My Problems Are My Teachers

Since you have a body, I'm assuming you sometimes, or always, have experiences of pain or of some part of your body not working the way it "should."

Maybe you have:

  • lingering shoulder pain that won't go away
  • you pee when you sneeze
  • you are a weekend warrior who hurts just as much as your couch-potato friends
  • your back aches when you sit too long, stand too long, lie down too long
  • you can't get your palms flat on the ground without pain radiating up your arms
  • sitting on the floor feels like a fantasy
  • your digestion/sleep/reproduction isn't happening


Maybe you are really, really tired of feeling this way. You've turned to a bunch of resources and nothing has helped. Or nothing has helped long term.

You expected to be better and you're not.

I wonder if this brings up some big feelings for you? 

Anger.

Resentment.

Frustration.

Fear.

Sadness.

Panic.

This happens to me ALL THE TIME. So often it is starting to amuse me. :)

My body starts to hurt.

Something stops working.

I have HUGE feelings about it.

And so I try to throw a bunch of things at it, I try to give it what I think it needs, I try to ignore it, placate it, distract it, but still. It persists. 

My body is like this big ball of neediness and I just can't get it to quiet down.

As though my body shouldn't be needy.

As though I shouldn't have needs.

As though needs are bad.

See that? See how we walked smack-dab into some deeply held belief. A belief that is uncomfortable to look at. A belief I don't actually want to have. 

All this. Because my body persisted.

Ahhhh....

A gift.

To me, this is central to what it means to make use of my pain and dysfunction. To view my physical problems as my teachers.

But there is more. 

Our pain doesn't just teach us about our beliefs. Our dysfunction isn't just about our psychology.

The body is offering us symptoms. Red flags. It's saying "something isn't working" and "please see me." 

It's an invitation to follow a trail, to explore more, to MOVE more, to actually fix the problem.

One of the exercises I teach is a calf stretch. But I teach the calf stretch with a set of parameters that makes it WAY more useful to changing the actual length and function of the muscle fibers in your calf. 

And you know what happens for almost all people? Because this calf stretch doesn't move the body deep, into the elastic properties of the muscle, they almost always feel nothing. 

Nothing.

And they are really irritated to feel nothing. :)

I mean, what's a stretch if it doesn't have feeling, right?

So I see this dichotomy, this swinging from one polarity - help me feel nothing! - to another - I need to feel something!

When we ignore our body's signals for so long, they stop being sent. The first time you sat in a chair for 8 hours a day, your body probably screamed at you. Everything felt really crappy. Horrible. Never-do-that-again.

But then you DID do it again. And again. And again. And now you can probably be stationary, in a chair, for 8 hours and think nothing of it. 

The body didn't suddenly change its mind about the chair. You stopped listening.

Unfortunately, by not listening to these initial needs, we have lost our ability to hear a whisper, a conversational tone, maybe even a shout. 

Now we only hear our bodies when they are screaming at us with pain and dysfunction.

And so here we are. :) Here I am. And that's fine, too.

I'm learning to cultivate a sensitivity to the lower volumes of the body. But also learning to be with the feelings that come up and then to follow the path my symptoms show me so that I can make real, physical (and often, emotional) changes to how I am using my body.

Become more resilient doesn't happen by ignoring your body, placating it, distracting it. 

Becoming more resilient is about entering into relationship with it, over and over and over again, pain and all.