Sometimes when I think I'm listening to my body, I'm really listening to what my brain is telling me about my body--which may not necessarily be the truth. This valuable lesson learned-well, actually re-learned--yesterday in my second session with Dr. Steve. Old assumptions and presumptions die hard, as old habits do. That old, familiar "bad back" may just be the place where the brain chooses to locate the pain through some wiring process that it learned, perhaps, years ago. So the business, as I see it, is to learn to listen not just to the body but the body-mind, that complex of thought, memory, judgment, emotion and physicality that speaks in a voice we sometimes do not wish to hear, or overlook because its real message might be something we have long chosen to conceal.
Here's an old story: like a surprisingly large number of my fellow human beings, I was born with the umbilical cord around my neck, and it was only the swift action of the midwife (yes, friends, I was born that long ago, at home) that saved my life. It was about fifty years before I discovered that this narrowly-averted disaster (well, for me, anyway) might have some relevance in my subsequent life. It was in the course of a workshop led by the writer, Larry Block. Larry's workshop was called "Write For Your Life," and one of its steps was to meet up with what he called the "Big Lie"--the piece that gets in the way of your achieving what you want to achieve. I had read his book, and had decided ahead of time that my Big Lie was "I have no time to write," but Larry shook his head when he heard that, and said he thought it might be something deeper: was there something, he wondered, about my birth...
I remembered the story. At five years of age, I was sent off, like a proper little English boy, to dance class, to learn to comport myself with grace and ease, but very time a skipping rope appeared, however, little Peter went into fits of tearful resistance. My father, a well-studied Freudian, brought me into his study one day (a rare privilege, which usually involved some prior naughtiness on my part) and produced a skipping rope, which he wrapped around my neck and tightened gently as he told me the story of my birth. I guess I never screamed at a skipping rope again.
So Larry suggested that my Big Lie, perhaps, was "I have no right to be here," and asked me to try that on for size. The next process in the workshop was for participants to walk around the room and introduce themselves to each other by their Big Lie, so I started out trying to say, "Hi, I'm Peter, I have no right to be here," but I could hardly bring the words out at first because I was laughing-crying so hard I couldn't speak. I was in hysterics. The words seemed so ridiculous... and so right. I had been through life, sabotaging all my jobs, always needing to move on, always needing to leave the party early... The words resonated at the deepest level of my consciousness.
Anyway, there you go. The point is, the body is smart, and it has a long memory. It does its best to serve us, to get its message across, but the brain runs interference. The challenge, of course, is to hear what the body is truly trying to tell me, and not be side-tracked by the interpretation offered by that powerful, persuasive, and obstinately presumptuous brain.
I'm sure that my friends out there in the blogosphere have stories similar to this one. No? I'd love to hear them.