Updated: Oct 6, 2022
Every time I watch one of those nature shows on tv, I am astounded by how complex and knowing nature is. Every species of plant, animal, insect, fish, has its own system of growing and living and existing within a wider ecosystem that functions like the most well-oiled machine humans could ever imagine. We are part of this ecosystem. Our bodies too, work in such wondrous ways that even scientists and doctors admit they don't fully understand its complexities. What I am learning, and taking comfort in, is that embedded within our DNA within our soul (what I like to call our deeper intelligence), is an inherent understanding of who we are, what we want, and how we can solve our life's problems. Our bodies know it especially when we're sick or injured. Gavin Francis, a GP, writes in The Guardian, "A doctor who sets out to “heal” is in truth more like a gardener who sets out to “grow” – actually, nature does almost all the work. Even when I stitch a patient’s wound, the suture material itself does not knit the tissues – that thread is simply a trellis to guide the body in its own work of healing." It's something Eastern and Indigenous medicine have known for centuries where any healing is done in the form of understanding our body's natural rhythms and using nature to work with us. The studies into the profound effects of psylocibin on our mental health are groundbreaking and are proof of just how powerful of an ally nature is to our abilities to heal. I am not saying we ignore science and modern medicine--far from it. I am saying that our role is to retake control of ourselves, to humble ourselves, in order to understand ourselves and work with nature, our body and mind--not against them. It's as the writer and activist adrienne marry brown writes, "Healing is the resilience instinct of our bodies, a skill we unlearn as we are taught to pay for and rely on data and medicine outside of our own awareness to be well."
The same goes for our thoughts and beliefs. Understanding oneself is no easy task even though we have been living with ourselves for, well, our whole life. From the moment we are born, despite our body’s ability to grow, see, hear, strengthen, recognise, we are inundated by external influences and while much of that is done in the form of guidance from our parents or primary caregivers, what is lost in the rearing both at home and at school as we mature is the art of listening to ourselves, that inner voice. Ironically, that inner critic gets heard loud and clear all the time. If we were to truly listen though, that voice of the inner critic isn't ours, it's of a) those whose love & acceptance we so deeply craved and b) of those who managed to pierce into our fragile thoughts & impressions of who we thought we were. It's when we get to know ourselves on a deeply cellular level (and we can do that by feeling our thoughts--also known as somatic practice, "...the felt experience of a person in their body as a primary means of understanding what’s going on in the mind."), we can begin to realise that even when our thoughts can play tricks on us, our body will never lie to us nor criticise us. Our body will encourage, warn, guide, and heal us. Even when our health deteriorates, whether through age or illness, there is still this incredible system of intelligence that is guiding us, working hard to keep us going. Our job is to listen to what is being communicated to us through our body. Our job is to tune in to the messages being conveyed to us about how we're living, thinking, feeling, acting, being. And tune out that which doesn't serve in our best and highest interests.
What I am trying to instil in my son is that when challenges are thrown his way, if he trusts himself, if he does the work to get to know his strengths and weaknesses, if he takes care of his body and tunes in to what it is telling him, he will find his way through whatever life throws at him. And that knowledge only comes with a genuine curiosity, and respect for, who he is and what lies beneath--body, mind, and spirit. An education that he will keep absorbing at every age.
As I inch towards the end of another decade, there are so many things I wish I could have figured out sooner. I so wish I could have trusted myself more and not worried so much about so many things--things like getting a job, finding the right partner, knowing what a good life really means. But the nature of life is that some answers come with experience and age. Answers come in the form of trial and error. And my job back then was to have those experiences, to make those mistakes, and to learn from them. Each lesson we learn takes us me back to who we are at our core; the core that was perfect from the day we were born.
I guess if I was to really think about it, maybe I did listen to my inner self. After all, it was that voice that urged me to take a job far away from home and explore the world It was that voice that urged me to seek therapy when life was becoming to heavy. It was that feeling inside when I started dating a man that made me realise he was the one I was going to marry. It was my body that healed me time and time again when I got sick. And it was illness that taught me more about how I was living my life more than anything. Everything was designed for me to recognise how far I was drifting away from who I was and what I needed to do get back to who I was designed to be: me, my own self. In a way it's a relief to know that I don't need to have it all figured out. However, what I have figured out is that the answers, when I need them, are there. As Rumi said, “Everything in the Universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.”
*This post is a revised and updated version of the one that was first published on January 14th, 2022.