Being with the body

My health hasn’t been the greatest lately. I have to keep reminding myself to stay centred in the present moment and not get caught up in thoughts about past or future. Not easy to do especially when anxiety takes over, but I am learning more and more than the state of my physical body influences my mental health as much as the opposite: there is no separation. For instance, I have problems with my adrenal glands. They don’t produce enough cortisol so I struggle to manage stress and my body tries to over-compensate with flooding with adrenaline. This creates anxiety because my body is literally gearing up to fight. It also has the effect of intense crying; I suspect this is to release the energy associated with the release of adrenaline.

But I’m okay. In the moment I’m okay. This moment is all there is and I am connected to Spirit. I know that my soul is whole and free even if my fragmented mind and struggling body can’t always realise it. There has been a lot of stress in my life lately – my dog having a stroke, my mother being involved in a car accident, the pain of Christmas, and plain overdoing it to try and manage those emotions. Now is the time to bring everything home to the now and trust in life and in myself.

To anyone having a bad time with health or otherwise, I feel you. It’s a long hard journey, especially when well meaning people ask whether you’ve tried this or that and you’ve literally tried everything, so it brings you down. But this is your personal journey, as it is mine, and all we can really do is listen to our bodies and let them be our messengers. The body is in the present moment; it reflects what we think and feel. Our job is to notice and be with what is happening. If the body is saying it is under attack/threat, we can feel compassion for that state of being or at least accept it. Not resisting it, not pretending it’s not happening, but being fully with it. It’s really not easy, it’s painful and frustrating and devastating, but this is what I feel brings the greatest peace.

When the present moment hurts

All spiritual teachings point to the wisdom of being in the now because, in fact, this is the only place we can ever be; only our minds create the illusion that we could be anywhere else.

However, it is very natural for our minds to want to escape pain and suffering, not realising that there is nowhere we can actually go (short of being in real threat or danger whereby our physical bodies will react accordingly).

Sometimes the present moment hurts. I am in such a moment. It may sound trivial compared to a lot of problems and believe me I know more than most, but I feel very fragile. My back is hurting. I’ve probably strained it through sitting too long in the wrong posture but it’s been the same on and off for a couple of weeks. I went to the hairdressers yesterday and found the half an hour sitting on a chair to wait for my hair colour to take was torturous for my back. I wanted to stand up and walk around and probably should have done, but somehow felt I couldn’t (I can be quite a shy person).

I’m also exhausted and not feeling well generally. My immune system feels inflammatory with lots of aches, pains, stomach spasms, weakness and cold-like symptoms. This isn’t unusual for me at all and I can deal with it. It’s all part of my health conditions which I have had for many years. But the worst is the effect on my mental health because during flare ups I feel very low. I suspect that the inflammation hits my brain and makes me want to be anywhere else but in this body and in this moment. I am prone to depression (which I used to struggle with constantly) but have come to realise that rather than my depression causing my physical problems as is so commonly assumed, my situation is the other way around: my physical state is causing the depression. As soon as the inflammation eases its hold on my system, I can place a large sum of money (if I had some) on my depression easing too. And it always does.

As much as the present moment hurts, resisting it does not help. I know that, yet it can be so difficult to avoid doing so. I don’t want this pain, who would? The way I deal with this is to accept the resistance. I don’t have to like or want what’s happening. I add another layer of awareness and compassion to those struggling, hurting parts of my being. I feel the resistance in my body as a real, tangible sensation. At this point I usually find tears, and I let myself cry. It is powerful to be with that emotion, to accept it with love, and let it go.

I want to share this because it’s natural to have down days and moments, even (and maybe especially?) for those of us on a spiritual path. I can fall into the trap of spiritual perfectionism whereby I think that as I’m aware of my true nature as a spiritual being I shouldn’t feel depressed or sick anymore. Not true! I am living a human life. I’m still at the mercy of this body with its chemical processes and limitations. And sure, maybe one day when I’m further along my path I may experience much better health, physical and/or emotional, but I may not. The future doesn’t exist except as an illusion. This IS my path, right here, right now, pain and all.

Soul of a rose

I finished reading a beautiful novel today about a lady who was diagnosed with Dementia and began to forget her daily routine, followed by people she knew well, then eventually her own family. The beauty of the story lay in its reminder of the power of the eternal present, in what is real, fresh and true, in the here and now. Most of all, it’s a story about enduring love even as bodies and minds disintegrate and fade away.

Out of the many beautiful quotes, this one is my favourite. It’s deeply poignant and sad on a human level but speaks of the deeper truth behind all feelings and experiences. The lady had forgotten who her husband was, the person she married many years earlier, who had tried hard to support her throughout her devastating diagnosis and rapid deterioration:

‘And Dennis realised then that the book entitled Dennis had already fallen off the shelf. He wondered what the point was of coming here, week after week, year after year. What was the point of it all? He looked at the pale pink roses on the carpet at his feet and wondered why he bothered. They had long ceased to bring her back to him. He lifted his gaze to her guileless face, to the sweet smile that hovered uncertainly upon it, and something tugged inside his heart.

And then he knew. He knew with a certainty that rose in him like a powerful wave, an indestructible wave of unconditional love, and he understood. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know who he was, because he knew who she was. She was his Goldie, his beloved, beautiful, irreplaceable Goldie, and she always would be.’

Whether or not the author intended it, I felt the Divine truth behind those words, the realisation that even though I forget the truth of who I am and the fact I am Spirit, Spirit does not forget me. I am a soul who comes from Spirit, which is perfect Love. The amount of times that I have reflected on my life thus far and wondered what the point of it all was and felt so hopeless because things didn’t turn out in any way close to how I’d tried so hard for them to be, and yet, all the while I am loved eternally for being me. I don’t need to do or be any different, only realise it.

We experience life through our minds and emotions but they are not us. Our inner being, our soul, is whole, enduring, love and beauty itself. In the early stages of her condition, Marigold, the main character, draws upon the scent of a rose to remind herself of her husband’s enduring love no matter what. As she starts to deteriorate, she reflects with sadness that she will no longer remember her husband bringing her the beautiful flowers, but then realises that while she won’t have the memories, which is undeniably sad, she WILL still experience the beauty of the rose in the moment, which is all she can ever do. The symbolism of this takes my breath away. Our inner being is that rose: Pure Love itself.

I don’t intend to romanticise Dementia. I have no direct experience of it but I know it is devastating. To effectively lose a person you love without them actually dying is just beyond dreadful. I have some experience of the latter, having lost my father to cancer some years ago and watched his mind and body shut down. And yet, even then I was aware of him becoming more alive than he ever had as the rest of him faded away. It was some comfort knowing that despite appearances, love always endures. It is who we are.

In another beautiful quote, Marigold’s deceased father points this out:

“Don’t you see Goldie?” he said calmly. “You’ll always be you. No disease can take that away. You’re eternal. Nothing can destroy you.”

Amen to that.

In case anyone is interested in reading this powerful novel it’s called ‘Here and Now’ by Santa Montefiore. (I’m not in any way connected to the author or publishers, I just love it!)