How can we, as women who share many of the same symptoms (fatigue, insomnia, depression, joint pain), embark on the road toward self when the line of communication between our bodies, minds and spirits has been disconnected?
Centuries ago, the shift from women not being viewed as equal to men resulted in a shaming of women’s bodies, witnessed still today in advertisements for feminine hygiene products and in medical textbooks describing female physiology in negative language. And how have women responded to being shamed? By disconnecting from our bodies. And yet it is our bodies that are the very source of energy and joy for our lives. When women do not listen to our bodies speaking to us, possibly through hot flashes, infertility or pain, our bodies will speak LOUDER, creating disease — perhaps anemia or autoimmune disease or osteoporosis.
How do women reclaim the ability of listening to and hearing what our minds, bodies, and spirits are saying to us?
Let me share my personal story of how, and at what price, I paid to learn the lesson. I willed myself to make it through medical school, pass medical boards, open a practice, create a marriage and become a mother. Lab tests indicated that my body was depleted. When my symptoms turned to diagnosable conditions, I decided that it was time to change my direction. I stopped taking supplements, stopped trying to find the cure and I slowed down to listen to my body. As I listened, I heard a new story, rich in color and depth, and, there was a shift in my thinking.
A shift in thought means that when we are feeling lousy, when we might have reached for chocolate or the TV remote, we now sit and notice, “I feel lousy.” As Sobonfue Some explains in her book, “Falling from Grace, we all must fall from grace in order to feel the joy of being in grace. When we fall, we can either berate our loved ones or ourselves, or, we can give ourselves a hug and reach out to our community for support. And when a friend is having a bad day, we can either try to fix her, or, we can step forward and listen, witnessing the beauty in her fall from grace. For, when we are in those dark places, feeling our worst, we are growing — transforming.
So what does it mean to stay present, to listen to our bodies, to ground ourselves? As an informed woman, (I was modern dancer, a Pilate’s instructor, a women’s health doctor; I have been to counselors and massage therapists), I have never completely understood what “grounding” myself really means or how to actually “stay present” all day. It has taken me a long time and a lot of practice to figure it out. The first step is accepting those dark places when you feel hopeless, sad or depressed. These are actual periods of growth; if you stay with the feeling, you are staying close to your Spirit; if you avoid these periods or let yourself fall victim to them, you will deny yourself the process of transformation.
So now that we are listening to our bodies, how do we create the connection between Mind, Body and Spirit? I think that the answer is through the simple practice of daily rituals. Our bodies, like the earth, require rhythm to sustain; we can use the natural rhythms of our bodies and of nature to create balance. Go to sleep and wake at the same time each day. Eat at regular intervals each day. Say, “Thank you for our food and for each other”, before eating. Say, “Goodnight moon”, each evening. I started doing these rituals for my children, and now I do them for myself. I have rediscovered an appreciation for mealtime and an excitement around the phases of the moon. I rejoice each time she returns as a sliver of lightness, and that 30 second celebration connects me to myself and to my environment, making me a healthier woman. It’s that simple.
Use the natural rhythm and energetic potential of the female body; bleeding is a time to let go of thoughts and emotions that you no longer want to be carrying. Take a moment, placing your hands over your uterus. If you are no longer cycling, if you are pregnant, nursing a child, menopausal, or have had a hysterectomy, you can use the phase of the moon to direct which phase you are in; practice your releasing ritual during the new moon. Now, with your hands over your uterus, ask your body what it wants to let go of and see those things flowing with your blood (or water or light) into the earth. The earth will receive your waste and use it as nourishment.
During the second part of your cycle, or with the full moon, your body is energetically preparing for gestation — perhaps a baby or a project or new thought patterns. Use this time to set an intention for what you want to create in your life — what you want to plant a seed for. Each morning or evening, place your hands over your uterus and imagine watering that seed. Honor yourself by giving thanks to your body for giving you this opportunity.
Many times, we let go of the things in life that we really want to nourish; we let go of our space, honoring other’s needs before our own. When life transitions are acknowledged and appreciated, the body feels nurtured and the mind rests. Spend this month celebrating your body. If you need assistance in connecting with yourself, seek help. Finding the connection between Mind, Body and Spirit means creating a new dialogue with yourself. It is a process. You can find more connection in your life by creating rituals around birth, death, menses, menopause, and change of careers. Each simple act you take to bring awareness into your life creates a bridge of connection and support between yourself and your community, ultimately setting up a foundation for a healthier you.