My body has been through the wringer in the past week. I was in Zion National Park until Wednesday and wow was it grueling for me. I don’t sweat easily or profusely and as a consequence am prone to heat-related issues like heat stroke and heat rash. Luckily, I avoided the former in the 104-degree weather but contracted the latter. My forearms and upper thighs are covered in tiny, angry, red bumps.
Also, I hiked the Narrows, which is a gorgeous trail through a slot canyon. The trail requires hiking through a river upstream and maneuvering large, slippery rocks. I rented hiking boots, neoprene socks, and a hiking pole to help me navigate but I injured my right big toe, despite my precautions. It’s not broken but it’s swollen and I can’t walk properly. In other words, I’m not in the optimal physical condition right now.
I’ve written over and over again about how the universe is always communicating with us, but something I talk about less frequently is how our bodies do the same. Sometimes I roll my eyes when I hear that because I don’t always know what my body is saying and it feels too irritating or complicated to figure it out. However, as someone who is extremely psychosomatic, meaning someone with a very close mind-body relationship, I know my body communicates with me all the time whether I’m listening or not.
I want to mention here I know bodies are complicated and mysterious. As much as we’ve been told, “Eat right, exercise, and you’ll be fine,” that’s not the whole truth. There are so many factors that affect our physical bodies. Diet, yes, but also sleep, stress, lifestyle, trauma, genetics, and more. Because of that, it can be SO HARD to figure out what the body is communicating. Sometimes though it’s easy. In the case of my sprained toe, I think the message is, “Slow down, rest.”
I have a tendency to cram as much as possible into the day and week, perpetually going to my limit, but injuring myself means I can’t do that anymore. Last week I wrote about how the body is a road map of our lives, but it’s not only that. It also acts as our canary in a coal mine. Just a reminder to underscore my point, I think it’s helpful to remember how this idiom came about. From about 1911 until 1986, miners used to carry caged canaries into the tunnels with them, and if dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide accumulated in the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners. If the canary died, the miners were warned to exit the tunnels immediately.
That’s what our bodies are like. They give us signals like rashes or twinges or soreness to say, “Hey, something is going on here.” Sometimes it’s easy to figure out why – like developing a rash due to a new skin lotion – but other times it’s not. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself and say I know my body is always communicating with me. The question is, am I willing to listen?
I dream of a world where we pay attention to our bodies. A world where we understand oftentimes the body is talking to us, communicating without language. A world where we do our best to decipher those cryptic messages and act accordingly.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.