Inner Authority

 

I think a lot about what it means to be healthy, and to heal. Over the years, I’ve come to see that there are the absolute biological necessities of life that must be met. These are the ones that, whether we do them or not, we’ve all heard about. The must-have’s like eating whole foods, getting the rest we need, staying hydrated, moving our bodies, etc.

What is less, or even not at all, talked about, are essential internal attitudes and perspectives that are the non-negotiable pre-requisites for health and healing. Mindsets, that if missing, will leave even the “healthiest” of diets or the most rigorous of exercise regimens lacking.

I want to begin this part of the conversation by sharing one of the most stunning things I have heard anyone say in a very long time: “The time for relying on outer authorities is over.”  Wow. OMG! What are you talking about? 

Whether you find this perspective enlightening or frightening, hear me out. Claiming inner authority for how we inhabit these bodies of ours is the New Paradigm waiting to be born, and it begins with Personal Responsibility and Self-Trust. How could it be otherwise? Who is the only one who lives in your body and has the capacity to care for it? Who is the only one who actually knows how it feels? Or what it needs?

It is your body. It is yours to take care of.

But this truth has gotten waylaid. We have become overly dependent on sources outside of us to tell us what we need. Just look at all the pharmaceutical commercials or the ever- burgeoning public health campaigns. One money based. The other politically based and fear-driven.

Of course, we need our helping professionals. But when we don’t trust our own body or when we hand over responsibility for it, while we may believe we are getting a guarantee or getting out of something too difficult for us, we actually lose a lot.

That being, living as a fully empowered adult who knows how to take care of, and trust themselves. When I mentioned this idea to someone not long ago, she said “That’s a big lift.” 

It is.

So maybe we can break it down into a more manageable, desirable even, way of being with our own health. I see self-trust and personal responsibility as two sides to the same coin. As in, the more I claim responsibility for the choices I make around my health, the more I come to have faith in my ability to make good choices in the future.

The more I trust myself, the more confident I feel claiming ownership of how I treat my body. Self-trust is the capacity to believe in your own body and its ability to heal. Personal responsibility is the capacity to respond to what your body actually needs in any given moment, in an authentic way. As in, not based in fear, doubt or the need to have someone make it better for you.

In a nutshell, this is the energy of meeting what your body is doing and needing, while serving as your own trusted adviser and confidante. This is the opposite of feeling so disempowered that you leave health decisions in someone else’s hands, or of being so afraid, confused and doubtful of your own body that once again, you are left only to leave it up to someone else.

Because we are literally swimming in a sea of belief systems that tell us it is “normal” to leave our bodies in the hands of experts and authorities, we need ways of breaking through the conditioning.

Here are some things to be on the lookout for: Do you feel like a little kid when you are with your doctor? Are you afraid to say certain things because it might upset them? Do they dismiss you when you have another opinion? Do you find yourself asking for their permission, or feeling like you have to justify an instinct or an intuition that you have about your health?

It can feel scary and overwhelming to take back what is yours. It can feel so very risky at first. Go slow. Start in low stakes situations. Observe yourself. Notice when you are trying to please or are over-explaining. We all have our histories with authorities, but suffice to say, we have become conditioned to be quite obedient and compliant in the presence of someone credentialed.

Especially when we feel they have knowledge we don’t possess. But did you know that the first definition of “expert” is “experienced?” That’s it. This “expert” status is available to you and is as basic as getting some more experience with your very own body. It truly is as simple as learning to pay a little more attention to what your body likes and what it doesn’t.

Forget about all the information about how to take care of yourself. (Most of us aren’t doing it anyway, or we use it to beat ourselves up with.) Instead, begin and end each day by asking your body “How’s it going?” And then, just listen. This kind of listening and being with yourself is the very foundation of personal responsibility and self-trust: A capacity that extends well beyond your health.

Embracing Obstacles

 

It’s not easy being in a body. There are so many sensations, pressures, thoughts, beliefs and experiences that go along with how we feel about our bodies, and what it means to inhabit them. That’s why it can feel preferable to “leave” them. Or let someone else be in charge of them.

It has become a socially condoned way of “living” to leave our bodies and what it is we are experiencing. Take my college students and the way that they “party.” The way they use drugs and alcohol to knock down the stress. To keep them from feeling what they don’t want to feel.

I know this place. All too well. It was how I lived for years. Partying, eating and exercising to excess and as punishment. Self-loathing and worthlessness arising out of the choices I was making. It was only when I began to feel how horrible what I was doing to myself felt, that I was able to shift. Only when I was willing to encounter the obstacles to good and fulfilling connection with my body did things, slowly and steadily, begin to change.

While incredibly difficult, excruciating and sad to come up against the obstacles that were keeping me from myself, it was real. Most of all, it was true. Obstacles are an absolutely unavoidable and essential part of the journey of being at home in our own body. So that’s where I began. With what was real by way of what was in between me and my body. In between me and my ability to be at home in myself. 

I know the current thinking is to get away from what feels bad. I would even go so far as to say that it is built into us as mammals to get away from what causes pain. That it is a necessary part of our survival and coping mechanisms to avoid what hurts. This life-giving tendency most certainly has its place. However, in modern day living where our pains are often self- and culturally-induced, with no connection whatsoever to real physical survival requirements, our wires have gotten crossed when it comes to avoidance. 

The basic, primal instinct of avoidance has gotten flipped on its head, and is now bringing harm rather than relief, while being met by a world all too happy to sell us things that keep us from ever having to feel what it is to be in our own bodies. 

Given the cultural mindset that says “Take this to get away from feeling what you are feeling in your body,” to hear that in order to be at home in yourself, you must go towards what you typically avoid, can sound paradoxical. Or even insane. But if we don’t include this part of embodiment, we’ll miss out on some of the most important information we need when it comes to the body and how it is that we are treating it. Not to mention that it is pure fantasy to try and avoid what we would rather not know. 

Acting as if something is not there, does not make it so.

It is only when we include what does not feel good, what is not working, what is keeping us from a good relationship with ourselves, can we see that what we’re doing is actually not working. Maybe even hurting. That any of the denying, diversions and medicating we’re engaging in, outweighs any “benefits” they may bring in the short-term. Worst of all, that what we’re choosing through our avoidance may actually become the impediment itself to healing what ails us.

In the end, keeping us from not only the health we desire, but the opportunity to know ourselves fully through the empowered journey of learning to trust and care for ourselves. 

 

A Manifesto

 

I am in the midst of exploring, very deeply, what health is. What supports it. What undermines it.

The deeper I go, the more I come to see that there are fundamental perspectives that must be embraced first. That before we can even decide what healthcare or medicine looks like for each of us, we must first develop a way of being in relationship with ourselves and all of Life that comes as close as we can to working with basic truths around what it actually takes to be healthy and to thrive.

Here is my attempt. Run it though your own system. What resonates? What challenges? Where could you begin?

 The Embodiment Manifesto:

A Revolutionary Commitment To Redefining How We Care For Ourselves

Mission: To explore what is possible when we learn how to recognize and honor real human needs, live according to life-affirming values, express the Truth of who and what we are.

As Fully Sovereign & Embodied Beings, We Believe That:

  • Who we are and how we live matters.
  • Our health is our own responsibility.
  • The single greatest contribution we will ever make to the world is how we take care of ourselves.
  • Honoring real human needs is the basis for how we know and care for ourselves.
  • Self-Care is built-in.
  • Everything is Connected.
  • The body is Intelligent & any signs or symptoms we experience are worthy of our attention.
  • Claiming bodily sovereignty is a healthy act.
  • Valuing our own life is valuing all Life. 
  • Good Medicine is always in the hands of the people: For the people, by the people, and of the people.

 

A Higher Perspective

 

Last weekend I created a self-guided retreat for myself in the mountains of New Hampshire. While I was not sure how I would spend my time overall, one thing I knew for certain: I needed to get out on the trail and into the mountains at daybreak.

So it was so interesting to watch my mind go from an intuitive certainty and excitement, to fear. It was dark. I didn’t know where I was going. I had no idea how long the hike would take, or what I would encounter. What if I got hurt?

Blah. Blah. Blah.

One of the things that I love so well about being in the woods alone, especially if it is at all a strenuous endeavor, is the way that my mind reveals itself for what it is. That being, a fear-mongering machine. And then, what I love most, is the way that the Presence of the Natural World offers me a clear reflection of reality. If I so choose.

There are so very many ways to be afraid these days. Some legitimate, but far too many exaggerated, fabricated, and even, intentionally generated.

So how are we to know? How are we to distinguish between what is real and what is made up when it comes to the fears that come out of our own minds? In modern day living, at least initially, this is a moment to moment observation of, along with a challenging of, what pops up that terrifies us. It is a commitment to discovering when it is that what frightens you, has no merit. And then making the choice to intentionally steer clear of what that is as often as you can.

For instance, I know there are many who would say that it is inherently unsafe for a woman, maybe even an older woman just coming off an injury, to be alone in the woods. To be somewhere where literally not another soul knows where she is. And perhaps they would be right on any given day. But that would just be speculation based on fear and a mindset that says the woods are a risky and dangerous place, and that a woman alone in the woods is automatically problematic.

That one perspective alone would be more than enough to stop me, and if it didn’t stop me, at least enough to ruin a perfectly good walk in the woods. You see, it is all a matter of perception. We will always find exactly what it is that we are looking for. From one state of mind the woods are a perilous place filled with ticks, slippery river crossings, predators of the human kind, and wild animals seeking to harm you. Or… It can be a place of absolute solace, inspiration and Mystery.

The choice is always ours.

Sadly, many of us never even get this far because we have been trained and brainwashed into believing that we cannot trust our animal instincts. That we are separate from the woods; having been spoon-fed on outrageous and distorted images via a screen that disconnect us from our truest Nature, and leave us terrified of what we cannot control. And then, we go on to erroneously believe that holed up in our control based lives, we are safe.

Never seeing that we are only half alive.

The Limitations of Certainty Seeking

 

A friend of mine introduced me to the phrase, “certainty seeking.” It means just what it sounds like.

While it is so natural as a human being to want a high degree of certainty guaranteed, when it comes to how things in Life will go, it is an illusion. As a species we seem to be the only ones on the planet who not only do not know that there are no such guarantees, we go so far as to demand that it be so; compounding an already dangerous and misguided notion.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what to do. While terrifying to hold at first, this orientation to Life is a true one. A real one. One that lines us up with reality, thereby allowing us to be with things from a clear starting point. Meaning, we are much more likely to respond with accuracy and in a right-sized manner.

This past week, I had a surprising turn of events in that suddenly my back was spasming with such intensity that I could barely walk. I could not take a deep breath. Nor could I get my pants on by myself. In the midst of the worst of it, my husband found me sobbing, “I don’t know what to do.” All of my usual approaches and remedies had fallen short. Nothing was working.

Later, working with one of my practitioners, he uttered the phrase “trapped vulnerability,” which initiated another round of sobbing. There it was. The physical pain was nothing compared to the deep existential vulnerability of being alive that I was up against. Now the question became, “How am I going to be with this?”

What has unfolded over this week is that my deepest vulnerability is bound to my deepest power. That giving way to vulnerability and uncertainty puts me back into alignment with Truth. The doorway in being, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what is going to happen.” It is from this place that I create an opening. A portal if you will, where things I never thought of have a chance to reveal themselves. Where unimaginable support has a chance to come in. And where the most unbearable pain turns into Strength. Possibility. Healing.

We are living in times where a kind of dogma of certainty has settled over us like a plague; settling in us and between us. The message? This, and only this is what you are allowed to believe in. If you do, you are guaranteed a certain outcome. And while to many of us this certainty can feel so reassuring, it is illusion. One that is robbing us of Truth and Possibility.

To believe that another can offer you the certainty you seek is a fool’s errand. An existential foreclosure. Worst of all, somewhere deep inside, you know it is not true. To trade in this lie is to set yourself against the forces and the powers of the Universe. The very same One, which never has and never will, offer you that type of guarantee.

The Future of Health

 

Not long ago, I saw a commercial which seems to sum up where we are, and where we are headed when it comes to health. Unless, that is, enough of us decide for something else. Something more True. More Real. More Life-affirming. More, well, human.

The commercial opens with the following tagline: “The future of health is on your wrist.” We are then shown a woman operating at warp speed in her life, while being continuously reminded by the device on her arm to “Relax.” Then it tells her to “Run.” Then “Swim.” Then do “Tae Kwon Do.” Then “Dance.” I watch in horror as she manically leaps from one instruction to the next; all directed by a tiny machine she is wearing on her arm.

If this weren’t so alarming, it would be funny. Saturday Night Live parody funny.

But it’s not funny. Not when we consider how many of us take health advice from people trying to sell us something, and whose mixed agenda includes delivering messages of “health and well-being” while bolstering their the bottom line by keeping us ever insecure and doubtful about our own ability to go it without them. It becomes even less funny when we break down the messages that are being taken up by viewers regarding what it means to be healthy. Images that are telling us that instructions from a piece of technology are what we need to be listening to. That somehow we will not know what we need, or what to do, and that it is best to outsource that knowing to something non-human.

In our infatuation with, and now indoctrination into, all things technological in order to stay healthy, we are losing the main and central ingredient to health and well-being. That being, it is built in and is predicated on a personal knowing born of experience and attention.The “knowing” of which I speak is inborn, and yet it requires both cultivation and protection. It does not take its cues from a commercial. Nor does it require a machine in order to stay well. In fact, the abdication of this personal knowing is what is at the heart of a deep and dangerous disconnect from the natural and healing wisdom of our bodies.

The future of health would do well to consider not only what is presently happening in health care, but to take a good, hard look at how it is that we have arrived in a place where so many of us are so sick and so disconnected from the most basic principles of how to care for a human body. For before we can talk about the future, we must weed out what is currently not working. What is outdated. Misleading. Harmful even.

Do you want to know what the real future of health is? IT IS YOU. It is your inner and personal knowing restored, trusted, and acted upon. And it is so, so basic. As basic as paying closer attention to yourself. For instance, how often do you see something advertised that is claiming to be able to improve your health, and that you jump at because you think either this will be easy, or because “they” must know better. Watch the impulse to outsource your health and well-being while getting into the habit of checking in with yourself, asking, “Is that really what a human being needs to be well, or am I being sold something?”

 

Self-Care 101

 

Look around, we have never had more information about taking care of ourselves. Eat healthier. Exercise. Get more sleep. Be grateful. Take time for yourself. Breathe. On and on it goes. And yet…we have never been sicker. Less happy. Less fulfilled. Less ourselves. Dare I say, less human.

What’s going on?

Mostly, when I talk to people, they will sheepishly admit, yes they know they need to do something. And they’ve tried. God, have they tried. And it will even seem like what they are doing is working, at least for a bit. But at some point, without fail, after some period of time, they find themselves back to where they started. In other words, back to ignoring themselves and denying what it is that they really need to do in order to take good care of themselves.

Sure, the world is distracting. And we are too busy. Yes, the corporations have now created a multi-billion dollar industry to keep us tied to them to feel like we are taking care of ourselves. Because without them, we wouldn’t know what we needed or what to do. But what if the real reason why we never get there is because we are running right past the obvious? Right past what we have all begun to forget. Or know how to access.

That being, that at its most basic and authentic, self-care is built in. Innate. Hardwired into the nervous system. Into every cell, organ and tissue layer. Think about it. What then? For if it is built in, that means we all already know how to do it. It means that even if we have strayed, even if we never got it through our upbringing and environment, it can never be lost to us. It also means that we, and no other, are the ultimate authority in terms of caring for ourselves, and that all practitioners, medical suggestions, edicts, trends, research and fads are never the real source of what it is that we need to be well. Can these things serve as potential support? Sure. The final word? Never.

How could it be any other way? Without the ability to care for ourselves, and with it the built in knowledge of “how-to,” there would be no human species. For without care, there is no Life. Sadly, if you look closely enough, “no Life” is just where we are hurtling towards as a species when you witness the rates of cancer, heart disease, debilitating depression and more. This is not bad luck, bad genes or just the way it is now. This is a result of an entire species turning its back on what is most natural to who we are; the ability to care for ourselves and others.

Maybe, we are at this point to finally remind us all that our health and well-being resides within, and that what we are seeing is the end point of hundreds of years of being pulled into a kind of inner blindness. Blinded to the absolute biological Truth that the Urge for Life to continue and to care for itself lives within. And can only be extinguished at death.

Walls

 

I recently read an article by a bodyworker who was talking about how we build false walls and false floors in our fascia and muscles to compensate for postural imbalances. Basically, all of the ways that we get ourselves positioned incorrectly, and then come to lean into those false constructions to free up the dominant side of the body so that it is available for action. I so know this process in my own body. And I so know how this way of holding myself both reflects and entrenches old, unhealthy states of mind.

In other words, how the walls in my body represent the ones I have built up inside of my own mind to keep me feeling safe. Balanced. Prepared and ready for action. Walls that have been created to give me a sense of security. Whether or not that is actually so having nothing to do with the maintenance of them in my life. Even going to great lengths to hold onto what does not work. What hurts. What is faulty.

Which is why coming to recognize that there has never been a single hurt that I have ever experienced as an adult that wasn’t connected to the past, has changed my Life.

For if you can come to see that how you view what is happening to you now as being somehow connected to long ago, you will have taken a most important step to freeing yourself up from the false constructions that set the stage for why you suffer now. This is not a rationale for staying stuck in the past. Instead, it is a reminder that what happens in the mind happens in the body, and that what happens in the body happens in the mind.

That we can go in through either doorway to change all of us.

Try it. Find one thing that bothers you now. Something you feel slightly hurt or disappointed by. Come up with a headline. For instance: “Feeling Unsupported.” Then, follow the bread crumbs back. Where in the past have you felt like this before? Drop all the names, the places, and the circumstances. What feels familiar to you from then to now? Name what it was for you, and then move. Dance it. Shake it. Wiggle and writhe it. Move your body in random and unusual ways until you feel like something has completed itself.

Then, watch yourself throughout the rest of your day. Is how what you lean into, or what is dominant, different somehow?