Ask Parvati 15: Listen To Your Body Talk
Listen To Your Body Talk
I have been experiencing repeated physical symptoms that the doctors are having a tough time diagnosing. Part of me thinks it is all in my head. The other part of me feels there must be something my body is trying to tell me, but I don’t know what it is. What do you have to say about the way our body talks to us through illness, whether that is true or if it is all in my head?
LET ME HEAR YOUR BODY TALK
Thank you for the question. It means a lot to me because my body has been and continues to be a great teacher.
The term ‘body talk’ was likely brought to the spotlight with Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” hit single in the 80’s, and has recently experienced a revival through electro-pop diva Robyn’s new album by that name. (If you don’t know Robyn, check her out.) For me, the term has come about organically through learning to listen to what my body communicates, be it through impulses to move, sing, dance, express; or impulses to move away from, set boundaries and cut ties. Whether I am feeling healthy or poorly, signals from my body help me to stay true to who I am and to reach my fullest potential.
Several years ago, at the end of teaching a yoga class in my Montreal studio, a student came up to me and asked, “Who is your yoga guru?” My immediate answer arose spontaneously. “My body,” I replied. I went on to explain that by listening to the wisdom within my body, I was able to go deeply into my yoga practice by allowing knowledge from within to rise into consciousness. I found learning by respecting my body’s innate voice much more potent than externally imposed, cerebral or textbook learning.
As a practicing yogini and meditator, I know that the body is intelligent. If we try to move into a yoga pose “from the outside in”, thinking of what it looks like and trying to replicate “over here” what we see “out there”, we can experience inner resistance in the form of tension, discomfort or even pain. But when we allow a yoga pose to flower from the inside out, we learn to honour an already present, natural intelligence.
The same is true for meditation. When practicing, we learn to quietly and lovingly witness where our body holds tension, which becomes our humble teacher showing us where we store unconscious thoughts and energies that no longer serve. When we give our body intelligence the respectful space it needs to be heard, we let go of the illusion that our egos are in control. We become guided by a most potent, natural, divine force, which then has the room to express itself through us.
If we are willing to listen, we will see that our bodies talk. We hold memories within our cells of past experiences, unfulfilled desires, painful events, wishful hopes and soul-directed dreams. Our bodies are like archeological sites that reveal the stories of our lives. When we listen, we can see that our bodies are full of hidden treasures, stories that are held from the past or yet to be born in the future.
ILLNESS IS SOUL TALK
We live in a society that to me seems quite disconnected from the physical. Despite a general cultural focus on the material, we treat matter like a disposable commodity, rather than a partnership to be respected. We converse electronically though portable devices, able to go days without tactile, personal, human contact. Yet, through the noise created by a society that races time and fights to control nature, our bodies cry out with inescapable reminders of its importance in our lives. When we face illness, we are often abruptly reminded of our fallibility and mortality.
Times that our body brings us to our knees and we come to a grinding halt are usually seen as a nuisance, as an inconvenient interruption to our busy life plans – as though it were happening “to” us. But I have learned to understand that the voice of the soul speaks to us through the body. We must learn to welcome it as a lost part of ourselves. It reminds us of what we have forgotten, that is, our intricate connection with nature and the need to develop humility and awe at its power. As such, illness is a gift, not an obstacle, helping us along our path.
Our body is the very same stuff of which nature is made. Organic, imperfect yet completely wise, it exists within an intelligent whole, constantly seeking homeostasis and balance. In my song Sanctified Skin, which is all about the body sacred, I sing:
My body is my temple. I play inside.
It is so peaceful and even quite sublime.
I am an earthly traveler making peace with my tribe.
I wear this human spacesuit where spirit can find
The light that shines within
My body is no sin,
I celebrate my sanctified skin.
Love emanates through my sanctified skin.
Life gyrates behind sanctified skin.
I breathe it all in.
And life begins!
To me, the body is a place where we can grow quiet and celebrate the divine. The body is a reflection of the divine. Like a “human space suit”, we borrow it briefly while we are here so it may house our soul’s voice and reminds us of our evolutionary path.
Illness comes as a knock at our consciousness door from the voice of our soul. It may be saying that we simply need more rest. Or perhaps, we need to be more honest with our self or with others, and need to make some life changes. Or perhaps our body has us in a total headlock and is showing us with no uncertain terms that we need to live a radically different life. Whatever the message may be, when we take the time to listen, our body will let us know in which way we are out of balance with nature and what steps we need to take to regain total health and happiness.
THE SEEN EXPRESSES THE UNSEEN
All that we see in physical form exists in a subtler form. But not all that has subtle form has physical form. The physical provides us with an amazing tool to tangibly see, feel, taste, touch, and sense the unseen. We tend to think of the physical as the root, the cause, but in fact, it is the effect of spiritual laws and our energy tendencies. The thoughts we think affect the feelings we have, which affect how events take shape and how we experience them. The subtle shapes the physical. As such, illnesses and body messages help us tap right into the divine.
Let us take, for example, the common cold. Stuffy, runny nose, fever, and scratchy throat – we have all been there. Some tend to feel defeated by it, as though it were happening “to me”, feeling sorry for oneself, numbing oneself out, switching oneself off until it passes, disinterested in any soul call. Others prefer to plow on through their work, still feeling at some level that the illness is happening “to me”, but feeling stronger and more feisty than nature itself so choosing to ignore the voice of their soul coming through their body as best they can until all symptoms leave.
Others will see illness as an opportunity to listen more closely. Those people will ask, feeling sincerely receptive to an answer, “What is my body saying? What is my soul trying to communicate?” When I have paused in that way, I have found that the common cold, for example, is usually an expression of unshed tears. The body needs to move excess energy somehow. A cold is one way to shed stored water energy and inner dampness. Should I feel like I am about to come down with a cold, I find that when I tune into what I am feeling in my heart and soul, soon tears start to flow. When I allow myself to release this stored energy in the manner it needs, the looming cold quickly disappears.
Illness is a means to reconnect with the voice of your soul. It comes as a message from your soul, designed to catch your attention. Dis-ease is to be ill-at-ease. It signals a way in which we are not at ease within ourselves; we are not in alignment with our truest selves. It signals a dis-balance in our relationship between our body, our soul, our spirit, our personality and the planet. In this way, illness is not some form of cosmic punishment, something happening “to me”. It is no sign of failure, but a sign of grace, the divine offering us an opportunity to reconnect more deeply and honestly to who we are.
THINKING AND BEING
A story that the famous channel Edgar Cayce recounts illustrates the connection between mind and body. Each day, a friend of his was asked how he was. Each day, his friend replied, “Never better!” One day, a series of people decided to let this man know on his way to work that he was looking pale and ill, to see what would happen to his feeling “never better”. As the man came across each one of those people that morning, he gave his usual, “Never better” reply when asked how he was. But this time, the people that questioned him retorted, “Really? You are looking very unwell.” By lunchtime, the poor fellow had to go home, having suddenly come down with the flu.
What we say to ourselves and how we speak to others affects health and well-being. It is too simple, however, to suggest that physical symptoms are psychosomatic. Nor am I saying that all illnesses exist in our mind or that they are simply the results of our thoughts. What we think and feel plays a huge role in our health, just as our body reflects our thoughts and feelings back to us. If we are willing to hear what our body is saying, we have a powerful ally in our health and spiritual growth.
I do know from experience that there is nothing purely ‘physical’. Even things that seem just like physical accidents were part of a greater metaphysical picture. All things physical are an expression of the unseen. For example, why did you trip down the stairs? Were you feeling really in the flow, connected, alert? Or were you feeling down, doubtful, discouraged? What were you thinking when that car accident happened? Had you just received a raise, but at some level felt this was all just too good to be true? I feel we owe it to ourselves and to nature to listen, to tune into our body and let it talk to us.
PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, INTELLECTUAL, SPIRITUAL BODIES
Layers of subtle energies surround our bodies, moving away from our skin from the densest to the lightest frequencies, sounds and colours. Our physical bodies are the grossest expression of subtle energies. Subtler than the physical body is a sheath called the emotional body. Subtler still is the intellectual body followed by the spiritual body. As we listen to our physical body, following its cues given to us through discomfort, stresses and pain, we come into contact with messages from these subtler realms.
A woman came to me once for healing work. She had pelvic pain, and wanted relief. When I opened to her, I intuitively saw a rape that she had survived. I saw too the inflamed rage she still felt because of it. Her pain was letting her know she still had deep, unprocessed emotions. She had not moved through the horror of the incident, nor had she seen any possibility for forgiveness. Full of rage, blame, resentment and shame, she did not know how to deal with these emotions, so she packed them away and tried to move on. But her body pain was keeping her honest, letting her know she still had not healed, nor had she learned what she needed to learn through the incident.
Once she was willing to listen to messages within her body as the voice of her soul, she saw that she needed to confront her violator and the family members that were silently witness to the crime. Her soul was speaking through her body letting her clearly know that she had unfinished business on her personal healing and spiritual journey. Once she followed through what she needed to do to heal, her symptoms ceased. She also was free from the entangled, emotional grip of those who were involved, and was able to pursue with confidence a much happier life.
There are several wonderful authors and healers that offer guidance in understanding messages from the body, such as Louise Hay’s classic “You Can Heal Your Life” or her “Heal Your Body” or Caroline Myss’s “Anatomy of the Spirit”. Though I highly respect the guidance these teachers offer, I found for myself that they offered a point of view, rather than law written in stone. As I deepened my relationship with my body and learned to understand my body language, I developed and still am learning skills to understand a very rich, multidimensional language that has roots right to my soul, including everything I know and everything I could want to know. I encourage you to tune in and learn your own unique body language, the one only you know.
TUNING IN: YOUR SEVEN BODY TALK STATIONS
The body tends to work as an intelligent, multidimensional energy system that draws upon and stores information of similar nature within similar regions of the body. For example, earlier I spoke of violation memories in the pelvis. Why pelvis for violation? The pelvis tends to be the area of the body where we learn to have trusting relationship with others. If that developmental process is compromised in some way, we may recreate, attract and relive similar life patterns over and over until we learn new ways of being. So listening to our body talk is one of the most direct and powerful ways to spiritually grow. That was why I said to my yoga student that my body is my guru. Guru means one who leads you from the darkness of ignorance to the light of truth. By learning to listen to and honour what we carry in the dark recesses of our body, we learn to live in greater light and with greater freedom and ease.
The following are some common energy tendencies that I have found in listening to my body talk over the years. Perhaps they offer some starting points that may help your unique, archeological, body talk explorations.
ROOT: The root energy center is located at the base of the spine around the perineum. Illnesses that affect everything from the soles of feet to the base of the spine are governed by this energy center. This energy center tends to be about the self, one’s rooting in this world, how we are anchored, the foundations we stand on. It tends to relate to our feelings and our experiences with our tribe, our primary family, and issues of survival. The earth rules this energy center. An invocation we can embody for healthy root center is “I am”.
SACRUM: The sacrum energy center is located in the pelvis, just below the navel. It predominantly governs the sexual organs, the low back and the lower abdominal area. This energy center tends to be about our relationship between our self and another, how we relate to another person. This energy center is governed by our emotional fluidity and how we flow within life as a whole. It is ruled by water. An invocation we can embody for a healthy sacrum is “I am beauty”, not as in being physically beautiful, but that our essence is beauty, just as nature is beauty. We are called here to trust in the flow of life of which we are an integral part.
SOLAR PLEXUS: The solar plexus is located just above the navel. It governs the upper abdomen and the organs of digestion. As such it is governed by fire. This energy center relates to how we maintain our sense of self within a group and our ability to act in ways that honour who we are. Because of this, boundary issues are reflected here. An invocation we can embody for a healthy solar plexus center is “I can”.
HEART: The heart center is located in the front of the chest. Illnesses that are governed here are those of the heart, lungs, all organs, vertebrae and tissues that are in the chest area. This energy center is about learning to transcend our personal needs, already expressed in the first three energy centers, and tap into the transpersonal and unconditional. It is governed by ether. An invocation we can embody for a healthy heart is “I am joy”.
THROAT: The throat center is located at the base of the neck in the soft tissue above the clavicle. It is governed by sound. It is responsible for diseases in the area of the body that relates to sound through the neck and mouth area. This energy center relates to our speech, what we vocalize, our ability to be truthful and honest, and the actualization of our soul’s voice, our trust in divine guidance. An invocation we can embody for a healthy throat is “I am sound”.
THIRD EYE: The third eye is located just above the space between the eyebrows at the center of the forehead. It governs the organs of the head. The energy center relates to our ability to see clearly, to see through illusion to what is real. As such, it relates to our ability to see beyond our tendency to see the physical as finite and experience ourselves as beings of light. An invocation we can embody for a healthy third eye is “I am light”.
CROWN: The crown energy center is located at the top of our head, in the center of the crown. It oversees the way we flow between the cosmos and physical. As such, it affects our overall blueprint and architecture and how spirit manifests into form. The relationship between the physical and the metaphysical is expressed as the interplay between the bioelectrical field, the bio-chemical field and the tissue field as a biodynamic whole, within the whole. An invocation we can embody for a healthy crown energy center is “Isness”.
Happy exploring, listening to and honouring your own, unique body-talk!
May you feel rooted, vital and expansive as you enjoy the moment to moment unfolding and the eternal dance between spirit and matter.