Befriend Your Body with Self-Compassion

by Carol Hendershot

“before I could release the weight of my sadness and pain, I first had to honor its existence” ~ yung pueblo

For thousands of years, our ancestors listened to the call of the body to inform the mind and spirit. At what point did we lose this ability.

The body is the most amazing repository of wisdom. Our bodies tell us when we are tired, when we are in love, when we are peaceful, and when we are afraid. And yet, we consistently ignore the signals our body is sending us. Have we become deaf to our most sacred source of knowledge and power?

I had always heard that when you block out emotional pain you are also shutting down your ability to feel joy, but I didn’t really believe it. I figured that if I could turn my back on the hurt inside, I would be happy. I had been brainwashed by a culture obsessed with the mind as the only valid way of knowing. I had forgotten that the body is the messenger of the heart.

In 1998, my world was coming apart. I was working 50 hours a week, getting a divorce, struggling with grown children, and feeling like I was living someone else’s life. Getting lost in my head and always asking why had become my default. I would ignore my sweating palms and my racing heart. I overlooked the knot in my stomach and the tension in my shoulders, and the different aches and pains that had taken up residence in my body. Even worse, I had lost my ability to feel. My emotions were out of control, but I didn’t know that was the problem until my body stopped me in my tracks. I was afraid and just wanted to run; but this time I didn’t.

That was when I realized that by trying to evade the pain in my heart, I was locking my emotions in my body. I was denying my deepest essence.

Enough already; it was time to befriend my body no matter what!

This time, when the pain became intense, I started to use the tools of self-compassion. I repeated to myself, “sadness, sadness, sadness,” acknowledging what was there. Then, I turned toward the places the sadness had lodged itself in my body. I began to soften just a little around the edges of the hurt. I placed my hand on my heart and simply felt the warmth of my hand, sending soothing energy to the achy places, allowing it to be there. (Follow the link to the Soften, Soothe, and Allow Meditation)

That was the beginning of my healing journey. I still fall into the trap of beating myself up, judging myself, and numbing out, but those times are fewer and farther between. Life is like that! We never totally get there. Listening to my body and responding with kindness is now an important part of my life.

I can now honestly say that my body is my friend. It is always there for me, sending me the messages I need to hear. Sometimes the messages are of hurt and heartache; sometimes my jaw and belly tell me I am experiencing anger; sometimes I feel incredible joy in every part of my being. All those feelings are now accessible and acceptable, and I know that being fully in my body, fully in my life, is where the magic is. I am a perfectly imperfect human being and that is okay!