“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” ~Jodi Picoult
This morning I got out the check book to pay some bills, and I noticed that my heart rate became elevated. My hands started to tremble. Many of us may joke that heart palpitations and sweats are very common check writing reactions, but I became bewildered with my own physiological response to bills. I had the money to cover them. My husband, cat, and I aren’t on the verge of being out in the streets. Yet, my body was having a reaction as if my ultimate survival depended upon keeping this money. My body and my mind weren’t on the same page.
I think we can all find instances where this occurs. In the past, I usually handled this mind and body conflict in a pretty abusive manner: yelling at it to shut up and maybe shove a Twinkie and a beer in its mouth. It’s not really conducive to building a loving and communicative relationship. If you came home one day and your spouse franticly yelled, “There’s an emergency!” Would you ask questions and listen? Or would you completely ignore him and force him to watch Netflix for 2 days until he forgot about that pressing emergency? He probably just needed more wine, right?
Yet, this is the way many of us have learned to treat our bodies. Our physical form is communicating with us all the time, but we stopped trying to communicate so long ago that we have forgotten the language. We start to pay our monthly cell phone bill and the sweat starts to pour. The body is saying we are in a threatening situation, and in this case, the body was a little hypervigilant in its threat response. Often in the past I would choose a distraction (eat something, watch tv, or have a drink) which would postpone that body-to-mind communication for a bit. Yet, those messages eventually get delivered whether we like it or not. Our bodies may start to ache. We begin to feel fatigued or constantly on high alert. We eventually hit a wall. We have to stop and receive the message and open the lines of communication.
Deep breaths are great for this. Meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices can also create communication between the mind and body. When I started practicing, I thought meditation and yoga were going to help me calm down. It was another way in which I was hoping my body was just going to shut the hell up and start doing what I wanted for a change. While I did feel more relaxed at times, mindfulness really just taught me how to listen and how to get my mind and body communicating again. I lived my whole life with them standing on opposite corners of the room yelling over each other in two different languages, so of course just sitting in silence for 5 minutes wasn’t going to be the key to creating a mind-body connection. However, the practice of the slow breath, the sitting in silence, and the noticing over a period of time is slowly bringing them to the same team again.
Like any other loving relationship, the key to great communication is learning to listen. You have to notice the things that send your heart fluttering, your sweat glands dripping. Instead of running from the hurt, you thrust yourself into the fire, and you feel and you breathe. That deep breathing part is the most important part. Breathing is the language all parts of you can understand. The breath is the ambassador that opens the mind and body up to peacekeeping negotiations. It creates enough of a space for change to happen. We stop reaching for Netflix, beers, and Twinkies and we start shuffling through those abandoned stacks of papers on the desk. And each conscious breath is another reminder that we walked through the fire of fear and pain and we were not destroyed. It’s a reminder that through grief, fear, and even bills, we can find a way through.
P.S. If you would like a jumpstart on your meditation practice, start now: