How Illness Can Help You Tune Into Your Body

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Dr. Lissa Rankin is on a mission to merge science and spirituality. A certified MD and expert in integrative health, Lissa is a thought leader in mind-body medicine. This week, we'll be featuring some of her advice on how to feel your absolute best, inside and out. If you're inspired to learn more, check out her new course: Getting Back to 100 Percent: A Six-Step Process for Radical Self-Healing.

You wake up after eight hours of sleep, but you still feel tired.

You feel stiff and achy all over, even though you’re doing yoga.

Your belly aches, your bowels are all over the map, and you have a knot in the pit of your stomach.

You have a headache. Again.

Why? What is your body trying to tell you? Maybe it’s all physical and you simply need more sleep, a healthier diet, more stretching, and a neck massage. Or maybe the cause of your pain is deeper.

Illness offers us a precious opportunity to investigate our lives without judgment.

Listen to your body

Assume for a moment that your body is constantly trying to communicate with you, not just on the physical plane but in the emotional and spiritual realm. What if your body is the perfect compass, always trying to guide you in the direction of the greatest ease, joy, flow, purpose, and spiritual alignment?

Are you listening to your body compass?

If something in your body doesn’t feel right, what might it be telling you about how you’re living your life? You might be surprised by how much wisdom your body can share if you tune into it. Maybe if your body isn’t feeling 100 percent, it’s telling you:

  • I need to get out of this toxic relationship
  • I need to quit selling my soul for a paycheck
  • I need to finally say yes to the dream I’ve been postponing
  • I need to call in my soul tribe and stop trying to do it all myself
  • I need more self-care
  • I need to heal from my childhood abuse
  • I need to move to Santa Fe
  • I need to find and fulfill my calling
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Personal responsibility does not equal blame

Please don’t misunderstand. If you’re not feeling 100 percent, this doesn’t mean you’ve done anything “wrong.” It also doesn’t mean you’re always the victim of sheer bad luck. Somewhere in the middle lies the truth. Clearly you have some control over how healthy you are. If you’re a three-pack-a-day smoker who winds up with lung cancer or you’ve been boozing it up for three decades and wind up with cirrhosis of the liver, it’s clear that your lifestyle choices are probably affecting your health.

But things also happen to your body that are completely out of your control. You’re born with an extra chromosome. Your car is hit by a drunk driver. You unwittingly move in next to a toxic waste dump. Clearly, unfortunate things happen to well-behaved, well-intentioned people.

As Dr. Christiane Northrup once said to me when we were discussing this issue, “We are responsible to our disease, not for our disease.” I agree with her. Illness offers us a precious opportunity to investigate our lives without judgment. When viewed with compassion, feeling less than 100 percent can be a potent opportunity for personal growth and spiritual awakening.

2 Exercises to Help You Interpret Your Body Compass

Exercise #1: Ask your body “What are you saying ‘no’ to?”

I’m not suggesting that your body won’t benefit from a physical treatment, like more sleep, a healthier diet, an exercise regimen, or a yoga practice. But for the purposes of this exercise, assume for a moment that there might be a psycho-spiritual component behind why you feel less than 100 percent. Get quiet, close your eyes, and ask yourself what your body might be resisting. What might be out of alignment in your life? Is there any area where you are in denial about what’s true for you? See if anything comes up.

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Exercise #2: Let your body write you a letter.

Are you feeling fatigue, a body ache, or queasiness in your belly? Let your symptom write you a letter. Dear You, [yada, yada, yada], Love, Your Headache. See what your headache, your backache, your fatigue, or your nausea might be trying to tell you. When your symptom has completed its letter to you, try writing back. Dear Headache, [yada, yada, yada], Love, You.

You might be surprised by what comes up.

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