Spiritual Practice: Listening to the Body, Listening to Soul

Note: this conversation took place on a walk, and I re-engaged the conversation on return so that I could write it down.  Soul speaks in Italics.

It is a fall day and I’m walking in the woods with my dogs, reflecting on times I confront difficulties with more assertiveness than compassion.  I have an image I’d like to groom of my aging self as one who becomes the compassionate elder, one who always speaks from calm/shamanic/wisdom mind.  I have an image of myself in the midst of chaos:  whatever words I actually say are accompanied with an inner intent that communicates “Peace be with you.”  I’d like to be as successful with the force of compassion, as a tool, as I’ve been with assertiveness. When necessary, I’d like they be the same voice.  I want to know why my spontaneous reflex, in some situations, may be to defend my ground. I want to know if being “hard” toward the pain I experience in my body has a subtle affect on any of my thoughts or reflexes.  These are the inquiries of my walk.

As I settle into deeper/honest mindfulness, Soul breaks into my reverie.  Part of your process at this point should be to give equal time to the fact that you are a gentle and kind person. I have no intention of refuting Soul.  I know that it is important to be mindful of positive traits.  But right now I want to dig, not cover up the honestly unfolding topic.  Soul recognizes that, and speaks:

Physical wounding
You have physical wounds.  Common inner narratives to this situation include a desire for a permanent cure (and they lived happily ever after), ignoring the problem as irrelevant, or engaging with pain as a filter for life.  What we suggest is also common.  We suggest that you listen.  Deep listening is an art.

Physical wounds require your respect — especially if you experience new pain, a spike in pain, or a flare up.  Your body will interpret the flare up as the need to go into survival mode.  As a result, your view of the world is temporarily weighted, your interactions influenced by the requirements of survival.  You may want to defend, block, or close down.  Your body wants to protect and to be protected, to rescue you from further pain or complications.  The body is speaking to you, suggesting you “buck up” or “retreat.” This has an impact on how you relate to the world.  You may find yourself feeling or acting more assertively than you’d like, or less engaged then you’d like.  Given abrasive circumstance, you may wonder where compassionate mind has gone.

“How do I address this?”

Listen to your body, and listen again with compassion.  Allow yourself to be human.  Every human being has moments of imperfection.  You’ve heard the Dalai Lama admit to having anger.  Have a meaningful dialogue with your body so that you don’t need to repeat the conversation, so that the body doesn’t have to keep repeating itself, and so that your body isn’t pushed into raising its voice or acting out in order to get your attention.  The initial point of pain is pain enough. There’s no need to add unnecessary suffering because you choose to ignore the voice.  Nor is there need to echo the voice of pain, to expand and elaborate exclusively on that communication.

Listen to your body, then apply skillful means to address its concerns.  Understand that challenges in your life require effort.  Nurture whatever feels injured, while at the same time giving it license to persevere and then to thrive.

Love the interaction — listening, responding, setting the path forward.  In other words, love the whole body, all of you — the part that hurts, the part that listens, the part that feels compassion, and the part that is willing to attend to healing (mind you — to heal does not require the miracle cure).  Love the effort the body is willing to make in order to persevere.  Love the part of you that is whole and willing to listen.

“Thank you.”

The Crimson Forest Photo from Heart Touching images

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3 Responses to Spiritual Practice: Listening to the Body, Listening to Soul

  1. Irina says:

    I am very moved by these “musings”, Jim. Deep and heartfelt; one can learn so much from them. I admire you for living through this experience with such courage.

  2. Irene Blanck says:

    I too was moved by these words. And very much need to remember them in my own life – to acknowledge what my body is telling me – and “absorb” what i feel and integrate that into my life with gratitude. I feel that I need to learn to actually listen to my body and, most importantly, acknowledge what it is telling me and give gratitude that it is making me aware of what is going on. I find that by accepting it with humour i am able to move on.

    • Jim says:

      Sorry for the delay posting. I found this in spam and pulled it out. I like your comment on seeing the bodies pain with humor. Just a few minutes ago I was listening to an interview with Bobbie McFerrin, where he said he deals with his pain through the prayer of song.

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