Monday, September 21, 2015

Body and Mind

I do a lot of my living right in my own head. I noticed yesterday when I was out for a run that I was thinking about all sorts of other stuff besides the actual running. I'm taking a once a week class and this week we talked about living in our bodies rather than living so much of life in our minds.

One reason I drank was to escape my own mind. That thing is big and powerful and always at work. I drank to forget who I was, why I hurt, and to get some peace and quiet. If I had enough to drink I didn't even remember that I existed and that, somehow, felt nice- even though it caused me no end of grief and regret around all the other hours I wasn't drunk.

What about my body? What about it? I've pretty much avoided it my whole life: even though it counts for my whole presence I discounted it as a source of healing or grace. I abused it and hated it and existed solely in my head and forgot about my sweet body.

As I head into the last bit of my third year sober I have discovered something: I like my body. I like it because I am finally thinking with it instead of just my brain. I don't ask my brain if it wants cheesecake or another cup of tea anymore- I ask my body. My body has an intelligence all it's own. It knows without debate what I really want. My brain can suck me into an endless internal debate that usually ends with me doing the exact opposite of what my body wants to do. Perhaps they're like sisters who can't help but fight and the mind big sister will win if the body doesn't speak up. Ego and voice of reason.

As much as I love the thinking my brain can do that shit can be exhausting. All the thinking I do about things and the actual feeling I don't do about things. How to live in my body and not live in my mind. How to feel the power of hurt, of joy, and not just feel the thought of it. Pinpointing where in my body I feel something: anxious about a family gathering? That's in my shoulders, in my jaw. Then I can breathe into my shoulders, open my jaw. Take charge of the anxiety and feel it for what it is, not start thinking about the last family lunch that went wrong and replaying scenes and conversations but being here now. Breathing. Feeling my lungs expand. Getting quiet for a moment. When I concentrate on identifying where I feel something in my body it makes it real- and reality is something I can relate to. It's a lot easier to think to myself "Relax your jaw" than it is to try to fix something in my head that happened a week ago.

There is something so powerful about separating the body and the mind and then allowing them to work together. Boiling it down to the physical and then seeing where you are at the moment. And then thinking about your big mind (your higher self) and your little mind (your ego) and how to make them work with your body.

Our bodies are such a battlefield- especially for women. We are taught that they should look this one way. That we are not beautiful. That our bodies can be hurt, that we should hide. I have struggled with the way my body looks my whole life- I have always felt "too"- too fat, too short, too plain.

I willfully harmed myself steadily and purposefully for almost all my life and still- here we are: me and my body. I drank to ease my mind without giving one thought to how it felt in my body. I ate too many cookies and made excuses for just one more and forgot that my body, when unhappy, would show it. Then I'd be mad at my body for showing the evidence of my troubled mind. I would be furious at the 16 in my jeans and forget that even with all this abuse my body still showed up every day doing the best it could given the circumstances. Heart beating. Lungs breathing. Creating the motions of waking, of mothering, of living. Despite all I could do to make it quit it just kept going.

That's the thing I guess, really: to keep going. To take a fine example from your showing up every day body. My brain will take me places, dark ones, that my body has never thought of. I can be brave enough to visit and heal the dark places because my body can step me into the light. It can tell me too much, or press on, or I need a break. If I pay attention I can feel what my life is trying to tell me rather than think it to death.

It's taken me such a long time to make friends with this flesh and bones miracle that makes I'm only now just just learning to know when I need a rest, or a minute, or to be alone or together. To recognize that my shoulders are creeping up to my ears or that I'm holding my breath. There's a magic in these little details: consciously putting my shoulders down, the exhalation of breath. It makes it easier not to try escape mad dash with my inner -aholic when I feel physically what I'm running from. Touching the physical event gives me my own power in the story.


  1. "your big mind (your higher self) and your little mind (your ego) and how to make them work with your body." I loved this :) And as I read your final paragraph I became of my hunched shoulders and encouraged them to relax! ;) xx

  2. that should have read became *aware* of! D'oh time for bed :D

  3. It was there all along - the way out of the mind is through the body.
    Love where you're headed with this - the whole grounding of the mind through the body. I resisted my body and held it in a sort of contempt and treated it like it would always perform like a puppy seeking approval. Now, as I bend deep into a stretch or break out in a run, I appreciate how my body has kept on working through all those toxic days and nights - and now scuttles me along like a true middle aged man in lycra.

    1. Maybe it's something that comes along with getting older or maybe just being sober but man- I really appreciate how my body works- that it works. How amazing it is to just be sitting here typing this :) I like these middle ages. It's interesting how the focus is shifting from my head to my whole self.

  4. My body's voice needs to get louder, the brain's voice is still telling it that ice cream is necessary for happiness.

  5. I actually started crying toward the end of this post. I'm on day #15 of my journey. 70 years old. A high achieving heavy drinker (I can't say that other word). You have touched my soul.