In Part One of this post, we looked at the mental habit of worrying. Worrying is a habit of sending your mental energy in a direction you don’t want to go. Worry, by its very nature, takes me down a thorny, bumpy path. So the first step toward letting go of worry is noticing when I’m doing it. Start by paying attention to sensation — because worry has a sensation. For me, worry feels tight around my stomach and heart. My breathing gets shallow and my brain gets a scrambly feeling. Check out what it feels like for you. If you’re a world-class worrier, you may feel like this so often, it feels normal. It’s not. Breathe and acknowledge that you’re worrying.
Next, ask yourself what you’re worrying about. We all have plenty of things we fret on — who can choose? For the purposes of this post, let’s start with the body. We’ll leave money, sex, relationships, the environment, dysfunctional politics, international conflicts, and what will happen to your favorite character on Downton Abbey for another time.
Over my life, if I could get back every minute I spent worrying about my body, well, I’d have a hell of a lot of my life back. I’ve worried I was too big, too heavy, too Clydesdale-y. I’ve worried my hair was too thin and that my skin was breaking out. I’ve worried about unexplained aches and pains and numbnesses. When I start fretting about something that’s going on in my body and speculating about what it might be, Frank sometimes gets a dreamy look on his face and says, “Remember that time you had MS for 14 hours?” It’s true, after looking up my symptoms on the Internet, I was pretty sure I had MS once. I didn’t.
[Note to Self (and anybody who might be tempted): Never look on the Internet for a diagnosis. It’s never helpful. As often as not it tells you that whatever you are experiencing is life-threatening and that you are likely to lose a limb so **quick** before you do, run, don’t walk to the nearest emergency room.]
Now, I’m not suggesting to ignore sensations and symptoms because it’s “probably nothing.” On the contrary, my life’s work is encouraging everyone to listen deeply to sensation and to pay attention to what the body is telling us with it. What I’m sensing very well could “be something” and the body needs our attention and care. My point is that worrying about it isn’t helpful. Projecting horrendous outcomes into the future isn’t helpful. Worrying actually gets in the way of me really paying attention to what is happening right now. While I’m busy envisioning myself in a wheelchair or full-body cast, I’m not really hearing what the body is saying.
“There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.” – Harold Stephens
Awareness is all about paying attention to body sensations. When we feel pain, we can use mindful movement (Nia Principle 5!) to encourage paying attention, initiate healing through movement, and celebrate the small acts of kindness you provide your body. When we feel pain, often the first reaction is to freeze up and stop moving. Instead, stimulate healing with movement in the joints, and then ask yourself if this is making you feel better.
Self-Healing may sound complicated or like New Agey woo-woo, but it’s a natural and simple process:
• Pay attention to pain and discomfort in the body and gauge it as slight, moderate, or acute.
• Use movement to stimulate the areas of discomfort, and then
• Notice what helps and what doesn’t help
Do your best not to get caught in the story of what has happened or why. Let your logical mind relax and allow your intuition to help you. Remember that what worked yesterday might not work today and what works today might not work tomorrow. Whenever you feel pain, simply listen to your body, move to increase pleasure. If it feels better — even a little bit, even for a little while — you are self-healing. You are offering yourself an act of kindness.
The mind is powerful. It is easy for fear to swamp our boat. The practice of non-worrying and self-healing is body-centered rather than mind-centered. It’s always fine to go to healthcare practitioners for support and information, but avoid following recommendations blindly. It can be helpful to sort out what you were doing when the discomfort happened but only so you can make choices in the present to self-heal. Always come back to what you are sensing in your body now. Nobody can do that but you. And only you can sense for even the small shifts toward pleasure that are the sign that self-healing is happening.
“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends, and living our lives.”—Maya Angelou
This week, be kind to yourself. Whether you have minor aches and pains or you’re healing a major health issue or injury, let go of worry and offer yourself the simple but profound practice of self-healing. As always, I’d love to hear about what you discover.