One of the ways that people really “get” to keep their shifts is through reading about others with the same problems coming to realizations that free them from painful thoughts and ultimately, freeing them up from painful feelings.
What follows is correspondence of mine with an individual dealing with chronic pain. This piece is in 3 parts, the first one here really addresses the costs of believing any victimizing story we have about being sick. And see what’s possible when we free up our body from our thinking.
Hi Sweetie! I started thinking last night about your 2 big revelations in that session, and decided to write my ah-ha’s about your ah-ha’s! It’s long, but reflects the tip of the iceberg of what I’d love to expand on more in writing about chronic illness or pain–possibly a book!
It seems you found 1.) That just the act of noticing that you’re not feeling well or lacking energy sets off a whole chain of stories for you that mimic the terror and intensity of past experiences of being sick, alone, and hopeless (going all the way back to being hospitalized in isolation when you were so very young), and 2.) that when you are judging your body, the way it feels, its reactions to things, how much energy it has, and even its appearance, you are no longer in your own business.
Follow-up Revelations: Our Bodies’ Business
This latter concept can be revolutionary for those of us who have struggled with chronic illness or pain. When we truly embrace the idea that what unfolds in our body is not our business, but (as Byron Katie [“Katie”] reminds us is our body’s business and God’s business—and our doctors’ business), there is a sweet release from shame and fear, and a growing sense of trust. It is not only freeing, but engenders great respect for my body when I truly ‘get’ that I have little or no conscious control of most of its functions, that I am greatly limited in my understanding of what is running this machine, and that I rarely have a clue as to what is being accomplished in my cells and organs and immune system and muscles and nerves and hormones when I don’t feel good—and even when I do.
With this consciousness, we can each begin to stay out of our body’s business and start to get into a role we can truly succeed in—to become a fan and cheerleader and advocate for our body in its efforts to restore homeostasis. Our mind-made stories about how our bodies should be feeling have no relation, in reality, to what we ARE feeling. It’s these stories that literally define the sensations we are experiencing as ‘sick,’ ‘pain,’ ‘something wrong,’ or ‘bad,’ and project that they will take away our dreams, potential achievements, loved ones, and will without a doubt rob us of our bliss. It is our reactions to what we are telling ourselves has happened or will happen next that keep us–particularly those of us with chronic pain or illness–completely disconnected from the unfathomable perfection of whatever actually is unfolding.
Now we can question every one of those stories (the ones that tell us we are victims of our own body, that we did something wrong to cause the way we feel, that we’ll never get better, that people will think we’re just malingering, that we will have to push ourselves into worse states of health because there will be no help for us, etc., etc.) as they come up. By questioning those tapes we switch on the minute we feel a ‘symptom,’ we are volitionally choosing to get out of the way of that body’s ongoing work, because believing those stories is the ONLY thing that is creating a problem. As Katie says, bodies don’t complain, don’t blame, don’t judge what is happening as a problem (that would be some pesky thoughts we came to believe somewhere along the way). No matter what we put these fantastic machines through or ask of them, they simply respond as programmed– each cell dispassionately playing its role in maintaining or restoring homeostasis.
Self-blame and comparisons and scary predictions and harsh criticisms have no relation to the exciting yet dependable internal drive toward harmony, balance, and optimal functioning our bodies are relentlessly conducting with no conscious help from our self-important little monkey minds. With this new sense that our bodies are not ‘us’ and we are not ‘them,’ we can start to disengage from our shameful stories about how our bodies look, feel, or function. We can begin to observe that we have little to do with the internal processes and outcomes we are attempting to control, and yet that we do have the ability to notice [and lighten] the extra weight we have added to our body’s workload whenever we ruthlessly engage in scary self-criticism of this faithful servant. We CAN recognize how fruitless it is to believe the ‘body unit’ is failing us in some way, to regret actions we took that may or may not have had an impact on how we’re feeling, or to minimize that the way we are feeling is always standing squarely on the path—it’s our minds that got lost in the woods.
House that Thought Built: The Chain Reactions of Believing Something Is Wrong
The only real impact of being ‘all up in our body’s business’ is not that we somehow improve anything through our mind’s cruel commentary; instead, a huge overlay of physiological stress hacks into and detracts from our own pre-programmed system’s ability to function efficiently whenever we believe the thought that something in our body should be different in a given moment than it is, or that the way it feels in this moment predisposes worse things to come in the next moment or the more distant future. If you think of your body as a smoothly running computer, then your mind is truly like a disgruntled employee who has stepped outside of its appointed roll of gathering and sorting data, and has sent out a virus that impairs the computer’s functioning.
I cannot stress enough that believing (and hence emotionally/physically reacting to) our minds’ own viral messages is PURE POISON to our bodies. Without them, all the damage control we are doing around our chronic pain or illness (the things we are trying to manage or figure out since we feel bad so much of the time) may be largely unnecessary.
The House that Thought Built
The off-course body-judging, other-judging, self-judging thoughts
that we believe are the fantasies and fallacies
that drive the fear responses
that pump the adrenalin and other messengers
that redirect normal internal functions
that all stop what they are doing and
that marshal all resources to respond to a crisis…
that was never there to start with (except in our minds.)
These habitual thoughts and subsequent responses ultimately re-train our cells and systems toward a chronically singular function of receiving direction from the emotion-driving chemicals such thoughts predispose and all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways they play out in our bodies (Molecules of Emotion, What the Bleep Do We Know, and other citations XXX). For example, cells that have a function in digestion morph over time into cells whose only job is the receive and act on anger messages: tell the muscles to tense up and the digestive juices to shut down in preparation to handle a crisis. In this way, our thoughts truly DO have the power to affect the outcomes, by hampering our body’s ability to carry out its normal functions optimally. We certainly feel it in our stomachs. We can be lying quietly in bed in the morning, and without any movement anywhere in the room, a thought hits that makes us feel like someone kicked us in stomach.
Who’s the Victim? From Whence Does Help Come?
Recognizing that letting these thoughts run wild in our minds is a cause-and-effect event for our bodies and can help us see that we are no longer victims of our uncooperative bodies, but that in fact the situation is reversed. When I start to think of my body as the victim of my uncooperative mind, I see that I CAN do something very real and more productive in helping it in its best efforts to do its job.
HOW? By committing at all costs to question and find the hidden gifts in turning around the thinking that scares or angers me—particularly in moments of pain and illness when it seems like it’s all about my body. Doing The Work with our thinking, and thus gaining a calm, supportive, and even humorous perception of what’s going on in our bodies and what we may have done to contribute to it, frees bodies to quietly focus all their resources on the task at hand—rather than responding to the four-alarm fires and terrorist alerts our minds are busy creating that signal activation of the body’s emergency response system. We are walking through what we used to call the Valley of the Shadow of Death (when we believed our scary thoughts that our pain or illness was stealing away our life), and yet we can be walking in that same valley and fearing no evil… with complete trust in All That IS (realizing that it was only believing the thought that something needed to be a certain way for us to be happy that was stealing away our life). No longer do we put our monkey mind in charge to cook up scenarios about the way things should be that would somehow be better than what we have, and we are fully attuned to life as-is.