I had an epiphany today.
For the first time in my life, I have truly felt what it is like to not be so attached to my body, causing 95% of my own discomfort. I hurt my back yesterday and made the decision to take the day off of work. I did some computer work instead so I could rest. At first, upon waking after a restless sleep, I experienced some anxiety. The old "butterflies in the stomach" were back. I watched my mind and all the floating bubbles of thoughts that swam above my head like in the comic books. "What should I do about my clients today? Should I grin and bear it? Or should I cancel and stay home and rest? Should I see my chiropractor or my massage therapist or do nothing? What if my back isn't better by tomorrow? How will I teach at school or dance at rehearsal? Man, my back really hurts when I bend over, sit down, walk, even lay down! How am I going to...!?"
I'm sure this is not too far off from most people's minds when they experience one of life's "not so pleasant unexpected surprises," whether it is an injury, an illness, disease, or disorder. As I watched my thoughts, I became aware of the illusion that my mind was creating, rather than focusing on my real, present experience. I became aware of how the feelings in my body were a direct result of the storyline playing in my head. Pretty soon, my morning, my day, my week, was being taken over by thoughts about my painful back! All positive outlooks went out the door. Any enjoyment about the day was impossible. Then, I made the conscious decision to change. I decided I wanted to be happy today, and so I changed my outlook. After all, happiness is a skill. (Think about THAT for a second!) So I slowed myself down, and breathed...
I got in touch with my true experience and made the decisions I had to make regarding work for the day. I made an appointment with the chiropractor. I gently let worried thoughts about the next day drip away, recognizing the insanity I was causing myself by worrying about the future moment that did not even exist yet! Then, I got in tune with the consciousness that exists inside-my true self. The self that has no ego, no attachment to the body. The self that is peaceful, pure, loving energy. I separated my body from the true presence that lies within. I saw the pain separate from who I am. I am not the pain, I thought, because I am not my body. I am the force field of being. The light, humorous, compassionate, peaceful energy that I am was not in pain; the body that I reside in was.
All of a sudden, I watched the pain, was able to recognize it as suffering and accepted it as something that I will naturally experience throughout my entire life time. Although the pain was still there, I did not attach to it. I didn't feel anxiety, worry, fear because of it. My mind wasn't making the pain worse by attaching stories like, "Oh, so agonizing. I can't do anything today. My plan for the day is out the window!" I felt the pain as pain and nothing more. I went about my day, able to do some light activities around the house and unable to do others. (My laundry has waited before, so it could wait another day now!)
Now, you may be asking, "Well, what about the mind-body connection? Aren't they 'connected?' And now you are saying to detach my mind from my body? I'm confused!" Well, I understand the confusion. In fact, the mind and the body are so connected that that is why when you think a negative thought, you have an internal physical body reaction called an emotion. And often that emotion then causes an external physical reaction in the form of words and actions. The very reason we cause most of our suffering is because of the mind-body connection, seen in the example of injury given in this piece. So, we need coping mechanisms and tricks of the trade so that we practice teaching our minds not to get SO swept away with what is going on in our body and vice verse.
Attachment to the body (and our mind's commentary about the body), rather than connection to who we really are-our sense of 'beingness'* -can be seen in many behaviors in our society. Eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, or using food for purposes other than healthfully fueling the body, is one way that people adopt negative body image views because of the belief that the body is who they are. When we acquire sickness, often that illness or disease becomes our identity because we are attached to the body. All conversations become about the pain or negative body issues because of complete identification with the body. (Yes, I believe when one's body is ill, the mind too is more susceptible to illness, but the potential to harness one's 'beingness' is always and forever available to them.) As we get older, the body changes, we age physically, and we don't accept the natural changes that come with growing older. We try to be young and constantly talk about how, "I'm too old for that." Well, the old saying is true; "You are only as old as you feel!" It is all about your mindset. You are always you no matter how your body changes, how sick, or how old you become. Your 'beingness' is constant. Science proves it.
If we come to recognize who we are as something that lives inside of us, as pure consciousness, being, presence, and energy, we can disassociate with the body and the mind's commentary about it. We connect, always, to the truth that is us, and are uninfluenced by outside circumstance and become less attached to afflictions in the body. So the next time you are sick or injured, be curious about your pain, emotions, and your mind and body. See if you can identify when you are attached to your body. Then sit quietly, feel your heartbeat, take some mindful breaths, and get in touch with that which is you...
*'beingness' - The matter and energy that all things and you are made up of. A non-wavering state of being. A steady presence. You feel it when you help someone, feel true love and compassion, and are at ease. Blissful nature. Stillness. Calm mind. You may visualize it as a ball of calm, radiating white light that sits in your belly or head that is always present, even when your mind is running wild with thought or your body is running wild with activities.