Vol 2 Nov 2000
The Art of Listening to Ourselves
There have always been healers to help people recover their health. But during the last century, most people in our culture have given away their healing ability to doctors. It has become a ''doing to'' rather than a ''doing with,'' says Suzanne Scurlock-Durana. Here, she describes techniques for reclaiming our innate ability to heal ourselves.
Healing From the Core
by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana
with Diane M. Cooper
In order to reconnect body, mind, and spirit, there are a few skills we have to re-member. First, is the ability to listen. Second, is the ability to understand or comprehend and then articulate what we hear.
Listening to your body involves many things, most importantly, feeling it. Sensations signal to you that something significant is going on. It is necessary to figure out what that ''something'' is. Feelings, both physical and emotional, tell us how we are doing in terms of our health, aliveness, creativity, and joy. Many of us, however, have not been taught to listen to these normal signals.
For example, a woman developing a hypothyroid condition may get many signals. Over time, she will start to feel things slowing down in her body. She may notice that she is having more headaches than normal. She may notice hair changes, or being tired. She goes to bed at 7:30 or 8:00 p.m., wakes up at 7:00 in the morning, and is still tired. All of these symptoms are fairly reliable signals that she has something going on with her thyroid. However, she may not know how to ''read'' the signals. Instead of knowing that this information is telling her she has a medical condition, she may simply start to drink more coffee, or worry that she may be aging quickly.
Articulating What We Hear
What pain feels like to us is broader and richer than mere physiologic sensations, because feelings are truly unique to each individual. Unfortunately, our culture lacks a language that articulates well the internal sensations of being alive. So be imaginative. If your shoulders hurt, for example, is there a great weight upon them? Or are they being crushed together in a vise? If you have pain in your chest, does it feel like a fist is gripping your heart? Or like a spear is piercing it? The image may possibly help you figure out the source of the pain, because you can then have a further ``conversation'' with the spear or the fist about what it is doing there. The fist might be trying to protect the heart from being hurt again.The spear might be pinpointing an area that has ''shut down,'' so that you can jump start it to being alive again.
As you feel the sensations of the body (all of them, not just pain), see if you can metaphorically ''step back'' and say to yourself something like, Isn't that interesting? I have a spear in my heart. Not only does this give you a larger space or context, and objectivity about your situation, but also, anything that is interesting to you has value. Your attention or consciousness is directed to it. It is respected.
So our bodies communicate with us -- we just need to take the time to learn their language. Slow down. Feel it. Things hurt for a reason. If it hurts immensely, take away the label of ''hurting'' and see if you can experience the actual
sensations of the pain -- the tingling, the throbbing, the numbness. The language the body speaks is often metaphoric, which means that its meaning may be conveyed in images. We already understand this on some level. Who hasn't felt immediate relief of the pain in the back of the neck when the co-worker who was ''a pain in the neck'' was fired or resigned?
Life-Giving versus Life-Taking Responses
In my view, we are always moving along a continuum between life-giving and life-taking actions, thoughts, and feelings. When our responses to experience are life-giving, there is more energy generated by what we are doing, whether it be conversing, drawing, walking, or daydreaming. When we are responding in ways that are life-taking, we are trying to repress something, disconnect from someone or something, push it away, or tighten down. The body tells us when we are doing too much life-taking by developing symptoms.
So ''life giving,'' in a larger sense, means being connected to the life force all around us, the sea of energy we live in, so that we have access to whatever is nourishing for ourselves. ``Life taking'' then means closing off to some degree from that sea of energy that can and does constantly nourish us on all levels.
The ''Container'' Concept
Just as our pain deserves respect, the body itself deserves respect. After all, it is the container for our life force, for our spirit, our soul. So I use the term ''container'' to refer to the body -- not as an empty vessel, but as a vehicle or medium for all sensations and the flow of the life force through us. As we allow ourselves to feel these life-force sensations, we will have more and more of them. And as we do so, the strength of our ''container'' grows, so that no matter what life gives us, we can accept it. We can stay grounded and centered so that we make wise choices.
It is important to realize, as we are now learning scientifically, that the body is naturally integrated; that is, our emotions and feelings are not just specific parts of the body. Rather, they exist throughout the body. You might want to refer to Candace Pert's book Molecules of Emotion for a more in-depth discussion of this idea. Furthermore, in order to have vibrant health we need to be ''in'' all the cells of our bodies. We operate best when all our parts are integrated, working together on our behalf. Yet religions and cultural standards usually give permission to men and women differently regarding which parts of the body they are allowed to be ''in.'' For example, in our culture men have more freedom to be in their heads and their pelvises, whereas women have more permission to be in their hearts. These are generalities for the purpose of example, and fortunately the situation is changing. But when I refer to the container of the body, I am referring to a system where, when everything is happening optimally, the physical, emotional, and spiritual all blend into one.
The Five Principles
To help teach people to feel the energy flow of life and connect it with their bodies, I have developed the Five Principles, which I also call the "Circle of Life," because all the principles are equally important -- like points on a circle, they are not hierarchical in nature. The following explains these principles and how to apply them in your own healing:
Principle #1: Recognize the connection/separation continuum in your life, and where you are on that continuum at any given moment.
This is the ability we spoke of earlier to know at any moment whether you are headed in a life-giving or life-taking direction by the sensation of connection or disconnection that you have with your life force and with the world around you. When you are connected, it feels right.
If you do not currently have this ability, how do you develop it? One of the first things I teach is how to develop a connection to the ground. Take your shoes off and feel the sensation of its firmness under your feet. There is energy there, and you can feel it nurture and support you. You can draw upon this unconditional energy whenever you need to, using your intention and sensation signals. Grounding can enable you to feel what you need to feel so that you are not overwhelmed by life's experiences. Second, ask yourself ''Am I present/connected now?'' You might be amazed at how often you drift into the past or future.
Principle #2: Acknowledge and widen your perceptual lens.
We all develop a perceptual lens, or worldview, based on our experiences and sometimes just based on what other people tell us. We create a whole set of assumptions and conclusions about life based on what we have experienced, what our family has experienced, what we have been exposed to in our culture, our religion, our gender, and so forth. Everything we experience is filtered through that lens and is given an interpretation by it. It is important to realize that it is just a lens and that we can change it if we choose. If we have a narrow perceptual lens, we might miss or misinterpret what is going on in the present moment.
To open or widen our perceptual lens, we can start by connecting with the intelligence in our bodies. When we are connected in the sense just mentioned, that intelligence informs us, for example of situations to avoid (danger) or situations to approach (synchronicity). However, it cannot inform us if we are caught in a perceptual lens that limits how we see the situation, like blinders on a horse. We must acknowledge our thoughts and feelings as allies. This intelligence is everywhere in the body, not just in the head. Candace Pert has shown, for example, that there are endorphin-producing molecules in the gut, in the finger, ready to create the sensation of pleasure. Similarly, there are adrenaline-producing molecules everywhere ready to create a response to fear. When we listen to that intelligence and, say, get out of a situation in which our body is signaling fear instead of listening to our narrow perceptual lens that is telling us that it is not polite to leave a party 10 minutes after you arrive, then the lens has been widened.
Principle #3: Recognize that you have a Core, your spirit, which is uniquely yours, and that you need to create a container that integrates your body, mind, emotions, and core essence, or Spirit.
It is perhaps inaccurate to say that you have a core, as if it were somehow separate from you; rather, you are your Core. Your Core, as it flows through your container, is you. It is hard to pin down the nature of Core because it is flowing continually. It is made up of life force, and is often strengthened through the practice of chi kung (qi gong), t'ai chi, or yoga. We know that we can amplify and change this energy by doing certain movements, breath work, or even having certain thoughts. It is always there, it is what connects everything with everything else: your head with your gut, you with your spouse, your feelings with your actions. Your Core integrates your experience such that when your gut says ''Danger, get out of here'' your head formulates the best way out, and your body moves in accord. When you listen to your body, take its signals seriously, and not let your perceptual lenses get in the way, you have attained the ability to trust yourself.
Principle #4: Connect your Core to your Source.
Because your Core is the flow of life itself, it is not separate from the flow of all life, the Source. So you are not separate from the flow of all life. You are not an island. If you start feeling like an island, it is time to go to your perceptual lens and ask ''What am I believing about myself right now such that I am not drawing in the energy I need?'' This can be done by the process of grounding and centering yourself, so you can restore the flow of energy and thereby heal. It is the process of shifting from life-taking to life-giving.
Principle #5: Know that there is an ever-present Source of nourishing life energy.
The Source is called by many different names in the different spiritual traditions, but it is the same Source to which they all refer. This Source never runs out. It is unconditional in its giving, in its flow. When we truly trust in our bodies and know that in all things we are supported, life takes on a whole new resonance, an aliveness.
I recommend the following books and other resources in helping you to reclaim your ability to heal yourself in different areas of your life:
Upledger, John E. (1997) Your Inner Physician and You: CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release. North Atlantic Books and U.I. Enterprises. ISBN: 1556432461. www.upledger.com
Scurlock-Durana, S. (Speaker) (1996). ''Healing From the Core: A Journey Home to Ourselves'' (audiocassette and CD). Reston, Virginia; Lion Recording. Includes basic relaxation and energizing exercises. Available from: Healing From the Core, Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, 11417 Tanbark Drive, Reston, VA 20191, or www.healingfromthecore.com.
Pert, Candace B.(1999) Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel. Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 0684846349
Pipher, Mary Bray (1995) Reviving Orphelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. Ballantine Books. ISBN: 0345392825; and (1997) The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families. Ballantine Books. ISBN: 0345406036
Hendricks, Gay, (1992) Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment. Bantam Books. ISBN: 0553354116
Schnarch, David (1998) Passionate Marriage: Love, Sex and Intimacy in Emotionally Committed Relationships. Henry Holt. ISBN: 0805058265
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