Oh my goodness did my body put up a fight against coming back to New York. I was wracked with pains, hot flashes, headaches, intense itching all manner of mini plagues the minute I sat down on the plane back to New York. It was almost comic. ‘Alright,’ I said to myself. ‘I get the message. You would rather stay here. But unfortunately [the plane had just taken off] there is nothing much I can do about it right at this moment. But I promise, dear body, I hear you. I will do my best.’
Listening to the wisdom of the body has saved my life once already. Dr Gabor Mate’s invaluable book When the Body Says No was a mainstay of my healing when I was recovering from Multiple Sclerosis. Dr Mate worked with hundreds of dying patients in hospice, listened to their stories and emotional upheavals and concluded that illness is the body’s way of getting our attention when we are living out of balance and suffering chronic stress. For Mate, trying to heal pain with upbeat affirmations and ‘positive thinking’ isn’t a solution. Recovery involves looking at what is out of balance, what boundaries are broken, where you need to say no and poor coping behaviors learned in childhood. It is tough medicine. Of course, it is much easier to take a pill, mask the symptoms and shut the body up than change your life. Nowadays I regularly forget how important listening to the body is (who wants to listen to pain?) but it is as important as navigating by the light of the heart.