filled and started to consider going for a second opinion. But life got hectic and I didn't have time, so the day arrived for the appointment. I showed up, was escorted to the appropriate room, and watched as the dental assistant struggled to put on the wrong size of rubber gloves. I could see the syringes with Novocaine waiting to go.

Suddenly, my legs literally wanted to run. And I don't mean the kind of fear you have when you're a kid because you just don't want a needle stuck into you. I mean the gut feeling kind of instinct that said: you need to get out of here. Now. My stomach was tight. Everything in my body screamed 'no.'

I fumbled my way out of that room as quickly as I could and made it to the front desk. Pretending I had a client emergency and that I'd have to reschedule, I told them I'd call them later. And I got out of there as quickly as I could.

Two weeks later, I went to another dentist who told me that, in fact, I had no cavities. Zero. I immediately got my dental records from the other dentist and filed a complaint with the dental board. I've never been back there again.

Think what would have happened if I hadn't been able to listen to my intuition in that scenario? I would have paid to have four holes drilled in my teeth that I didn't even need and I wouldn't even have known.

The lesson? Our bodies know. They give us all kinds of messages all the time about what's right and wrong, what feels good and bad. Some of them are far more subtle than this one, and some are loud and clear. The question is, are we listening?

Practice in the next few weeks listening to your body's intuitions. See if you can pay attention to its reactions to foods, people, situations. Trust that your body's messages often have your highest good in mind and see what your body might be trying to tell you.

If there are blocks to trusting and listening to your body, see if you can do some deep work to remove them and allow a more connected, peaceful relationship that lets the body's wisdom come through( You may find yourself in a situation where such knowing truly saves you. You and your body know more than you think. It is the signals that don't just come from your head, but from your body's intuition, that can sometimes make all the difference.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Art of the Body: Past, Present and Future

I was on a great vacation recently in Greece--home of ancient civilizations and birthplace of incredible advances in art, culture, politics. Everywhere we went there were great ruins--and often statues--that still hold the time and place out of which they were birthed.

In particular, I was struck by the evolution of the statues: from stiff and cold distant-feeling bodies with hollow eyes depicting gods--known as Korie--to the eventual depiction of bodies that were human, with greater movement, expression and emotion. Over time, as the body became better known, the statues reflected that intimacy and that skill. There was a way of making sculpture seem as though it could move. Also, there was a shift away from a sense of the divine as stiff and inaccessible to more present, expressed even within human form.

A similar shift happened even in theater. At Epidaurus, outside of Athens, the theater is huge and sweeping in its size, built entirely of rock in a huge semi-circle above and surrounding the flat and open stage level below. Theater at Epidaurus was actually seen as a way that the gods could speak to patients who came to this special place seeking healing.

Initially, the human drama at Epidaurus was placed only in the sidelines, while the characters depicting gods spoke their wisdom about what was happening from the center of the stage. Eventually, however--especially as the Romans took over--the 'chorus' of gods was moved to the sidelines and the human action itself took center stage. Special effects were developed; theater was meant--as the sculpture--to more accurately depict and express itself through human life itself.

Of course this has been true more and more over time of our television and film. Even now we can look back at older film and television and find them outdated, too staged or 'unrealistic.' In fact, we've even taken things a step further: we've created 'reality television,' where the actual present reality of our experience itself is made into entertainment. More and more, art has moved from something removed from us to something quite familiar, something more and more about us and our lives. We've also gone from seeing our own bodies as something stiff and removed to something worthy of action, drama: of taking center stage.

It's interesting to consider what the next stage of our evolution in this relationship will be. To me, it seems that we know the form of our bodies very well: we've studied them, we depict them accurately, we watch them. But of course the next step is to actually attend to them, to listen to them, to begin to have a relationship with them. We can know and understand a thing from the outside for so long; then a deeper knowing begins to be necessary for evolution.

I wonder what might unfold in the future as we get to know our bodies and express that knowing more fully. I can imagine a world where we share the wisdom they have to teach us, where we talk with our doctors and healers about what we believe our bodies are saying through their symptoms and discomforts. It's also time for us to take a more artful look inside the world of our own skin to examine the nuances it wants to share, not just from the outside in but from the inside out.

What will be required to study this new art and way of being with the body? To do so, I think we have to begin to develop a repertoire, a familiarity with all the nuances and sensations within the body and the kind of information and feelings it contains. How do you know when you are hungry? Tired? When your energy feels slightly off? We are just beginning to learn this art and this language, one that--like any of the arts, like sculpture and film--will take time and attention to hone, cultivate and truly begin to master.

Ask yourself what steps you might take today to begin to know your body more intimately and thoughtfully. If you studied the art of your body, like any art, what would you learn from it? What kinds of things would it tell you? How would it teach you? How can you listen?

Think of yourself as out on a fieldtrip, or carrying a brush and some paints. Be willing to learn and let this art move through you. See how it informs your life to let your body and its language become more central, to let your body be more than a sculpture or a form and more like a living, breathing thing. What legacy of knowing, of body wisdom, would you most like to leave behind?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What Our Bodies Ask of US

Medicaid%20Transformation%20Grants.jpg When we start to think about our body as something we're in a relationship with all the time, we have to consider a number of questions: are we listening to it? Are we taking the time to connect, do things we enjoy? Do we have a sense of peace and friendship or do we feel disgruntled and judgmental? As we reconnect from a place of greater meaning, respect and love, new information comes forward.

Because our lives so rarely give us the chance to listen to our bodies, things can change radically when we do. Instead of objects to be controlled, our bodies become living, breathing partners in the birthing of our best lives. The old ways of being that may have allowed you to trip through your life unconsciously no longer work in quite the same way. Your body may give you signs now--that you're finally able to hear--when it feels pushed, ignored or in need of rest. As you learn to love, forgive and reunite with your own body, you may find yourself wanting more of those qualities in your own life.

James, for example, is an account executive who worked with me because of a continued issue with stress eating. He hated himself and his body for latenight trips to the refrigerator, but--especially because his work day often went until after 9pm--he didn't know how to stop. Eating was one form of pleasure and escape he was afraid to deprive himself of, even if the pattern felt abusive and unhealthy.

As James started to see his body as something he was in relationship with, an interesting thing happened. He no longer wanted to treat it the way he had. Rather than continuing the cycle of unhappiness and overeating by judging or being disgusted by his overweight body, he now saw how helpless his body had been to his own frustrations and feelings: feelings he was stuffing down repeatedly with food. As James learned to decode his body's stress responses, he could see them as messages rather than invasive or threatening distractions from his productivity. Anxiety or a tight feeling in his stomach, when attended to, meant that James slowed down, took a deep breath and got up from his desk or took a walk.

Reconnecting to his body was also reconnecting James to his life. When he learned to listen compassionately to the signals his body was sending him without eating to cover them up, he realized that he was deeply unhappy with his job and the control it had over his life. Not only did James no longer want to ignore his body, he no longer wanted to ignore himself and the feelings of dissatisfaction he'd had for a long, long time.

Within two months of our work together, James reevaluated his job situation and decided it was no longer for him. From an empowered place, James affirmed that he could find a situation that was less abusive, and that allowed him to be loved and respected the way he was now able to love, respect and listen to his own body. Within moments of his decision, James already had colleagues and friends surrounding him with support and resources to find a position that would honor him and not require him to hide who he is or what he really wants.

An interesting thing happens when we commit to right relationship with our bodies. Our bodies begin to ask of us what we have may have stopped asking of ourselves: to listen, to live without ignoring, to move forward in ways that honor us and take care of us. When we make a reconnection to this most intimate relationship, our bodies may also ask us to consider how that greater sense of self could translate into other aspects of our lives. It may mean that you need to change a job, shift a relationship or give up a bad habit that no longer serves you.

Our bodies don't lie. They have been holding truth for us for as long as we and they have known it. When we begin to listen, we step into what we really want in our lives rather than what we have tried to convince ourselves is enough. This transformation can happen in a moment and it can also move into every aspect of our lives. What our bodies ask of us is what we really most want for ourselves: a life lived fully and respectfully in the moment, with integrity and commitment to our greatest truth and our best selves.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Healing Power of the Body Relationship

The more I work with people to help them reconnect to their bodies--through illness, weight gain or even just a feeling of disconnection or discomfort--the more I realize how much our bodies are mirrors of every relationship we've had. As we heal our relationship with our bodies, we heal our old relationship patterns or the ways we've been treated in the past. Our facing and healing the disconnects in how we see and experience our bodies also helps us face and heal our lives.

Janice was a thirty year old stroke survivor who had lost movement in part of her body as a result of the stroke. The disability had only magnified a feeling she'd had earlier in her life of feeling left out or like she wasn't enough. When she began to reconnect with her body and treat it with love and respect--rather than judgment and disappointment--an amazing thing began to happen. She realized that she was giving herself--through her body--what she had always wanted. By taking on the process of reconnecting with her body she was also saying that she belonged, that she was okay the way she was, and that she was willing to show up rather than abandon herself. The effects went far beyond healing the relationship with her body and out into every aspect of her life.

The same was true for Michael, a young man with an eating disorder who had been molested as a child by a priest. His early feelings of being shamed and silenced had extended into his body relationship and made it difficult for him--early in our work--to listen to or honor his body and its needs or feelings. Just like he had been shamed and silenced as a child around his abuse, he was now unconsciously abusing himself by blocking out and not listening to his own body.

As Michael moved through the process of repairing his body relationship, he allowed needs and feelings to emerge, finally hearing when his body felt tired, sad or hungry. As he became a better parent to his own body and learned to care for it, he was also better able to draw boundaries and voice needs with others in his life--and to feel safe again in his life knowing he could do this not only for his body but for himself in other relationships in his life.

Our relationships to our bodies are--if you think about it--our most intimate and longest-lasting relationships. We are in them from the moment we are born and until the day we die. Our bodies hold years and years of accumulated and shared feelings and all of our history. They can teach us and connect to us or we can--like an old married couple--grow distant and shut them out. As we heal and recreate our relationship with our bodies, we are often redoing old patterns that no longer serve us, and stepping into new paradigms of relating that we have always wanted.

Reflect for a moment on how you think about and treat your body in this moment. Are there any parallels to your earlier history or to how you have been treated by others in the past? What would it take to step into a new way of being in your life, one that allows you to respond to your body in the way you most wanted to be responded to and loved? Try on being in this relationship in a new and different way and notice what happens. By redoing your body relationship you may have the opportunity to redo your whole life.

For more information about this work or to schedule an initial consultation, visit the website at or and sign up for a free report and teleclasses on the Body Reunion Solution. I welcome your thoughts and inquiries...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do You 'Have a Dream'?

I was driving home Sunday night with the radio on and excerpts of of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech came over the airwaves. Though I thought I knew the speech well, I heard it with different ears this time. It was amazing to me how clear and emphatic he was about something that must have seemed impossible at the time: that black and white children should be able to play together, that men should be judged by their character and not by the color of their skin. He spoke with such conviction, it was as if he was experiencing his dream as already true, as needing to be true. In his mind and heart this was the only way it should be.

I wonder how many of the greatest achievements in life start with this clarity of conviction, with the ability to put our minds in the place of already having accomplished the goal, seeing it done, and living in that new reality. Rosa Parks sat on that bus without asking whether or not she should be allowed to. All over the world, people fighting for new ways of being have had to step into them before they were given permission to do so. Slowly, over time, the walls came down.

What is your dream for how you'll feel in and toward your body in the coming months and years? What would you like to be different than it is now? As we enter a new year, take some time to write out for yourself what you'd like to be different about how you relate to and feel in your body. Would you like to be more connected? To trust it more? To be able to listen and have compassion for what it needs?

We can't get to the future we most want by continuing to believe in the reality we feel stuck in now. Give yourself a handhold into something new. What will it feel like when you feel great in your body? How will you be seeing and experiencing the world differently? What will be different about your breathing, your movement, what it feels like to look in the mirror or walk down the street? Let that dream permeate you until it feels as real as possible, as if it's already here. Let yourself not only have the dream but live it as if it were true.

This is what Martin Luther King did for all of us, and it's what we need to learn to do for ourselves whenever we step into something new, something that we deeply want but can't yet see. Take a moment to make a list of the qualities--the pieces of your 'dream'--you'd like to bring to your body relationship this year: hope, trust, kindness, cooperation, love. Then feel in your body what it's like to let each of those qualities be a part of how you relate to your body now. What does trust feel like or look like? Being loving or gentle? No great dream exists in the abstract. We need to will it into being now.

Surely there are obstacles to any dream we have--things to overcome, to negotiate, to fight for. But sitting in the car hearing Martin Luther King's voice, I was also amazed at how many of his dreams have come true. Speak and write the dreams you have for the body relationship you most want. Feel how your body responds. Stay committed to that vision. Notice how you can keep it present for yourself, even when times get tough and part of you could slip into criticism or being at war with yourself. Remember how it feels in your body to be connected, alive and loving.

You can do this. You have a dream.
That means much more than you think.