Listen To Your Body

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Most of us have the perception that pain is bad while pleasure is good because pain is unpleasant and pleasure is pleasant. This has led to the modern epidemic where you can take a pill or drug to alleviate just about any symptom. If you have a headache you can take ibuprofen, if you’re tired you can drink something caffeinated, if you can’t go to sleep you can take melatonin.

But your body is sending you important messages about your lifestyle in the clearest possible language. One way to change your perception and invite pain into your life is by realizing that encountering pleasure or pain is equally profitable because both tell you a great deal about the path you are on and whether you need to make adjustments.

Imagine that you have been practicing yoga and you hurt your back. Not terribly, but enough that taking pain medication would help. By doing so, you ignore what happened during class that caused you discomfort. Even if you remember you will not take it as seriously because you won’t be dealing with the consequences in the form of pain. You also probably won’t remember to sit in a position that feels the most comfortable possible, allowing your body time to heal properly on its own. You might go to another class because you are feeling fine even though your back is still actually injured, and end up doing further damage to it.

Consider instead the route of meditating on your injury, playing in your mind’s eye how it occurred, becoming fully aware of how and where it hurts in the moment. Did you try to push your body further and faster than it is ready to go on a particular pose? You will be gaining valuable data points for your future practice. By embracing your pain you are listening to your body and giving it the chance to heal itself fully before returning to your practice. Dealing honestly with your pain now means much more authentic pleasure down the road where you are honoring your body and yourself.

Whatever the discomfort in your body is, if you listen instead of ignoring it you will gain insight that will let you change the practice of your life in important ways. Our bodies are not meant to experience pain all the time, and I think we all intrinsically know this. It’s why we try to quickly cover up pain whenever it does come around. But other than extreme cases where the pain really does feel unbearable,  discomfort in the body gives you the best possible sign posts about where you need to go.

Many people do not inhabit their bodies fully and in fact could not tell you how their body is feeling if you asked them. The answers are vague, like “I’m fine” or “Tense”. Our rational, schizoid culture that places the highest value on thought processes and intellect is a huge reason why. This is insane when you consider that your body houses you and in fact is you. The happier and healthier your body is the more joyful and vibrant you will be.

Next time you feel any sort of discomfort in your body, instead of immediately trying to cover it up, meditate upon it for a while. Give it your full attention and the time it deserves. See if you can discover its probable source. Try changing that part of your life slightly and see if you start to feel any better. This is one of the most important and visceral keys to growth and self-actualization.