I. Creating a pathway of inquiring directly of the body.
If I can digress for a moment…
I worked with a dog trainer in Toronto after we adopted our wild, Northern Canadian dog who is a solid, 75 pounds of furry intensity. Our dog is a dog’s dog - as in, he reads dogs and responds to dogs, not necessarily to people. When we first got him, I was overwhelmed by his intense essential dog-ness, and I didn’t know how to read him so he seemed unpredictable. Working with the trainer was mostly a time of learning to read my dog and how to train my eye, and not really training my dog to do particular things. (He’s 13 now and still not trained, but we sure can read him.)
The trainer explained that by the time a dog actually growls to show their displeasure or distress, they’ve already tried to express it in a bunch of other subtle ways. Growling is far down the line of signs. If you wait to act to change the situation until after the dog growls, it’s going to be harder to shift and way more intense. And holy heck, if your dog actually snaps at someone, or leaps at another dog or a human in genuine anger, you sure weren’t paying attention. That dog has already yawned, looked away, panted, put its ears back, possibly moved away, dropped its tail if it is standing, nevermind the hackles etc.
Similarly, our bodies are trying very hard to give us messages that can come all the way to our conscious attention. Maybe our belly aches a bit or our lower back is stiff or our knees send us twinges. If we had a way to inquire gently of our body, “Hey, what’s up?” then maybe our bodies wouldn’t have to start shouting: knees aching every time we stand, belly choosier and choosier about food.
Actually, if we look at how our human language works, we have body metaphors all over the place. In English, something devastating or so gorgeous that we “can’t stand it” “brings us to our knees”. A beautiful sight “knocks our eyes out”. Even when we consider the parts of our body and how they interact with the world, we can learn things about what kinds of experiences will tend to linger in particular places. Arms are extensions of the Heart chakra - the place where we reach out into the world for connection. Can we reach for help when we need it, or will we “sit on our hands”? Do our hands ache with stiffness and inflexibility?
Some body parts/systems don’t actually want to interact directly with the outside world. I’ve done repairs on several people’s circulatory systems from vaccinations or IV drug use because the circulatory system does not actually directly touch the outside world - a needle straight into the vein, either putting something in or drawing blood out, can be an affront to the body. It’s not always so, but sometimes it’s problematic. Some of it has to do with intention: are you letting some blood come out to help someone or receive a diagnosis, or are you forcing something into your system to boost oblivion?
The essential point here is that by the time we are aware of a body part through chronic pain that it has likely been trying to get a message to us for quite some time and it has now become far more intense than if we noticed it when it was a mere twinge.
Sometimes, if a body part is holding something that we can’t or won’t look at, we will stop breathing deeply into that part of the body and so it will drop further away from conscious awareness.