Published on Elephant Journal, July 2012: Elephant Journal
Apart from when my parents are talking at me, I like to pride myself on being a good listener. I do genuinely take in and care about friend’s woes or even engaging in a conversation with a stranger. I have friends who have perfected the art of nodding and grunting in the right places, to show you they are listening but nothing can hide the vacant gaze in the eyes. No one is that good.
So now I have admitted to the world that I hold a very high opinion of myself when it comes to listening, what’s the friggin deal when it comes to listening to my body? My very own machine that carries me through life. The body is a phenomenon, it talks to us, telling us its problems, its worries and pain but often it gets ignored. My best friend in the whole world shouting for assistance but I shut out its bleating and carry on. Now, at the ripe old age of 30, I have finally decided to take note. No more ignoring or selective hearing, I am going to listen intently, in the way I would any other friend.
So for starters, my poor belly-friend bloats after some meals, a nice image I am sure. It always has but it passes and I move on, giving it little to no thought, just subtly unbuttoning my top button. Surely my stomach extending past my toes is a clear indication that something in there is punching my tummy in the face, so I need to stand up for it. By a process of elimination, it appears I am having an issue with wheat. I know a lot of people do but never thought I did. So after a few changes, a bit of rye here and some wheat free pasta there, my belly is feeling happy and loved. Easy peasy. Next!
Crazy day at work, by 3pm I am exhausted, so shattered that I could curl up on the couch and snooze, so I ask why? After a bit of deep thought, ‘am I having a sugar crash?’ or ‘did I not sleep well last night?’, I suddenly realise that I haven’t eaten any food since 10am. This is a total rarity for me being a foody but here we are. I have been starving my friend effectively and now it is seriously lacking in energy. It just wants to rest to conserve what little energy it does have.
Moving away from food (which is always sad) this morning during my yoga practice, I felt a little twinge in my neck. Just a tiny little niggle, nothing to worry about, or in my case think about. Totally ignored it. So when it came to a seven headstand sequence, off I went and by headstand 3, I couldn’t lift up but I tried once more and then it happened, my niggle exploding into searing pain and an inability to move. I could hear my body cackling, rolling about in hysterics snorting something like ‘I warned you, you fool’.
Not long ago, a close friend of mine was experiencing some very strong pain in her stomach (its a sensitive soul, the old tum, tum isn’t it?). I suggested that she go and see a doctor and in the mean time, take some pain killers. The doctor, she eventually agreed to but the pain relief was an absolute no no. Her reasoning being that pills mask the pain and obviously the pain is there for a reason. If her body is experiencing something, she wants to know about it rather than hide it.
This was a real moment for me, in my quest to be a less selective listener. I’m not suggesting that we all boycott any kind of pain relief but I think we can be a lot more comfortable in life if we try to be more cognisant of what the cause may be. A headache is usually dehydration which means your trusty friend is dying of thirst (not in the literal sense, obviously), so popping a pill isn’t feeding you a couple of glasses of water, its just helping you ignore something important your mate has to say.
Regardless of whether you believe that lower back issues are caused by emotional pain or spots in between the eyebrows are telling you that your liver is stumbling around, drunk on red wine, we can’t deny the less subtle symptoms are our bodies giving us a gentle plea to make a change.
By being more mindful of what our bodies are saying and asking ‘why?’, we get that little bit closer to leading a healthier, happier, more energetic and bloat free life, with top buttons remaining firmly fastened at all times.