It seems like each week I discover a new rabbit hole of natural healing possibilities to research. It can be overwhelming sometimes but mostly it gives me a sense of hope and purpose to know there is always a new method or tool to try. Lately, I have been exploring flower remedies as a way to support myself emotionally. I have also been diving deep into the work of Lissa Rankin. She is a doctor who believes our mind is the most powerful – and often completely ignored – element to healing our body. She has so many fascinating ideas about healing. A lovely friend lent me her book Mind Over Medicine and I listened to podcasts like this one where she says, if you have reached a healing plateau, ask yourself: ‘What is my body saying no to?’
This question really struck a chord for me. Lissa claims that when she asks her patients with chronic or terminal illness what their body is saying no to, they always have an answer. Maybe their body is saying no to a toxic relationship, or working long hours, or holding resentment towards a family member. For me, my body is saying no to working in a full-time job that is physically and emotionally draining, no to intense exercise workouts, no to big social events and no to basically any situation where I am putting other people’s needs before my own.
Lissa also says even when her patient’s know it could be the key to them healing and feeling well again, most of the time they still don’t want to do it. Even when I’m in crippling pain, I am still worried about letting people down, upsetting someone or failing to meet their needs. Our body holds our emotions, our stress, our trauma. If it was easy to let go of what was not serving us, we would have done it already. So how exactly can we go about overcoming these ingrained mental patterns that are creating painful physical patterns? Well, here are some tools I have been working with…
1) Learn what ‘NO’ feels like in my body.
One very simple technique I heard about a while ago was getting a friend to ask you simple yes or no questions. For example, “Do you like peanut butter?” “Do you enjoy romantic comedy films?” As you answer the question, you feel into your body and after several questions have been asked you begin to discern how a “no” and a “yes” feels in your body. It is sometimes described as a physical sense of expansion or contraction. Basically, when figuring out what “no” feels like in your body, any activity that makes us more aware of our bodily sensations and emotions is helpful. For me, meditation and conscious dance have helped me to know myself, my body and my true wants and needs far more deeply.
2) Remember the long-game
Sometimes, in the short-term, ignoring our own wants and needs seems like the best option. As a recovering people-pleaser, I know this all too well. It’s easier to say yes even when our body is screaming no, just so we don’t upset other people. However, right now I have a long-term goal that comes before all else: I want to feel vibrant, energised and well. So when my body says no to something, I do my best to honour this as a signpost towards better health. My body knows what it needs to heal, and my healing is more important than my fear of how other’s might react when I say no to something.
3) Have the courageous conversations
It can be so scary to ask for what we need when we are used to ignoring our own needs. However, it seems clear to me that I am not going to feel better if I stay stuck in the patterns that made me sick in the first place. I cannot continue to push through things that feel physically, emotionally or mentally stressful, overwhelming or toxic, because I will almost immediately suffer the consequences. So I am learning to take a deep breath and communicate my needs to those around me, let people know when I am not okay and even set firm but loving boundaries (eek!) to protect my energy. This requires courageous conversations with co-workers, friends, family members, maybe even total strangers.
4) Turn up the yes
Sine we are asking what our body is saying no to, it only makes sense that we should also ask what makes our body say yes! It is so important to follow our “yeses” on the healing journey, even if they don’t make much sense at the time. My body said yes to flower remedies, even though I did not logically understand what they were or how they worked, and they were a total a game-changer. Does your body say yes to a particular book or healing modality? Does your body say yes to more sunshine, hugs, chocolate, nature time, sleep-ins, cute animal videos (maybe that last one is just me)? It is so easy to get lost in the serious pursuit of health, but we all know the healing power of joy and love and laughter. It’s what makes life worth living, and we do not have to put our happiness on hold – in fact, our health might just depend on us cultivating even the tiniest bit of happiness right here, right now.