More than anything, befriending your body is a practice. Recognizing what your body is asking for, noticing your feelings around what it’s asking for, getting curious about whether that is true, and then taking action to tend to the body in a way that works for you.
When I look back on 2023, the following list are a collection of the actions I took, allowed me to befriend my body even more this year:
Take a weekly walk in the woods. I am blessed to live on the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish peoples; xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, a temperate rain forest. As soon as I cross the boundary into the trees I can feel the change of vibration—in the air, on the ground, in myself. I walk for a few hours, until I notice a shift—in the way I walk, the thoughts that come to mind, and the desires that arise. Grateful, I place a hand on a tree, or get into the water and speak to love, god, nature, cry a few tears, say thank you. This is a spiritual practice, a relational check-in and a week without a walk in the woods doesn’t feel as ‘balanced’, like something is missing.
Accept help from my friends and share my truth with them. One of the ways I used to cope with life when it went sideways was by pretending that everything was fine—fake it till you make it—fitting for a performing artist, but not healthy for relationships. The unintended consequence was that I was ended up hiding my pain, hiding myself from people I desperately wanted connection with. I now make a practice of sharing my heartache and my joy with friends so that when they show me love, I know from deep within that they love me despite all my challenges.
Go to dance class. Taking up space and moving big gives me joy. But there were years where it didn’t. Where I was too exhausted to stand on one leg, too dizzy to roll around, to pissed off to be in the room, too vulnerable. Many people have a complicated relationship to dance and I’m no exception. Trying to pursue a career in dance left me feeling misunderstood, heartbroken, resentful, and exhausted and so I quit it completely for many years—plus #healthproblems. Finally, this year at 47, I feel stronger, energetic, resourced, and trusting in myself. Now I can walk into dance class and do it on my terms, know if and when I need to finish early and walk out feeling proud and energized. (It felt so good that I might even teach a few classes next year!)
4. Re-introduce foods back into my diet. When living with chronic conditions, it’s common to experiment with diet as a way to understand and control your health. Some people adopt a style of eating that works for them (or foods that clearly upset their system) However, many people do not find relief from changing their diet and find that food is only a small part in the equation of how they feel, yet the process of dieting causes a distrust or even fear of food. My teachers have said that when a change in diet makes no difference, its because deep nervous system healing is due, and it was true for me. I can see that I feel better when I eat eggs and dairy, they give me protein, fat and essential nutrients. But it's more than these foods themselves, (my best foods could be anything!) it's the belief that these foods won't cause me harm and the trust in my body to know when something truly doesn't work for me. I trust that my body has the power to heal if and when I can attend to my true needs, when I can listen to what it tells me.
5. Add mineral salts and salt to my early morning. A dose of electrolytes in my morning water help me function better; I’m less likely to get dizzy or lightheaded when I am fully hydrated. This may be true for most people but especially those who tend to get dizzy or have low energy. I've been dealing with mysterious dizziness, low blood pressure, and erratic heartbeats throughout my life that no doctor has been able to give me a reason for and I suspect that I have an undiagnosed connective tissue condition as the underlying cause. Adding electrolytes is an easy, no-risk way for me to help myself.
6. Block off days in my calendar for new moon, period and important days off. One of the hardest things about running your own business is how it bleeds into your personal life. It can be hard to know whether you’re on the clock or not. I’ve gotten better at making the choice to give myself time off and to know when to call the end of the day. When I plan for my period cycle and the moon, by lightening my schedule or taking time off, it helps me plan stave off burnout and have more energy when I need it.
7. Get braces. I’ve had TMJ issues since my mid 20’s. My first dental appliance was when I was a teenager and no appliance has really helped, in fact, some made my pain and my problems worse. My pain has gone off the charts in recent years; last year, I had so much pain in my jaw that I had to go on soft foods for months. It was excruciating and scary. What if I could never chew food again? As much as I love soup and smoothies, I feared giving up chewing altogether.
8. Replace all my shoes with wide toe box shoes. Foot health has always been important to me, but finding shoes that actually promoted it has been nearly impossible (at least in Canada) until recently; there’s been an explosion of great shoes available online that are actually designed for foot health AND fashion. My definition of healthy shoes are: no heels, a wide toe box and a flexible sole. For me, the most important factor is a wide toe box—it allows for good alignment of the toe in relation to the foot. In most shoes, when the toes are squeezed together, it puts pressure on the joints and that’s why bunions form. Most ‘wide’ shoes are only wide in the mid foot and not actually wide in the toe box which means they are contributing to foot deformation. (Go here for the most comprehensive guide to shoes)
9. Sharing my feelings with my family in moments when I’m only a little bit frustrated or sad instead of waiting (for my feelings to feel big enough to justify sharing them, or to better understand them). Yes, it’s true, I’m still learning how to recognize my own emotions and give myself permission to feel them (and I know that I’m not the only one). Perhaps you noticed that I said “a little bit frustrated”, At first when I was learning to share my feelings with trusted folks, I started with the biggest ones because they were the easiest to identify. Now that I’ve got that down, I’m working on ‘fine tuning’ my emotional muscles. It requires much more discernment and trust. I helps me to identify when I have an emotion even if it's only a "2" and not a"10".
10. Intentional frustration practice. It’s only been a few years that I’ve been inviting anger into my life and let me tell you that it is a game changer. Allowing myself to feel unpleasant sensation in my body without following the fear of the consequences of that sensation means that I can just let myself feel, not get caught up in a story and move on. It means that I can get in touch with a vital energy that was shadow banned from my conscious awareness and integrate it back into my being. What happens if I don’t let myself feel anger? I feel frozen, I feel as though I’m going to collapse or that my world will crash into me.
If you would like to befriend your own body and am curious about working with me, please book a no-obligation call with me. We can chat about anything that you like so that you can get a feel for what this work might do for you.