Loving our body can be challenging when we are experiencing any kind of pain. Whether it’s physical, mental or emotional pain that we feel, the last thing that many of us want to do is to stay with it, love it and befriend it. However, these are the very things that can help us to manage our pain better and to find some relief in the moment.
Chronic pain has been a constant guest in my life for over 20 years. At the age of 40, I developed psoriatic arthritis. It started in my fingers and soon claimed my toes, ankles, knees and parts of my spine.
At one point, my joints were so inflamed and swollen that walking was next to impossible. I stayed in bed. I didn’t want to get up because I knew that it would hurt. In the beginning, I fought it, hated it, argued with it and tried to get away from it – none of which worked to ease the pain I felt.
When I first developed arthritis, the last thing that I felt was love for my body. I resented my body and the lack of mobility that I now experienced. I had been a dancer in my early life and felt so much anger at not being able to do the things that I once loved.
I was angry at my body and demanded that it return to how it once was. However, my body, in her own inimitable way, had other ideas, and I embarked on a journey of learning how to really love and “talk” to my body in ways that I once would have thought impossible.
A major shift happened in my life when I realised that although I was in considerable physical pain, I was causing myself to really suffer because of my attitude towards both my body and the pain. The more that I focused on what I couldn’t do, the more I suffered. The more I looked at the body I had and lamented over the body I had “lost” the more pain I felt.
Every time I tried to get away from what I was feeling, instead of being present and available in the moment, I created more resistance and struggle within every part of my body and my being. And so began a fundamental change which is what I now share with others in their own journeys of loving and looking after their bodies.
However, although pain has been one of my most challenging things to deal with daily, it has also been one of my greatest teachers and I am thankful for the gifts that it has brought me.
It may seem strange to talk about receiving gifts from being in pain; however, without it, I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today. Pain has a deep wisdom and message that we can hear, if only we can turn towards it with an open mind and loving heart.
The poet Rumi puts this well in this quote, “These pains you feel are messengers, listen to them.”
As I listened and understood the messages that my pain brought me, I realised that I needed to change some of the food I was eating. I started going to bed earlier and taking more time to appreciate the moment I was in instead of rushing through my days.
I Said “No” to the things that didn’t light up my soul and said “Yes” to following my dreams and being guided by my heart. It’s been a long process but one which has helped me grow into the woman I have always longed to be.
Pain has taught me how to listen to my body, to rest when I am tired, to choose foods that support and truly nourish me. Pain has taught me to have more compassion; not only for myself but for this world and others too.
Pain has helped me to know that everything changes, moves and flows and that nothing ever stays the same. It has shown me how to greet and meet those parts of my body that I initially turned away from, wishing that somehow they were different – that they didn’t belong to me.
My own experience of pain has brought me “home” again and again back into my own loving arms as it seeks to be heard, soothed and tended to with compassion and care. Pain was also one of the key factors that inspired me to write my book, Romancing Your Body (How to Fall Deeply, Passionately & Wildly In Love With Your Body & Your Life).
When we turn towards our pain with love, compassion, kindness and respect, we begin to learn its secret messages and in so doing, lessen the impact or stress that it may have on our experience of life.
As a Body Confidence Expert, Author & Energy movement teacher, I am passionate about helping others to develop loving, compassionate and authentic relationships with their body so that they can live their fullest and happiest lives.
No matter what age you are or what has happened in the past, you can make powerful choices today, which can soothe and support you and help you to manage any pain that you may be experiencing.
The following exercise is a gentle, loving and compassionate conversation that you can have with your body if you are experiencing any pain.
Firstly, find a quiet and comfortable space where you can be uninterrupted for the next 20 minutes or so. Close your eyes and connect with the pain that you are feeling. It may be physical, emotional or mental. If you can, place your hand over the area that hurts. If it’s emotional pain, place your hands over your heart.
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths inviting your body to soften and just be in this moment. Notice what the emotion is that arises when you think of the pain. It might be anger, frustration, sadness, grief, impatience, intolerance etc. Try not to judge what you are feeling – just acknowledge it. It has a right to be felt, heard and seen.
Begin to talk to this part of your body or the emotion that you are feeling. Imagine that you are speaking to a beloved friend or family member who is in pain and discomfort and that you are trying to reassure them and soothe them.
Start the conversation by saying words like, “I’m so sorry that you hurt. I am so sorry that you are in so much pain. I’m here for you and I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got you. I see you. I care about how you feel, and I am so sorry that this has happened. I’m here for you. You don’t have to change, and you don’t have to go anywhere. It’s ok to feel what you feel. I’m here for you. You’re safe. Thank you for enduring this pain – this has been so hard for you.”
It may feel quite strange to speak to your body in this way. Most of us have never been taught how to truly connect with who we are and how to listen and talk with our beautiful bodies. It can be an emotional experience as all pain desires is to be soothed, heard and validated. If you find emotions coming up, allow them to be expressed – this is part of the healing process.
When you feel ready, start to change your conversation to one of hope, wonder and possibility. Begin by saying words like, “I wonder if it would be easy to let go of this pain. I wonder if I might feel a little better tomorrow, later on today or in five minutes’ time. What if the pain I feel could change with ease and grace? What if it was all okay? I wonder how great I could feel next week, next month or next year? What if I could come through this stronger and more in love with my life than ever before?”
Give yourself time to process this exercise. Sit quietly and just breathe into the areas that hurt. Notice how you feel. Observe if anything has shifted or changed in any way. Maybe you feel a little lighter or relieved. Perhaps you feel a sense of connection, love and compassion for your body and yourself.
There might be nothing that has changed; however, keep being aware of how you feel over the next week or so. Changes can take time, but the important thing is to simply keep connecting and communicating with your body whenever you are upset or in any pain.
I hope that you find comfort and great benefit from the exercise above. It has helped me come through some tough moments and my wish is that it does the same for you. The compassionate conversation provides a space in which you can begin to talk to the pain and the emotions that surround it.
For me, it helped me to realise that I am not my pain. I am so much more than the pain and the emotions I am feeling. I can separate my identity from my pain, and in that moment, I am able to manage my pain better.
This is powerful because pain can be all-consuming to the point that you feel all of you is in pain. This technique helps you to be there for your pain and gives a chance for your emotions to be felt, expressed and released.
Compassion connects and brings us back to the wholeness of who we are and also our deepest sense of belonging. It is the key element in all emotional healing and spiritual awakening. The heart of compassion begins with yourself.
When you turn towards your own pain or suffering with awareness and an intention to be kind, you end the struggle with yourself and open up a completely new and beautiful way of being with your body, mind, heart and soul.
For more ways to love and romance your body, do join me on Instagram. I would love to have your company and you would be most welcome.
Have you found any ways that soothe and heal your own pain? What are your own tips and advice for managing your pain better?