I shivered deep in my womb.
A premonition, a creeping sense of dread.
Jess, our student coordinator, had just shared with me the details of her morning in the hospital. She had been made to feel, like so many pregnant women, that she wasn’t functioning efficiently (as if her body were a machine!) because her baby had not arrived with the precision that modern medicine demands.
I felt this rift in my bones, in my blood.
And then my brain got in on the action. Sirens began wailing in the deep recesses of my mind:
That shiver was intuition! Something’s wrong! Jess and the baby are not okay!
Panic began to set in as I looked for someone to corroborate my story, to reinforce my brain’s interpretation of what my body experienced. I reached for my iPhone and started typing.
As I read the text back to myself– quickly, mind you, because I needed to hit send and get the reply that would let me know that I was right and we should be very, very worried– I accidentally took a deep breath…
… And the breath created space. And in that space I realized just what I was doing.
Not only was I in a panic, I was trying to rope a friend into my worst-case-scenario thinking. And it hit me: this is thinking, not feeling (I call this Bully Brain and you can read more about it here).
So I breathed some more.
And turned inward, gently focusing on my core, on my womb.
What was that tremor?
What I suddenly knew, not in my brain but in my being, was that my body had been poked and prodded medically in ways that hurt. And those hurts resonated with the hurts Jess was going through.
Two bodies tuned to the same frequency.
Another deep breath, this time filled with sage smoke to clear the vibration from my mind and body…
…Some rose essential oil on my belly…
…And a love note sent to Jess.
My mind quieted. The feeling passed.
The hardest part of working with your intuition is untangling feeling from thought.
Here’s a hint:
If you are hearing words– language– that’s directing you toward an action, you are probably operating from your brain.
Your intuition speaks in images and sensations, it is more about knowing than thinking.
Pause. Breathe. Smudge. Tune back in.
Jess gave birth to a healthy baby girl. No pictures yet but I’m sure she’s beautiful, just like her mamma.
There is a fascinating phenomenon that I have observed with both my students and my clients: once someone signs up for a program, their life starts moving and shifting. It’s as if they have given the universe the thumbs-up for the next phase of their life to begin. The universe gives a big Hurrah! and gets to work.
While this can be uncomfortable, most folks who sign on to work with me do so because they are looking for knowledge, growth, change, and a deeper sense of authenticity. To get clients started, I send them a simple questionnaire.
When I returned from Arizona last week, I had a note in my inbox from a woman who was surprised by the power of these mild-mannered questions. She wrote:
The result was like a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders and illumination of new and old spaces in my mind and spirit. I felt like I reconnected with past dreams and hopes and made some amount of peace with my current life transition. I cried as I read and since the reading I feel healed and energized in a very powerful way.
After reading this email (and tearing up a bit), I realized that these questions might be useful for you, that simply working with them could be a journey in and of itself.
Are you ready to begin? Warning: shift happens when you allow yourself to look deeply at your own life!
Why? Because you begin to see the gap between where you are and where you want to be. And, sometimes, you realized that you already have the tools to bridge the gap, scale the wall, or paddle the river.
So… are you ready?
Journal on these questions with an eye toward honesty and creating a rich matrix in which someone, including you, can get to know your true self.
The questions are deceptively simple:
1. Tell me about you! Just a few sentences that sketch out a day in your life: where do you live? who do you live with? what do you do all day?
As you read back through your answer, notice what you chose to say and what you chose to leave out. There are so many facets to our daily lives.
Where is your attention? Is it on the positive or the negative?
What are you avoiding or ignoring?
Do any “supposed tos” come up, for instance I’m supposed to sound successful or I want to sound like I have it together?
2. What are the top three wellness challenges you face?
What in your life feels out of balance or out of sorts? Are they the same things the doctor says is “wrong” with you?
I can’t tell you how often a client has a major condition that does not get mentioned here! They might have originally contacted me because they were diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but their wellness challenges are more specific and daily than a disease name.
This is your chance to step away from labels (which can feel inescapable, mysterious, or incurable) and think about how you actually feel.
You might find that when you focus on how you feel, instead of on a disease name or a situation name (like “unemployed” or “getting a divorce”) that you have a number of small, everyday problems that actually have solutions.
3. What “fixes,” solutions, or therapies have you tried in the past? Did they help? How or how not?
Sometimes we have quite a few things in our personal toolbox that have worked in the past, but we forget to use them. This is a reminder of things that have worked… and that can work again!
When I first cut wheat from my diet, I would slide back into old habits and start gradually reintroducing wheaty foods into my life. Eventually I would be eating a daily dose (or three!) of wheat and would start feeling ill.
When I moaned to my mom about my horrible, recurring exhaustion, she would ask “Are you eating wheat again?”
Duh. It would seem so obvious once she pointed it out.
Denial, old habits, forgetfulness, convenience. What’s your excuse for not following through with the things you know make you feel better?
The other thing this question reveals is whether you are jumping from practitioner to practitioner and not really doing the work of wellness. Yes, you read that right– the work of wellness.
Going to yoga class for 2 weeks or seeing an acupuncturist 3 times is not a fair trial, for either you or them. You have to do the daily work of wellness, and that means following through on the advice of your practitioners and sticking with it (and with them) long enough to see change.
4. If you could wave a “practical” magic wand and change one thing in your life, what would it be?
5. What difference would that change make in your life, emotions, and well-being?
Look at how these 2 questions link together. This is almost always fascinating. I have read the not having a backache will allow me to connect more deeply with my kids and that relieving constipation will allow me to love my job again.
Look at the cause and effect scenarios that you have created. Pick them apart and examine the presuppositions.
6. What else would you like me to know?
This is a lot like question number one; it shows you where your focus is, it illuminates where your attention resides.
Your attention is like a spot light– you can move it wherever you want. Where is it now? And, more, importantly, where do you want it to be?
Tell me in the comments below! (And, of course, you can also tell me anything else you would like me- and you- to know)
Our dog Nyssa has become a Frisbee aficionado.
It used to be that she would race into the park, excited to visit with her canine pals. When we get to the park now, she jumps out of the car and barks at us until her Frisbee comes out as well.
When we first introduced the disc, she would just chase it down like a tennis ball, often scooping it up after it had already hit the ground. But as she has gotten older and a little more coordinated, she is jumping, twisting, and catching it on the fly. It is spectacular and so much fun to watch…
…which is why it’s really hard to remember that we should be throwing her grounders.
Nyssa’s breeding makes her prone to hip issues later in life. Apparently these issues can take root when a pup is young, if their activity exceeds the stability of their developing hipbones.
You’d think it would be easy to wait ’til she’s a year old to begin Frisbee tricks. But one accidentally high toss, one bounding, twisting, glorious leap, and we were all hooked.
And this is the problem with prevention.
Prevention means that we will eat healthfully, get enough sleep, not drink too much or smoke too much, and forgo the sugary snacks… starting when we are (or were) perfectly healthy.
It means that we will somehow remember to drink our teas rich in flavones and forgo the moccachino, supplement with turmeric and medicinal mushrooms and seaweeds, eat our probiotic foods, take a walk, and not leap after Frisbees until we’re one year old.
And that’s hard! Most of us, like Nyssa, can’t comprehend that something that is so very easy to do today may actually be setting us up for a problem down the road.
What should you give up in order to preserve your health for a future that isn’t guaranteed?
Life could become quite dull and contracted if we are always looking out only for our physical wellbeing. Forget skiing or horseback riding, don’t go anywhere near hang gliding, and, heck, even crossing the street becomes questionable.
The path to pure prevention is difficult at best, soul-smothering at worst, and perhaps, in reality, just plain silly.
But we don’t come from a society that teaches us much about knowing our selves while finding the middle way. So we bumble along, doing whatever we please, until our body says NO.
At first it says no quietly — we may feel bloated after dinner or have a slight ache in our knee after a run. If, at this point, we tune in and listen, the correction is usually manageable: some herbal bitters before a meal, running on a dirt track instead of the pavement.
But most of us don’t listen; we don’t know how. We have been told to power-through, have a stiff upper-lip, get a backbone.
So the problems begin to multiply exponentially until suddenly we no longer know where they began or how to ease them. For as long as we can, we hold onto the belief that whatever is happening will pass because we are “too young”, or there’s “no family history,” or “not eating gluten is just a fad.”
We play this game until the pendulum swings hard the other way and we become sure our troubles won’t pass, and out beyond our control, so we commit to a lifetime of medication because, we believe, there is nothing else we can do.
Like most things in life, I think the answer lies in the middle ground, that area of turf that the pendulum swings through quickly as it takes us from Superman to Super-Sick with no self-conception in between.
What if we could learn to listen to our body’s first grumblings, the little squeaks and groans that are too quiet for our doctor to hear but are completely audible to an ear listening within? What if we tended our flus from the first muscle ache or scratchy throat, our GERD from the first bloat, our fatigue from the first day that it was just so hard to get out of bed?
This is one of the things I work on with my clients: knowing how they feel in their skin so they know if they feel off. And it’s pretty easy:
- When you wake up in the morning, lay in bed and take a few deep breaths, then take inventory. How do you feel (remember that feeling happens in your body, so check in with your physical self, not just with your brain).
- Before each meal, do the same thing – take a few deep breaths and ask yourself how you feel. Then check in again after you eat and notice if anything has changed (and if it has, look at what you ate!).
- And finally, as you lie in bed in the evening, check-in once more. Maybe say a “thank you” to all your hard-working parts.
I can’t buy one hundred percent into prevention. Nyssa will get an occasional high toss in remaining months before her first birthday, and I will gleefully join my Dad in taking my niece and nephews for Friday night ice cream all summer long.
The middle road lies in a slightly different place for each of us, depending on our needs, aches, and constitution. The trick is finding yours and walking it.
Let me know how you find a healthy balance in the comments below!