As far back as I can remember exercise has been at best uninteresting to me. I disliked gym in school, and participated just enough to get by. In my late 20’s a friend and yoga teacher introduced me to a gentle style of yoga that I was able to embrace.
After a car accident I returned to the studio but I was never able to break through the emotional pain that I felt when I came face-to-face with my physical setbacks. A few weeks later I quit, never to return again.
Years later, pain in my feet and ankles when I was barefoot led to setting Hula dancing aside. Eventually I was fitted for orthodics and was able to move without pain again, but just knowing that exercise is good for me has never been enough to get me going. In fact I lost 32 pounds last year expecting that at some point I would have to give in and exercise- but I managed to accomplish it without the dreaded “e” word.
I was not ready to add it into the happiness progression when it was first suggested. I tried for a few days- then paused. I gave it another go- then stopped. Finally I devoted a spot in my office to roll out my very dusty blue rectangular (True Health) yoga mat. I got the ball rolling by choosing just 3 poses to do in 10 minutes or so.
Each week when I add an action to my POA card I evaluate if any of the actions on the card need to be tweaked in anyway. Lovingly listen to my body has remained on the card for about 6 weeks even though I have rarely been doing it. I decided to give it one last chance this week.
In August of 2016, I was practicing listening to my body and feeling good about it when I broke my foot. You might think this would give me all the more opportunity to listen. I was deflated and I shelved the listening project. Today I realized that this is probably why I have resisted listening recently. Since then I have been linking listening to injury.
So what shifted? I woke with a pain in my neck. I couldn’t think of any thing I did the day before to cause it. Perhaps I did it in my sleep? For a change I started my day on the yoga mat. My neck was asking for attention- so I listened. It wanted to be stretched this way and NOT that way. After more of this, it wanted some of that. A door in my mind opened. These movements were all yoga moves that my body remembered and easily retrieved from my time in the studio. My friend had put together a book of poses for me. I have moved so many times in the 22 years since that class- I was not sure if it was on the shelf with my books or if I just imagined it there. I found it and brought it back to my mat. On the spot I added two more poses to my yoga routine. All because I listened to my body– I had now painlessly doubled the amount of exercise I was getting.
Later during a Sit I heard, “ You have made things so complicated.” With this- I felt so much energy release in the back of my head and neck. Then I got, “Listen to your body. That is your ONE job today.”
The trajectory of my day dramatically changed from that moment forth. It was not a day I had planned to do nothing. In fact, I had a decent sized list of things I had intended to accomplish. I was Sitting in the path of the sun streaming through my window. My mind said, “Look at the list!”, followed by, “Stay in the sun!” I was about to listen to my mind when I realized I had to ask if my body wanted that. YES! A book I had been wanting to read was sitting on a table within reach. After 10 minutes of reading the sun disappeared and I asked what did my body want now?
A gentle game of tug of war was played between my mind and my body all day long. I had to keep reminding my mind that I had just ONE job and it was to listen to my body. Periodically I looked at my list and asked if my body wanted to do any of the things on it. At times a nice dance between mind and body occurred. My body would say it was time to go eat. My mind would respond is there anything on the list you could do on your way to or from the kitchen? Many things were accomplished when they agreed.
Deep listening changed not only what I did, but also how I did it. When in the process of preforming a task I would check in. My mind very much wanted to get it done, feel the satisfaction of checking it off the list, and move on to the next thing. My body was interested in being comfortable in the doing. That meant at times adjusting my position, slowing down, and more than once stopping (and resting) in the middle of the task. My ONE job is to listen I kept reminding myself. It is NOT the doing or accomplishing anything but listening that counts.
My mind really likes to be in control, thinks it knows what is best, and doesn’t really care to hear another voice/vote.
Being in the present moment through listening to my body was not easy, but it was pleasurable. (As an added bonus at the end of the day most of my list was complete).