human, being

February 15, 2009, 7:59 pm
Filed under: Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday mornings have come to mean Nia for me lately. Usually I’m someone who spends Sunday morning with Steve on the couch, reading the paper together and drinking lattes for breakfast. But I found this class at my gym several weeks ago, and I look forward to the moving meditation this class is for me.

Each class is built around a theme. The first one I took was “Miracle,” and I cried several times throughout it. Yeah, I said I cried in a workout class, but not because I was in physical pain. These classes are meant to integrate body-mind-spirit through movement and music. And they’re a nice change of pace from doing intervals on the treadmill. The class lets me move my body in a feminine manner–strong and soft at the same time. We dance, we do choreography, but it’s not choreography that makes me think. It allows me to sink into my body, to be there in my corporeal existence in a nonaggressive way. I feel all of my ballet training coming to life in this class–the rises and falls, the soft, strong arms, the flow of my limbs through the air. I adore yoga, but Nia is even better than yoga because I have less self-judgment. I am hoping that Nia will help me begin to reintegrate my mind and spirit into my body, and will help me (at the very least) stop feeling like my body is my enemy and I don’t want to live in it anymore.

Today, I got to class a few minutes late, and Tracy was describing the difference between male and female energy, which was the theme for today. As I listened to her, I realized that I am addicted to setting goals and chasing after them. She suggested that feminine energy is not about hunting, but rather about gestating. After all, that’s what we do as women–we gestate human life. Until pretty recently, babies came when they were ready. We didn’t have that much control over it. Instead we nurtured our growing children in our bodies with the intention that they would be born healthy and strong.

In our Western culture, setting an intention and trusting that the end result will come in its own good time is seen as ridiculous. We are supposed to be driven to achieve and accomplish more. We are to make to-do lists and check off the merest details. We are not to leave anything to chance, or to god. This drive is male energy, and I believe my addiction to it is one reason for my many health issues, including my body’s unwillingness to let go of what it does not need.

Over the years, I have forced my body to do many things because they are “good for me.” I have also boycotted things because I “should” be doing them. Reflecting on my P90X experience of last summer, I wonder if I was pushing my body too hard, when what I needed to do was be gentle with it. I have forced myself to ignore what I want to eat (denial) in order to “be good” and then when I can’t resist the desire anymore I binge. Then comes the shame. I binge on exercise too–hitting it hard until I burn myself out, expecting infomercial-style results and getting frustrated when they don’t come. I go to Nia class, and I find myself thinking “this isn’t difficult enough,” even though it makes me sweat. I feel guilty because I love it, and things that are good for me should be unpleasant, or so I must believe. Maybe the reason why I give up on weight lifting or other things is because I don’t like it, and I force myself to do it anyway. Why can’t I just do the physical things that feel right in my body? I once had a trainer tell me that doing nothing but yoga might make me very flexible but I’d lose a lot of muscle tone. Yeah, he was an idiot. But somehow, my silly mind held onto that. If it’s fun, and it feels good, how can it be good for you?

This afternoon, I heard Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, speak. She said a few things that struck me, including that while the saying “to thine own self be true” is a fine motto to live by, she’d add the coda (and gentle). To thine own self be true and gentle. I am rarely if ever gentle with myself. In fact, I am usually very harsh with myself. I am so full of male energy that I cannot hear the whispers of the more moderate, gentle female energy that so wants to guide me.

Ms. Gilbert said the “virus of the day” is life envy. We think if only we had his money or her relationship with her family or her abs then we would finally feel complete. We’re not supposed to be content with what we have. We have to want more. She said that everyone feels like a fraud (and those who don’t are the jerks we don’t want to be friends with anyway). Everyone feels incomplete, and feeling incomplete is part of the human experience. We are all in danger of being locked in regret. She suggested that the sheer number of choices we have in life causes us to doubt that we can ever make the “right” choice. “It’s like we’re on a game show, and we’re offered the choice of five doors, and we’re paralyzed by the idea that if we choose door #2 we are inexorably murdering our life, because what’s behind door #s 1, 3, 4 and 5 could be better than what we got in #2.” She counseled that we need to become almost shamanistic, narrowing down our choices to something sane.

She said women in our culture especially have lost our ability to listen to our bodies and trust what they are telling us. “You can’t trust the messed up stuff in your mind, and while your heart may have good intentions, it can lead you off in the wrong direction.” She said in Brazil (where her husband hails from) there’s a saying: Listen to the whispers or you soon will be listening to the screams.

Our bodies tell us when we’re on the wrong path. For Ms. Gilbert, it starts with a daily stomach ache, then a back ache, then her left knee goes out. Sometimes she can slow down enough and get quiet enough to recognize that her body is telling her something important pretty early on. Sometimes she’s limping and dragging a leg before she notices. Our bodies tell us what we need. We have to notice and listen when they speak.

That’s the exact message my new naturopath gave me on Friday. She said that I may feel frustrated by not having a “cure” immediately, but it will be worth the time we will be taking over the next several months to figure out what my body is telling me it needs, and what I need in my life. Much to my surprise, she did not prescribe a bunch of herbs or tell me to immediately cut all dairy, sugar, soy, wheat out of my diet. Instead, I’m going to keep a food journal (not a calorie count) and describe what I eat, where I’m eating it, how I feel before and after I eat it, and any physical activity. No judgment, just a recounting. And I am going to eat different seeds during different times of my cycle to support my system. And most nights, I will relax for 20-45 minutes with a castor oil pack on my abdomen to help detoxify my liver and improve circulation in my abdomen. We are taking it slowly, going for the long-term cure vs. the short-term fix.

So what do these three things have to do with one another? These are three instances of angels on the side of my road telling me to slow down, to let go of my expectations and self-judgments, and to be patient. You can’t rush naturopathy–Jessica says we will be peeling back layers, and I should plan on six months time before I feel any differently. Nia causes me to follow my bliss of dancing and get into my body, to ground myself and reach for the heavens, to move the energy around me. Ms. Gilbert counseled us to follow our curiosity, not our passion, because passion is hard to manifest when you are confused. And if I am anything right now, I am confused–confused about why nothing I’ve tried in perfecting my life experience has stuck. I’ve tried and tried. I’ve forced myself, and beaten myself up, and made myself sick, and created this state of confusion that’s as thick as a San Francisco fog.

I think my angels are telling me that rather than doing yet another thing, taking a class to be more, pushing to have the stuff and experiences and things that I think I want, buying into all the bullshit “shoulds” we get fed every moment of every day, maybe it’s time for me to set the intention and let it gestate. Today at Nia, Tracy suggested that our brains may not be able to form words around the intention, but our souls know what they need. I didn’t seek out these resources, they found me. I called them in. This is about learning to trust on a deeper level than I’ve ever experienced, and what I have to learn to trust is me.

I’ve been listening to the screaming for a long time now. I would like to begin hearing the whisper, because I’m beginning to understand that the truth–my truth–lies in the whisper.


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