Traditionally I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the signals my body sends me. That’s beginning to change.
Last spring right before a big speaking event, my jaw started to hurt, causing headaches and weird popping sounds when I chewed or opened too wide.
At the beginning of this summer I had a lot of deadlines and decisions pile up into one week. I thought I was cool with it all, but as I drifted off to sleep one night, my heartbeat woke me up because it was beating so hard I thought surely John could hear it too.
Then last week, while the kids were at Grandy Camp with my parents, I hurt my back by doing a super risky move – getting up from my sofa. One minute it was fine, but as soon as I moved to stand up, I felt a weird pain in my left side lower back.
I’ve already bored myself telling you the details.
(The other day after explaining my injury to John for the tenth time and having him not once roll his eyes or try to slip out of the room in disguise, I realized that the proof of true love is if someone will 1. Listen as you describe that dream you had last night and 2. Allow you to explain your minor injuries to them again.)
(Seriously though, when someone begins a sentence with “I have to tell you about this dream I had last night!” my eyes roll into the back of my head and my whole body goes limp with boredom and apathy. I digress.)
I consider myself to be fairly limber and medium-ly active. I go to a yoga class several times a week, walk/jog in the neighborhood when it’s not too hot and you know, go up and down our stairs tens of times during the day. I even went to my first kickboxing class a couple of weeks ago.
Still, the sofa betrayed me and caused several days of discomfort. It was’t debilitating, just annoying. So at my next yoga class I pay extra attention to that spot on my back, careful not to make it worse.
As we begin to stretch at the beginning, our instructor tells us to pay attention to how the rest of our body reacts as we hold a pose, especially if it is a challenging one.
Her words make instant sense to me. We tend to compensate when under pressure, the body responding in fear because it thinks it’s in danger. We hold a low lunge and I know I’m going to die because that’s what happens when you hold a low lunge. As she reminds us again to notice how the rest of our bodies react, I realize I’m clenching my jaw and feel my shoulders creeping up to my ears.
She invites us to offer breath to those tense places and I instantly sense the smallest shift in the pose – a lifting of expectation and simultaneously, a feeling of ease. She explains how deep breathing relaxes the central nervous system and sends the body a message, You’re going to be okay.
I don’t always remember to connect my life circumstance with my bodily reactions. But the Lord created us as one complete person, not fragmented out. There is no impenetrable wall between our body, soul, and spirit. All of these different, sacred parts of us form the whole – In him all things hold together.
The strange thing is that I actually feel fairly relaxed these days. On the outside, I’m not freaking out or overly concerned with outcomes. But my body is telling me that anxiety is flowing just below the surface, like fast-moving water beneath a smooth sheet of ice.
As someone who tends to think and overthink and just when I’m finished thinking I think some more, I’m learning to pay attention to my body and, surprsingly even those ridiculous dreams.
My mind is important, but it isn’t always the most trustworthy narrator of the truth.
Sometimes the feeling I get in my dreams is more accurate than the story I’m trying to convince myself is true while I’m awake. And before I dismiss it as ridiculous, perhaps I could take a little time to listen.
Are you dreaming of your teeth falling out, forgetting math homework, needing to be somewhere but you can’t find directions? Have you missed the bus in your dreams, forgotten to put on pants, or can’t remember your locker combination?
Maybe now is a good time to consider what your body has to teach you and listen for the voice of God beneath the surface of those crazy dreams.
Maybe you are feeling the stretch of a difficult circumstance and your instinct is to tighten up, manage outcomes, and try to maintain control.
Maybe you’re mind is telling you everything is fine, fine, fine, but your body and your dreams are weaving a different tale.
Is your body trying to tell you something? Are your dreams whispering small truths about the state of your soul?
I hear the invitation to send deep breath to those tight, fearful places, both the ones in my body and the ones in my soul.
It’s possible to feel the tension without compromising my intention – love, trust, and gratitude. But it requires acknowledging the pain, becoming aware of God’s presence with me and within me, and releasing outcomes into his capable hands.
If you are holding tension in your body and soul these days, I can relate. I’ve prepared a free four-day video series just for you, practical steps to help create a little space for your soul to breathe based on my new book, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. Watch the first video right here and sign up to receive the rest in your inbox.