Day 4 of menstruating: I shouldn’t be having cramps… But there it was, all “shoulds” aside. As I was doing my morning standing qigong practice my uterus was cramping. I was at the choice point… Ignore the pain and continue my practice or stop and check-in with my body–converse with my uterus.
It can be alarming when we get unexpected pain. It can feel most comfortable to run away from it rather than to turn toward it and to find understanding with it. This isn’t at all surprising given our history with our bodies.
As children, we are taught to ignore the thoughts of our bodies and to only listen to the thoughts of those who created our broken education system. We collapse our little yearning bodies down into desks, in neat little rows in boxes with tiny windows, as a teacher brainwashes us to the words of textbooks written by white men about other white men.
If our bodies’ thoughts were allowed to lead the way, we would choose to be outside, immersed in the play of movement, and learning through our bodies instead of the regurgitating of other people’s facts – of others’ truths. Rinse and repeat… Over and over, and on and on, we are taught to not be in our bodies. To not listen to our bodies. To not communicate with our bodies. That our bodies’ thoughts are somehow wrong or not important.
It’s particularly challenging to listen to and give voice to our bodies when it doesn’t feel safe to do that. I want to acknowledge that the intersections of identity can make this especially true for brown and black bodies. The education system, the legal system, government, diet culture, media, and those of us who can identify as white continue to make it especially difficult for BIPOC to feel safe in their bodies.
What happens when we stop and listen to what our bodies need?
What I’ve learned from working with clients for over a decade and from moving from ignoring my own body to connecting with it is that if we don’t listen to the signals our bodies share with us, the signals get stronger and stronger until it becomes impossible to ignore. Our bodies are in constant communication with us about our health, our needs, our emotions, our dreams, our choices, and our paths, but we have forgotten how to listen. We push the voices of our bodies so far down that we don’t recognize them.
I’m trying to choose to always listen. This is a daily practice; a minute-to-minute choice to listen to the voices of our bodies or to discount them. Rinse and repeat…
This morning, I chose to attend to that voice. I brought my hands to my uterus and stopped my qigong to focus my attention there and to ask her if she had anything to share with me. With my attention tuned internally, I waited for an answer. An answer not from my brain and thoughts which wanted to slight the voice of my uterus and to tell me to ignore the pain, but instead from the body intelligence of my uterus.
She was rebelling. She wanted me to slow down, to focus, to be present to the qigong and to what truly fills me up in the morning and helps me find my rhythm for the day, my grounding, and my bliss. I suppose this shouldn’t have surprised me, given that the uterus is considered to be our home of creativity.
I have a morning practice that takes about two hours. I overslept by an hour, putting me into a harried pace of lack. While I was trying to do qigong, my mind was not in meditation but on my day’s activities and at my workstation. I had broken my rule of staying off my computer before finishing my morning routine. I had crossed my own boundary and broken trust with myself. No wonder my body was rebelling.
I stopped, walked over to my workstation, put my computer to sleep and my phone on airplane mode, walked away from them, thanked my uterus for the information, and returned to qigong with a deeper settling into my body and the practice. The cramping eased to the point of what would typically be unnoticeable had I not already been tapped into communication with her. After finishing qigong and then by the end of my meditation practice, the cramping had abated entirely.
I have so much gratitude for my uterus and for the pain she gave me this morning. How many times had I ignored her voice and pretended she didn’t speak to me.
I’ll share a meditation shortly that is an entry point to connecting with the voices of your own body. For now though, as you drop into your body and breathe deeply, what is your body telling you? What wisdom does it have to share with your right now? I’d love to hear in the comments.