We often think we are powerless to change our circumstances, particularly when it comes to our physical bodies. We lack the belief or faith that we have the ability to change our bodies. I mean, they are bodies… made up of bone, muscles, nerves, tissues, organs, etc. How can I possibly change that?
But in one way or another we do change our bodies all the time. We eat too much and gain weight and then maybe go on a diet and lose weight. We exercise to build muscles, tone and strength. Or we don’t get enough physical exercise and our bodies weaken. We injure our self and that may change how the body functions. We may develop disease. We hold lots of stress in our bodies. In fact, our bodies are an amalgamation of all that we do, what happens to us in the course of living our lives, how we deal with stress in our lives, and how we hold emotions in our body, etc. So, whether we realize it or not, our bodies are reflecting and functioning because of what we do or don’t do with it. So why do we often believe we do not have the power to change it?
We’ve been taught to belief that we have limited power regarding our health and wellness. Instead, we give that power to experts outside of ourselves. Now, I am not saying those experts are not necessary. They are for certain circumstances. But there are many circumstances, where they are clueless to deal with an issue, particularly regarding chronic issues. They may prescribe medication, which may mask the symptoms but bring with it many unhealthy side effects and ultimately, do nothing to alter the circumstances. We may need experts to help us understand what is happening and teach us the tools to change. But this is often not the case. They do not teach us and empower us. We end up relying on someone outside of ourselves to tell us what is wrong and then fix it. But oftentimes, the real healing comes from within us, through understanding what and why, and taking a more proactive approach to working with changing our circumstances.
We all have issues in our bodies. Some may be more profound than others but each of us has our struggles and challenges. Each of us has at least one issue that we struggle with over and over, through the years. I have a personal experience to share, which may shed some light on what I am talking about.
I was a migraine sufferer for many years, since childhood. I sought help with no avail. One of the benefits I achieved from doing the Alexander work was the ability to understand what triggered these headaches. Now, I didn’t have a clue about any of this until I became more cognizant of my body and myself.
As I became more and more aware of my body, I began to recognize certain patterns that would provoke or precede the headaches. I would tighten in my thoracic spine and neck in a particular way and clench my jaw. It felt like my upper/middle spine became a locked brace. I began to realize that this pattern took hold in my body anywhere from 2-5 days prior to the headache. For a long time, I did not have a clue how to change the pattern. Once the headache started, all I could do was to ride it out. It wasn’t pleasant, as anyone who suffers these debilitating headaches knows. When they came on, I was unable to function in the world. I had to stay in a dark, quiet room for 24-48 hours while it ran its course. I soon realized there wasn’t much I could do once the full-blown headache emerged but I had some wiggle room in the day’s prior.
Pain is a great teacher, albeit an often difficult and uncomfortable experience. Pain shows us when something is not right. It is a warning signal to us. We often try to ignore it, in the hope it will go away and just plow through it. Or we try to numb it by taking a pill. We fight it, we hate it, and we get angry about it. But this type of relationship to pain is unconstructive and often increases the pain because we end up tightening more around the pain and in other areas of the body in reaction to the pain. In addition to understanding the patterns in my body that set off the headaches, I also needed to come face to face with what the pain was trying to teach me. My life was out of out of balance; I lived a life of extremes, with little room for calm. The pain was teaching me to bring my life and myself into better balance. There was a certain response level to certain stresses that I became aware of, which also played a role in the onset of the headaches.
Becoming more and more aware of this, I tried taking a more proactive approach. When I started to feel this particular tightening pattern in my body, I took steps to release it with the tools and skills I learned by doing the work. I learned to stop and take time to be with myself in a calm and comforting way and I learned how to ease my mental/emotional state.
And guess what I discovered…. I could prevent a migraine. This was a monumental achievement for me. I almost couldn’t believe it. I could actually stop a migraine headache, something that I had most of my life. I could actually change my body/mind to help heal me.
Now, I didn’t always do what I knew I should. I was lazy or couldn’t bother taking the time. But then I paid for it dearly. After trial and error, I realized it was worth whatever I needed to do because it sparred me having to live through that horrendous pain. So I took the steps necessary and I gained the upper hand with the migraine headaches.
I can’t tell you how empowering this was for me. I actually had choice in how I responded in myself to the world around me. I knew I was on the right track moving forward. I have been convinced over and over that we do have the power to heal ourselves, with the right tools and the right states of mind.