Paying Attention – Nature’s Best Medicine

Today I indulged. I had one too many cups of dark roast coffee. I sat and talked, enjoying the comforts of friendship and air conditioning. I skipped my morning and evening yoga, and I ate lots of starchy food. With the exception of the good conversation, I can certainly feel my body’s discontent. My stomach is unhappy. I feel stiff and lazy. Skipping exercise and eating poorly immediately caused a physical reaction. It’s palpable, visceral–and didn’t take long for these unpleasant signs to emerge.

My ill feelings have me wondering how so many of us get into such desperate states of dis-ease. I mean, if I had such an immediate reaction to poor health choices, then I cannot assume I am alone, right? So, if we as Americans are making poor dietary and wellness choices, and obesity and lifestyle diseases plague us, I am inclined to believe we are simply disconnected. We are so disconnected, in fact, from our body’s signals that we don’t know what healthy feels like. We simply inoculate ourselves to pain and discomfort with numerous pain relievers and forms of escape.

We live outside of ourselves.

Psychologists call this disassociation. This dissociative state allows us to leave our pain — physical and psychological distress – until we deem it safe enough to return to a state of awareness. This disorder is often described as an affliction of people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. In fact, disassociation seems quite common these days in pop psych speak. In my opinion, this has led the therapeutic community to believe that more people suffer from PTSD than perhaps actually do. Could PTSD be that easy to develop? It does seem believable that we live in such a violently voyeuristic culture we could all be PTSD sufferers. But I don’t think so.

Rather, I think our manner of living encourages escapism to the point of cultivating a type of pseudo -dissociative state. We encourage escape. We encourage mindless indulgence. We are fed vast amounts of information, but are we wiser for it, or is it simply stimulus? After a while, does the response stop and passive acceptance enter?

One of the fastest ways to get in touch with how we are feeling is by unplugging and disengaging from distractions. Meditation is a good vehicle for body knowledge. Prayer and self- reflection serve as modes of inner dialogue. The Buddhists ask, “What is this?” as a form of meditation and remaining in the moment when anxiety and fear arise.

Take an hour of your day and simply sit with yourself. Do a body scan.  Do you have a small sensation that something needs attention?

How do you really feel?
How are you… really? Answer with thought.

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