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Be In Your Body

Lissa Rankin's picture

inbodyThis is one of a series of posts written during my retreat at Harbin Hot Springs last week.

I’m at Harbin Hot Springs on a much needed retreat with my dear friend, Mojo Mentor, and Green Goddess Tricia Barrett, and Tricia said (in the most loving way possible), “Lissa, you don’t spend much time in your body, do you?”

Of course I spend time in my body! I mean, I walk around in it every day. I eat into it. I pee and poop from it. My husband and I have sex with it. But I know that’s not what she means. I know she means that I don’t really inhabit it fully- and she’s right. I tend to live in my mind, which is a happy, lively, energizing place to be. My whole life has trained me to live in my mind.

Living In My Mind

Certainly, medical school claims to be about the body, but you don’t succeed in becoming a doctor by living in your body. You get through the agony of medical education by denying the body- overcoming the body, even- by living in your mind. Mind over matter, right? You ignore your body when it pleas for food in the midst of a 12-hour surgery. When your body tells you it wants to sleep, you tell it to shut up- you have work to do. When your body cries in pain as you’re leaning over a split open belly cavity to hold a retractor during surgery, you reprimand it for being so weak. The surgeon’s credo affirms this attitude- Eat when you can, sleep when you can, have sex when you can, and don’t fuck with the pancreas. But nowhere in there does it say, “Be in your body.” No. When you’re a doctor, bodies are a nuisance. Ah…the irony. I certainly became a master at denying mine.

Learning To Inhabit My Body

So here I am, after nearly two decades of living in my mind, learning to reinhabit my body. I’m starting slow. Today, I rested in a warm mineral bath, noticing the tiny bubbles that collected on my skin and made me feel like I was swimming in champagne. I felt the stretch in my muscles as I eased into various asanas during my yoga practice. I felt my stomach gurgle after I ate a meal. I noticed the tension in my shoulders from spending the last few months leaned over a computer, writing a book.

Then I tried to inhabit my body in more advanced ways. I tuned into the energy within me and felt the tingles in my fingers as I practiced the Reiki exercises Mojo Mentor Alice Langholt taught me. I tried channeling my chi, starting from my perineum, moving my life force all the way up the back of my spine and all the way down the front of my body. I slowed down- and I felt.

Feeling It All

This can be tough. When you inhabit your body, you’re more likely to feel everything- the full spectrum of pain. Muscles may ache. Emotional stuff may bubble forth. When you start to live in your body, you feel it all more intensely. But you get to feel more joy too, more zest, more passion, more LIFE. I’m just starting to get that.

Tricia is helping me with exercises to help ground me. She's putting down grounding cords when she notices me flying around the astral planes. She gifted me with this beautiful retreat to Harbin. And she said that when I was dancing last night, I was in my body and it was a beautiful thing to behold. If only I can figure out how to stay here!

What about you Pinkies? Are you good at staying in your body or do you escape the confines of your earthly life by living in your head? Do you have any great tips to share with those of us who are just learning to do this? Fill us in and share your experiences.

Learning to live in my skin (and thanking Tricia for all her guidance),



Dr. Susan Bernstein's picture

@amy -- ah, yes, Women Who

@amy -- ah, yes, Women Who Think...A LOT! I know this place. I'm in it today. Cogitating about a new relationship and what's happening or not, about my coaching practice, about the book I'm reading...mental energy sometimes gets to be too much. And sometimes, confusing.

My neighbor has a bumper sticker on his truck that reads: "Don't believe everything you think." I'd like to have a bumper sticker that says, "Trust what you feel."

That requires actually allowing myself to feel...the bubbling in my stomach, and the sort of acid-y burn down there...if I refrain from analyzing and interpreting what those sensations "mean," then I realize that it's just what's happening. And I can be grateful that I am awake and alert and alive.

Thanks for the reminder of gratitude. I'm grateful to you for being in this conversation.

LOVE, Susan

amy's picture

I love these reflections on

I love these reflections on what I think is a fairly common problem among our tribe of Women Who Think. For me, it's all about gratitude. I am grateful for my mind, which enables me to process the information I accumulate and use it to further deepen my connections to my Self and to other people. I am equally grateful for my body, which informs my mind in subtle and not so subtle ways, and enables those same connections to be deeper, richer and more powerful.

I think my mind knows the gratitude I feel for it. I hereby pledge to show my body how thankful I am, by spending many more intentional moments IN it!

Thank you for bringing this to light, Amy

Lissa Rankin's picture

I'm with you, Megan. Caroline

I'm with you, Megan. Caroline told me I hang out in the astral planes, flying around the spirit world, considering my body basically inconsequential. My poor body. Committed to being grounded, Lissa

Megan Monique Harner's picture

I can definitely say that the

I can definitely say that the only time I truly inhibit my body is when I am meditating. When I got my intuitive reading done by Caroline I was told that I even leave my body whilst I sleep!

Living and being IN my body is certainly a challenge I would like to take on. Lord knows there is much good that will come of it.

Thanks Lissa!

Lissa Rankin's picture

Thank you dear Susan. You are

Thank you dear Susan. You are SO right. And yes, Monsieur Descartes- living in the mind serves only to force our bodies to speak loudly to us, often in the form of disease. If only we could tune into to the more subtle nuances of how our bodies speak to us.

It's a challenge for me. Like I said, my entire medical education trained me to ignore the body. But I want to fully inhabit this life, body and all....

Dr. Susan Bernstein's picture

Sweet Lissa...Love what

Sweet Lissa...Love what you've shared. I'm reminded how much our culture makes it easy to live just in our heads...with our iPhones & Blackberry's, paying the bills, scheduling appointments...we use a lot more mental power when we do that, compared with physical or emotional or spiritual power.

I want to call Rene Descartes to task -- he captured the sentiment of his time when he expressed, "I think, therefore I am."

Um, excuse me, Monsieur Descartes, but thinking is just one aspect of who you are (were). I'm not too thrilled that you helped to create a mind-body split. So did the Industrial Revolution. So did the invention of light, so we could push ourselves and work all hours of the night.

To be in the body is a feat of overcoming much of our cultural conditioning, to overlook or sweep under the carpet what we are truly experiencing. Headache? Take an aspirin. Don't ask yourself what that headache might be telling you...

Or do. Do ask that headache what it's trying to signal to you. Do tune into that gurgling stomach and get curious about "what's up?"

It's a quality of non-judgmental, open curiosity, rather like in meditation, that I encourage people to cultivate about their bodily sensations and emotions. And an ability to notice what's happening in a given moment. To bring awareness not just to thoughts, but to emotions and sensations. Yes, that can open up new information, and not always shiny-happy-perfect missives from the body. Sometimes unpleasant memories surface. Sometimes we'll feel down and blue. But if we keep breathing, consciously, as we feel whatever we're feeling in the moment, we'll move moment to moment. And stand on our own two feet, and sense into our next steps.

Here's to breathing in and inspiring your own next step, Lissa, and all you Pinkies!

Love, Susan

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