It occurs to me that there’s a lot of talk out there about being in touch with your body and how your body parts feel. But we don’t talk a lot about how it feels to be, to really be, IN your body.
I was out hiking the other day and my body was feeling pretty good, all parts in working order as I chugged up and down the green hillsides. Yet I still had a light sense of unease at my physical activity, a small lack of confidence in my ability to reach my hiking goal which was the trail summit. I didn’t have any mechanical reasons to doubt myself but I certainly had historic reasons for my caution: my hiking ambitions often outreach the capacity of my legs and having Multiple Sclerosis, a disease of unpredictability, requires sensible care when I venture off on my own and away from city comforts. Still my unease remained as I scanned my body for clues. Then, as tends to happen when I’m deep in nature, I understood I was asking myself the wrong question. The question wasn't how my body was feeling, the question was how I was feeling in my body. Aha!
How does it feel to be in my body? It took a hot minute to discover I didn’t really like my answer. Unstable. I can’t trust my body to be consistent and my physical condition hinders my balance and my strength, my ability to fully participate in the things I desire. I am stable when I walk or hike (even uphill) with simple repetitive motion, but anything outside my narrow comfort zone is a risk. Slipping on the muddy trail, carrying a weighted pack, snapping into fight-or-flight when a fox startles me on the trail, all push me into unstable territory. So does squatting of any kind, holding my arms up for too long, or anything that requires balance. It’s an overwhelming sadness to admit that my body, the container that moves my soul through this world, also limits my ability to engage with this world. And worse, that I’ve learned to frame my desires in terms of my capacity without challenging the immutable assumptions I’ve made about what my body is capable of.
So today I’ve been exploring how it feels to be in my body through movement, painting and writing. I’m allowing myself to be witness to the state of being embodied by my own body and noticing, simply noticing. Later I’ll start thinking about ways I can close the gap between how it feels now and how I want it to feel. I’ll honor my own capacity and at the same time test my limits (and assumptions) to cultivate stability in my body. I’m starting to visualize how it would feel to be in a body that’s not only physically stable but consistent in performance, and it feels pretty wonderful.
How does it feel to be in your body? Step away from summarizing your parts and allow yourself to feel your body as a whole, the container for your soul. Can you feel what it’s like to be fully partnered to this body? Where are your hurts and where is your joy? Are you comforted by being in your body or does it cause you distress? Sit with that feeling and allow yourself to explore it, find the edges of your capacity and look just beyond it. Do you desire more? There’s no need to go beyond your capacity if you’re comfortable where you’re at. But if you’re not, what are the small simple steps you can take to test your boundaries? What would make you feel wholly supported by your body? These can be difficult questions, especially for those with chronic health conditions, and the answers are the beacon that calls for your self-care and gentle trust. It’s by asking ourselves these tough questions, and allowing ourselves to answer fully and honestly, that we find our true desires and learn to move ourselves closer to fulfillment and joy.
I coach midlife women to help them find the confidence to stay present and feel deep into their own bodies. You can click here to learn more about working with me.
(Art by ©Lisa Berry 2015)