Written in July of 2005 when my dad was dying of cancer.
With ocean waves of sadness I notice cancer swallowing my dad with major bites. I realize this horrific episode is like observing a candle gradually going out. Pain develops in this watchful waiting period. If I couldn’t listen to my body, take it to my mind, and then write down my thoughts and feelings, I have no idea how I would handle this chapter of my life. Well, maybe I do. It would not be handled, period.
During this process I am taking note of my own body. Questions come. For example, “What stands between you and tranquility?” We are always letting our heads answer these questions because we are know-it-alls. Just ask a question, and we’ll revert to our heads for exceptional answers. Our “rational” minds never give up. Actually speaking, we developed answers from our bodies long before we figured out answers with our heads. For example, “body language” communicates truth about us that our heads never considered. The body knows, and the body keeps score.
We cannot force the body to go against its grain, or we suffer consequences. Our problems begin with giving or requiring of our bodies things that do not serve its best interests. If we listened to our bodies we would be better off, except where beer, sex, sugar and fat grams are concerned. Of course, in my Dad’s case, his body is suggesting to doctors that he needs at least “five milkshakes a day.” The cancer, however, is eating his appetite. So Daddy cannot eat what he needs. He can no longer do for his body those things that fine-tune him physically, mentally, and spiritually.
However, there is good news/a silver lining for us who want to maintain healthy spirits. We can compile into our lives good choices. With them follows spirited rewards.
The words we use to describe physical sensations, “feel” or “sense” have been co-opted by the emotional mind to describe its reactions to its experience. We can “feel” happy. We can “feel” sad. We can “feel” angry. And we can “feel” the texture of a sheep’s wool. We can experience a weakness that might be equated with the emotion of fear or anxiety. We can sense emotionally the mood of the environment in the room we enter. It is not an easy thing to discuss the body without sounding like we are talking about the mind.
Does anxiety sound different in our body than fear? Does our body feel grief different than it feels dread, or sadness? Emotions are physical before they are mental. When are we going to accept this fact?
By listening to what we are experiencing on a physical level, we bring in authentic reality at the ground level. Our physical response is our initial response. It is transformed by acknowledgement. For example, remember in My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle taking lessons from Henry Higgins, the English professor? Finally, she “got it.” She sang, “The Rain In Spain” without error, to suit Professor Higgins and herself. Once she “got it,” her whole body relaxed. Prior to “getting it,” Eliza was anxious, angry, and fearful. Her body knew these feelings before Eliza’s mind knew them.
It is important to know what our body is saying to us. How it is reacting to us. We have to translate our physical response into the language of the rational mind. We have to “listen for” physical resonation to the word, or words, a physical shift that is experienced as, “Yes, that is absolutely right.” This is the mind “listening” to the body, body “speaking” to the mind, the mind “speaking” for the body. This entire process is one of recognition, acceptance, and resolution. The outcome of the process is felt physically. The body relaxes once it has been heard.
Mind hears and mind makes the decision. Maybe go, maybe stay. Maybe, yes, maybe, no. But, body has to be heard, to be taken into account. Body is communicating, mind must listen, must hear. Body always has something to communicate. Mind may think, “Yeah, I’ve heard that before,” or “I don’t want to think about that right now”, or “You think I’m stupid?” We’d be amazed if we realized how many times our mind argues with our body. If mind ignores what body is saying, there cannot be any resolution. If mind is to know, it has to know what body knows. It has to listen, even if it must endure hearing more of the same.
Body can take the mind to new levels, to new insight, awareness, enlightenment, and realization. Body is the path to wholeness—to peace. We cannot know without knowing what body knows. If you are going to listen to anyone about the deep matters, about the essential secrets of the spiritual realm, listen to your body, listen to yourself.
It is essential to listen to how the body responds. “Am I comfortable with my life right now?” And watching how your body responds. It is important that you listen to your body’s answer, not to your mind’s answer. Your mind always has all the answers, you know. Your mind is a know-it-all. Your mind can recite all discomforting factors about your life in such a way that you do not have to feel any of it with your body. It is crucial to get out of the head and listen to the body.
Mind’s role is to listen to the body, translate the body’s response into the language of the rational mind, check for resonation, and then, once it knows what the body knows respond by deciding what to do. Mind can decide to override the body, but it has to know what the body knows to do so. Knowing what the body knows is essential knowledge. A fulfilling life cannot evolve without it.
We ask, “Am I comfortable with my life right now?” and listen to body’s response. What do we feel in our body? Be conscious of the feeling. Then search for a word in your mind that corresponds with the body’s language. Not just any word. Respond with, “Yes, that’s the right word.” Then ask, “What’s the situation that gives rise to the physical feeling?” “To the word?” “What is it about the situation that produces this feeling/word response?” Or you can place the situation on an imaginary table, and ask, “Except for this present situation, am I comfortable with everything going on in my life?” When everything is “on the table,” “out in the open,” you let one of the things stand apart and work with that situation, looking for what it is that gives rise to the particular feeling/word that creates a physical shift and opens the door to a new world, a new way of living. But, don’t take my word for it. See if I’m right about this.
The focusing process, I’m learning, is about putting mind/body in synch. It is about observing how that simple act has a transformative impact throughout your life.
Sitting with Daddy, I listen to my body, finding glimpses of peace, experiencing a small crack in the window, with knowledge that it will eventually open, revealing the whole picture. That opened window will allow my dad and I to walk into a new beginning … not simply an ending. We will no longer experience one another on this planet, rather we will continue loving. Daddy’s energy and mine will come again once the cancer is gone, when Daddy crosses to the other side.
Losing Daddy is horrible, but, in specks, my body tells me there will be energy left to open a new window. I love Daddy. When that love transfers from body to mind, I realize I love others, too. I love my self.
My dad’s terminal cancer is one of my greatest teachers. I’m learning that that love in me is gasoline/energy for my body. There is no hopeless situation when we look at the “entire picture.” To grasp the entire picture we must listen to the body and then the mind. Try it. It works for me. It may work for you, too.