What is your body telling you?
There was a year that I lost myself.
After a magical summer—new passions, new perspectives, new love—I was raring to go and ready to do all of the things. I was ready to conquer the world. I was 20 and naïve and I was so excited. There were good things ahead. I could feel it. But within the first couple months of my junior year, my commitments swallowed me whole and I became sick. I don’t remember which came first, the fever or the feeling of utter despair, but I remember that the hole was dark and deep, that the pain was both physical and emotional. My studies and extracurriculars that I once loved felt crushing, my worldview shrunk to the twin bed in my dorm room, and new love morphed into codependence. I was sick on and off the entire year.
The body-mind connection has always interested me, particularly because it’s something I feel so acutely. That your biography becomes your biology is the crux of Carolyn Myss’s theory of energy medicine and intuition as described in Anatomy of the Spirit. We carry all of our experiences in our bodies.
Listen to your body. I hear these words in a tone of exasperation, always in my mother's voice, real or imagined. I roll my eyes, but my mother’s intuition can be frightening in its accuracy. She knows that the body has told me all I need to know about myself. Growing up, I could hear it, but I prided myself in ignoring it. I paid for it dearly.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, there is an energy system in the human body comprised of seven centers called the chakras: Muladhara/Root Chakra, Svadhisthana/Sacral Chakra, Manipura/Solar Plexus, Anahata/Heart Chakra, Vishudda/Throat Chakra, Ajna/Third Eye, and Sahasrara/Crown Chakra. In Myss’s reading, the Eastern concept of chakras correlate to the seven sacraments that I’ve grown up with in the Catholic Church and the sefirot in the Tree of Life. Following the principle of biography becomes biology comes the idea that personal power is necessary for health. Because of this, I want to focus the third chakra of personal power, Manipura, which is connected to the sacrament of Confirmation and the Kabbalistic qualities of Nezah (endurance) and Hod (the majesty).
The sacred truth that resides in this center is to Honor Oneself. It is how we develop our self-esteem, our self-respect, and contains our “survival intuition” (this last one is particularly where I struggle). It’s about finding safety and security within oneself. When all of our power resides externally, energy literally leaks from our bodies and we become drained. It's the warning flight attendants give before take-off: if the cabin pressure drops, take the oxygen mask, and put it on before assisting others. We have to keep calling our spirit back to ourselves.
I deeply fear rejection and, while I crave intimacy, I also experience a lot of fear around my personal relationships. Over the past decade, I’ve gone through a series of hard, fast romantic relationships during most of which I felt fragile and unsafe. This was especially true with my partner in college: after my breakdown, I had no faith in my ability to stand on my own and take care of myself. Within a year, I was struggling to untangle myself from him, even though it wasn’t his fault at all—I had placed my power and sense of self in him. The responsibility was entirely mine. Being with my partner was comforting and safe. But after awhile, my soul began to crave growth again, as all souls do, and growth is only achieved by having faith in one’s personal intuition. I had to leave. It wasn’t until I left that I was able to bring the power back into my own body and feel like myself again.
Change is hard and uncomfortable, and I don’t always want to be honest with myself about the changes that need to be made. Before I left my partner, I first had to find my voice again and learn to stand on my own two legs. I had to revisit both what was going on inside myself and how it related to my external world. I went back to the friendships that had drifted away during the relationship. I found an apartment to live in by myself, to prove that I could live on my own. I learned how to honor myself. For once, I welcomed the change: it was a breath of fresh air. It took a matter of months and it’s incredibly cliché, but it’s also what happened. I was stronger, both in my physical body and emotionally.
My sense of self-preservation is still, admittedly, faulty. I can be reckless and God only knows how imposter syndrome affects people in creative fields. I am constantly changing, constantly losing and re-finding myself. It’s often very unpleasant. But I know I can stand on my own two legs. I know that I am more than fine standing on my own. I am learning to put on my oxygen mask before assisting others. I am growing.