5 tips to help you listen to your body so you can stop doing and actually rest

One day last week I woke up with so much pain on my left side that it felt like I had been kicked in the ribs. I didn’t remember doing anything the day before that may have led to this feeling, yet here it was. The only thing to do was rest I thought, which should be easy enough, right?  Well, I had just created a great routine in the last 3 weeks of exercise and yoga in the mornings and I was committed to my new self care plan! I had worked so hard to create this and keep it going, and now I have to stop! What?


I thought ok, so, just because I can't work out, doesn't mean I can’t do anything right? I can do some work on my laptop. Boy it is a slippery slope when we start negotiating with ourselves about self care. So, I decided to relax on the couch, watch a movie, and at the same time work on my computer. Geez, I couldn’t even stop myself, I was just thinking I can’t be totally useless.


I kept getting the message to go to the park and lay on the grass.  It's something I really enjoy doing and it rejuvenates me, so I went and did it. The whole time I was on the phone, not even being present to what was around me. As I started to walk back to my car I stepped on a bee and was stung. OUCH! I sat on the grass in so much pain, just looking at my foot. All of my attention and focus went to the pain. My friend on the phone asked if she could hang up and Google what to do for a bee sting. I said no, and asked her to please just be with me while I was in pain. She stayed with me, listening to me in agonizing pain.  She was compassionate and present with me, as I was present to myself and my pain. Then, when the pain lessened enough for me to be with it on my own, I asked her for what I needed and hung up.


As I started to feel a bit better and be in the present with myself, off the phone, I realized wow, I hadn’t really sat with the pain in my back yet, not in that way I did with the bee sting, with total presence and focus. I realized my being on my computer and doing while I was also trying to rest wasn’t actually rest at all. I realized what I was doing was actually avoiding. Avoiding the pain, avoiding my feelings about the pain and just trying to do and fill the space with activity.


The thing about pain is that when it’s excruciating, it stops you in your tracks and takes your full attention. Think of when you hear a child scream. Even if it's not your child, most of us will stop what we are doing and look to see that the child is ok. It’s our humanity. Well, what I have found through working with and healing chronic pain in myself, is that similarly, pain screams at us like a child. It screams at us for something. Usually because of the same reasons a child screams, for help, or because of an unmet need. It is our amazing body’s way to inform us that we need something.


How do we learn to listen to thesepains?


1.The first thing we can do is to acknowledge: “yes, when I’m in pain my body is trying to tell me something”.

2.Then, say thank you to your body for letting you know that it needs your attention.

3.Stop to listen. Create some quiet space for you to sit with the pain. Lay down or sit comfortably with your hands on the place on your body that is in pain. As you sit, see if any information comes to you. Maybe none does.

4.Continue to sit with the pain and have compassion for it. “You are hurting, I hear you, I am with you.” You can be thinking this or saying this aloud or internally. As you sit with it compassionately see if the pain shifts or changes.

5.Another thing to try is free writing exercises. Again, coming to a quiet place with yourself and write to your pain. “Pain, I see that you are here, if you want to tell me something, I am here”. Then just write without thinking, anything that comes to you.


Being with our pain can be very illuminating or you may try all of this and get nothing. Let me tell you a story for a minute, it will all come back around to this topic of feelings.


A memory comes to me of working with a client and a message coming through to tell him to build blocks with his kids and to practice knocking them down. It was a practice of creating and destroying. As this is the natural process of life. We create things, and just like that, sometimes without notice, they get destroyed. We can have our feelings about it, and then it really does suit us to move on.


The loss of something like a marriage or a family member or friend dying usually takes more time to heal than the loss of a job or a friendship, but they are all the loss of something that you put effort into creating. It takes time to release and let go.


The loss of my routine seems like small fries compared to other losses people experience, and yet it is a loss. Loss is loss. The more we recognize that our feelings are valid, no matter how small or big they are, a process starts to happen. A healing process. Whether you were blessed enough to have had most of your childhood needs met, and parents who could support you to feel your feelings and help you to feel safe and at ease with life, or you didn't, there is a likely hood that there are unmet needs hiding inside of each of us.   


What ends up happening is our inner child is left inside of us with a lot of unmet needs. And here we are, a grownup adult with a screaming child inside. These unmet needs and desires then hide deep inside of us calling out to be heard, held and handled with love.


You may be confused, I started with physical pain and now I’m talking about an inner child. Yes, because after many years suffering from chronic pain, panic attacks and emotional problems, just to name a few, the only cure I found to work effectively and completely was sitting with my inner child.