One of the things I am most grateful for in the last couple of weeks is how M. has taught me to listen to my body. It seems to be a theme in my life right now and when practiced, it makes me feel stable and sane.
I know, stable and sane--Hanna? It's been amazing.
All my life growing up, I've been exposed to a smorgasbord of good and bad theology. The worst of the bunch was the one that told me to ignore my body and try to figure out what it was that God was trying to tell me by hearing a voice, getting an inner knowing, receiving a sign, etc. Paired with a puritanical distrust of the body (flesh) and a doctrine that taught that inner struggles and difficult decisions were usually a sign that we need to make the harder choice (for God), I became a mess. This usually meant that I spent hours days months agonizing over a decision and trying to figure it out in my head or talking to countless number of people for advice or try to find that elusive inner knowing in the midst of overwhelming anxiety. This naturally led to being an indecisive person that had lots of angst and inner conflict.
I remember one time, I was on a retreat and as I was praying about making a further commitment to a program I was in, I started crying uncontrollably and felt like I was going to be sick. Instead of listening to that, I took that as a sign that one part of me didn't want to do it but the "right" decision was to resist the urge to do what was easy and take the higher, more difficult road to commitment.
Sad sad sad. No wonder I was miserable, conflicted, and completely lost.
Through thoughtful fully present listening, M. has been reading me back to me...if that makes any sense. She tells me what she is sensing or hearing from me when I share--very simple things like: I can tell this is very important for you.
I hear that and think, Huh, you're right! It is important. And I wasn't able to claim the significance of what I was sharing until she helped point it out. I'm learning to respect what I find important, what draws me, what moves me instead of brushing it off in conversation.
M. will sit in silence with me sometimes and ask, "How are you feeling?" And when I think about it and share, she'll say, "Listen to that. It's important to listen to your body."
Another time, I was telling her how much it upsets me when I don't trust my own voice and instead trust other people and end up getting mangled and maligned. She said to me, "It's a violent experience for you isn't it? It's as if you experience something truly violent when that happens." Yes, I do and I had never been able to put it that way before.
I'm getting the hang of it--this listening to your body thing. I listen to my body and if I have a knot or something doesn't sit well, I respect it. I don't push it or force it or question it or doubt it or try to analyze it. I listen and I acknowledge it and move on with my life and trust that when I'm ready, I'll be ready.
This practice leads to a deep sense of personal integrity--I trust my self more and because of that, I trust life. I'm unafraid to make decisions and unafraid of violating myself by refusing to listen to my body. I feel stable, fully in touch with myself, cohesive, more of who I am truly meant to be. And that, I hear, is what Ignatian Spirituality is all about.