Honoring Your Body: Getting to Know YOU

June 11, 2011

Heart in HandsIn First Commandment of Healing: Don’t be an Ass. Honor Your Body., I talked about how honoring your body is critical for finding healing from illnesses such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. If you haven’t read that article, I suggest that you do that first. It will lay a foundation for what I’m about to say here.

honor [verb] regard with great respect : Joyce has now learned to honor her father’s memory.

honor [thesaurus] esteem, respect, admire, defer to, look up to; appreciate, value, cherish, adore; reverence, revere, venerate, worship.

When you have a friend that you love dearly and want to honor, you do it in a way that means something special to her. You make reservations at her favorite restaurant, which may not be your favorite restaurant. The same is true for your body. Do you actually know what makes your body happy? Finding that out is your first step to honoring her.

Havi Brooks wrote a magnificent article, The Book of You, about discovering these kinds of things. I highly recommend reading her article. Basically, it’s about writing down the things that you know to be true of you — not true of people in general, but true of YOU — and the things you’re trying to figure out about you. So, your first assignment is to read The Book of You.

After I read Havi’s article last year, I began writing down some things I discovered:

  • I need a lot of sleep every night to function well! Even though I knew I had fibromyalgia, I was shocked to realize that it took 10 hours of sleep each night for me to feel my best; I was trying to function on about six — only half of what my body needed.
  • My best sleep comes in the morning, between 6-9 AM. My body is very jealous of that time; she really doesn’t like it when I book that time for things other than sleep.
  • My body was tired of rushing from thing to thing. I realized that she wanted (and needed!) to be able to breathe and transition gracefully between various tasks and appointments.
  • Eating healthy matters. I can either eat to feed whatever I’m feeling (pain, fatigue, my fibromyalgia, depression, anger, sadness, boredom) or I can eat to feed my body health. My body wants to be healthy; she wants me to eat food that will make her feel good, strong, powerful, more fully alive.
  • My body would really like me to pamper her with a hot bath every night before bed.

At first, you might not know what makes your body happy. That’s okay. Just write down observations for what you know to be true or what you think might be true. For example:

  • If I schedule appointments earlier than 10 AM, it’s difficult for me to keep them. Is this true all the time or only if I have too many in one week?
  • More than three hours of training in one day leaves me mentally, physically and emotionally wiped out for the rest of the day.
  • I can only attend two 7 AM meetings consistently each week.
  • In order to keep my weekday commitments, I need to reserve my weekends for resting. Or could I commit to something on an occasional Saturday evening?
  • If I take a short nap in the afternoon, my body feels refreshed and I can function better.
  • A messy house stresses me out and makes my body feel like she can’t breathe freely.
  • I sleep better if I take a hot bath before bed. Or is this something my body wants only on particularly stressful, painful, or difficult days?

Remember, the idea is to figure out what is true about you and your body, not what “experts” say. You are the expert on you. At the same time, you don’t have to know how it will all work out. (Like me and the bath every night thing! I haven’t figured that one out yet!) Just write down what you learn about you and your body.

Second assignment: start your own Book of You. Once you have some ideas for what your body wants, you’ll have something you can work with, some changes you can make. For now, though, just get to know you and your body by making a note of your observations.

Watch for the next post on Wednesday. I’ve already got it cued up with some practical ideas based on what I’ve learned from my body. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you’re learning from yours; what she tells you might surprise you!

What does your body want from you? How can you best honor her? Share below or contact me by phone or email and we’ll chat!

June 16, 2011 – Update: Honoring Your Body: Practical Advice, Part 1 has been posted!

June 21, 2011 – Update: Honoring Your Body: Practical Advice, Part 2 has been posted!

Nicole June 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Such a wonderful post! You know we would care for someone else, that we loved, so much better than we often times care for ourselves. I love the idea of writing a book of me. In my last job, I worked as a social worker. Every year we wrote person centered plans for our clients. Basically it was a goal centered write up about their life and what goals they wanted to meet for that year. I would then follow up quarterly to see how they are achieving that goal. I could totally do that for myself! :)
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Tami June 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Nicole – How cool! Yes! I’d love to know more about what that looked like. It sounds a little like what I do with my clients each week, only you’re looking at a bigger scale.

inde_woman June 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Tami, this post really spoke to me because the process of reconnecting with my body and learning to listen again has been fundamental in coming to terms with my inflammatory arthritis.

I had been very attuned to the workings and the rhythms of my body, through music, dance, and life in general. I knew what it could do and how to work with it to achieve that. Before I really knew I was ‘ill’, I knew I had to have at least nine hours sleep to function well, that if I went away for the weekend I would need an extra day off to recover, that I needed to take a week off every so often to do nothing or I would come down with what I presumed to be a viral infection.

The pinacle of the positive relationship I had with my body was through pregnancy and labour, when I was really tuned in to what my body required to nurture it and how it wanted to deal with the processes we were going through. But when my daughter was about six months old, I began to experience full-on symptoms of what I now know to be inflammatory arthritis. Since the Spring of this year I been experiencing a second fairly debilitating flare, and have been coming to terms with the fact that this is an ongoing condition and not just a post-partum thing.

I reached a crisis point and I knew that my relationship with my physical being had completely broken down – through a combination of having a post-pregnancy body that I no longer recognised physically, denying my own needs totally because it was as much as I could do to keep up with a toddler, no longer seeing myself as a sexual being (I’m a single Mum and for a variety of reasons haven’t been inclined to make it otherwise), and feeling like I had aged far beyond my years and my body was frankly letting me down and creating huge problems for me. Thankfully somewhere along the line, I realised some of this, and when I approached a somatic therapist to see if she could help me, I told her that my body and I needed relationship counselling.

Long story short, the practices I have developed with my therapist have really helped to rebuild my relationship with my body and respect it as it is, and in quite a short space of time. Central to that has been identifying Respect as a guiding principle, recognising and accepting my new limitations, and ‘parenting’ myself with as much love as I do my daughter (I had been unkind and intolerant to myself in a way that I would never dream of being to anyone else!) I hope never to lose touch with the fundamental principal of honouring my body again!

Wow, that was almost a blogpost in it’s own right! I really do need to kick start my own blog – there is a lot I am now ready to say…

Tami June 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Wow, girl! Thank you; I am so honoured that you shared all of that! I loved what you said about you and your body needing “relationship counselling” and “‘parenting’ myself with as much love as I do my daughter.” Those are two gems right there. I can’t wait to read your blog! =)

Camper Jen February 1, 2013 at 8:07 am

This is a great post! I love your idea of writing down the observations about our body. I think this can serve as a great reminder in my Chronic Pain Toolkit for when I try to become “superwoman”. :-)

Tami February 4, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Yeah, Jen, that “superwoman” thing can be a REAL PAIN to try to live up to. ;-)

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