of the Belief Overview
I will assess the following questions (this section is more detailed in the Belief Experiment #1 write-up):
(1) What perceptual points will best take me back to this belief? (2) What do I take this belief to mean?
To clarify, the first question asks, How can I recreate the perception this belief gives me? I could also state it as, What stands out when I hold this belief?
There are two parts to 2: (a) Where/how this belief logically fits into my current belief system (if it does so), and (b) If and how the belief is important to me: what I have learned from it, how it has led me to behave differently, etc.
I’ll start with (2a), then address (1), and finally (if needed), (2b).
What is the Context for this Belief?
Context for the Belief: The objective world is a reflection of the subjective world. Thus, my body can show me whether I am using my mind correctly (I know, this context may not quite get us to the belief).
Also, the human body, like many animals, has been around for a long time, and animals- who lack the intellect of humans- seem to have little hesitance about trying to meet their physical needs.
The Belief: My body knows what it needs, and I can listen to it in order to meet these needs. My body is intelligent.
“Listen to your body” basically means that you notice physical signals such as fatigue and hunger and you act on them accordingly. Of course, this isn’t always so straightforward because you may have these feelings even when sleep and food may not be the best things for you in the moment.
In addition, there’s more to be “heard” than fatigue, hunger, thirst, and sexual desires: emotions are felt in the body as well (e.g. fear, anger, happiness, relief).
It might help to say that not listening to your body means that you try to give it only what you think it needs, and not what you feel it does. I’ve been a decent model of someone who does not listen to her body, as I may do the same things to it almost everyday regardless of how I feel. You can probably regard injured runners such as myself as people who do not listen to their bodies (though I’m sure there are exceptions: it’s unfair to throw everyone into the fire).
What is the Experience of this Belief?
This belief is a tough one for me. As I reflected in Stop and in Lessons from My Body, my relationship with my body over the course of my life has largely been a rocky one. This isn’t to deny that I’ve had some fantastic physical abilities—endurance, in particular—but I certainly have some healing to do.
Even if I still have some health issues with my body thereafter, I trust that the logical end of this belief is basic peace with my body. This means that, whatever it needs, I can acknowledge that need and meet it reasonably.
It’s apparent that the attitude I have towards food while I eat matters. Usually I’m very anxious during a meal and hope that I will want to stop eating ASAP, though that tends to backfire and I end up eating way more than I planned. Towards the end of a meal my anxiety rises a bit, though it’s hard to pinpoint why beyond “the food is almost gone.” Sometimes I worry that it just isn’t enough. After that, of course, I feel bad about myself, and yadda yadda yadda typical teenage girl (well, the contents of those meals aside).
I’ve found that it’s more practical to view food as something that will be good for my body, rather than some evil temptation that will destroy me more as I consume more of it (I should note that the only sugar I eat comes from fruit, and probably the least healthy food in my diet is oats). If my body wants to eat right now, then it will eat: when it’s done, it will stop. That’s it. It’s been far easier than usual to end meals, interesting considering that I’m not as anxious to stop eating as I used to be (you know, all of three days ago).
On the first day I implemented this belief I had to slow way down. Way, way down. This would have been hard to do if I had to go run around mindlessly at, say, school like I did just a few weeks ago. When you begin listening to yourself you have to stop running your usual routine for a little while: otherwise it’s too easy to ignore your physical and emotional signals.
Think about it: a daily routine could be compared to a habit (or set of habits) that maybe isn’t too hard to break. When you run a habit you do so subconsciously. If people listened to their feelings while running habits they probably wouldn’t smoke cigarettes, eat junk food, or do work they hate for years on end (well, or maybe they would… Hard to say).
Overall, it can be hard to see what you’re doing wrong when you’re immersed in a habit. You just take all of your thoughts and actions surrounding the habit for granted. Even once you do start to notice these things the habit can still be hard to break nevertheless.
So, for my attempt to start listening to my body, it was helpful to spend most of the day at home by myself. There was very little around that might have provoked anxiety, which then might have turned into a habit loop; and, of course, “habit loop” means that I’m not listening to myself, which is the opposite of what I’m trying to do.
Taking notes seemed helpful to noticing all the fear I feel when I eat. It might seem silly to try analyzing a mundane experience, but once you actually start paying attention to yourself you might be surprised at what you find. Once you become aware of these things it will be easier for you to change them, or act however you need in response to them.
I feel like I’m starting my relationship with my body over from scratch. Instead of whipping it constantly I’m trying to let it lead. I’ve been worried that this will result in Kim turning into a blob, though I don’t think my body would want to do that to itself.
It’s cool when I can wake up and then get up without effort, or when I start hopping around the house without thinking, because these are the things my body wants to do. This isn’t to say I feel possessed or like I have some Dissociative disorder: rather, I am pleased that I want to do these things.
My first meal with this belief was a bit lengthy: for a while I just snacked on whatever I wanted to eat, until I made my usual breakfast. I felt much happier than usual while cooking and while eating. From what I could tell I genuinely wanted to eat rice and oats: I was surprised because I usually consider grains as useful only for their calories. Hm…
Also, I sensed that most of the food I eat should be organic—especially tomatoes (those did not taste as good I hoped they would). I’ll have to get on that one. :P
Typically I go for a run or a walk everyday, though I avoided this on day 1 because I sensed it would give me too much anxiety (which has not been unusual of my running the last few months). I think I will build up to be able to do that congruently (meaning my body wants to do it) and calmly quickly enough.
Yesterday (day 2) I ran maybe a mile, and even though my butt still hurts and I had a full stomach I felt fantastic. I had a lot of fun and I felt so alive (like Frankenstein’s monster! It’s alive!!). I sure hope this body tells me what it needs to make its butt better. J
I’ve only eaten plant foods (a vegan diet) for the last several days, and I think I will continue this for about the next month. I am highly uncertain as to whether animal products are in my best interest, but I haven’t craved them and I think it will be easier to hear what my body needs if the foods I’m eating are easier to digest (are vegetables easier to digest than meat? I don’t know).
Lately I haven’t been feeling too good about animal products. Sometimes after I eat butter or beef (both grass-fed, I shall add) I get pain in my head and behind my eyes, and it is a bit worrisome. The last few times I’ve had beef I had a lot of anxiety both while preparing it and while eating it, so I think I ought to stay away for now. It usually isn’t as tasty as I hope it will be anyway. :/
What does this Belief Mean to Me?
I must note: for the body to tell you what it really needs, and not merely what it wants, it must be clean and free of addictions. This includes an addiction to sugar.
It’s hard to say at what point the body is “clean,” since there are many toxins that make our way to us. It can also be hard to say at what point you’re addicted to a food, since you need food. I’ll throw out a decent rule of thumb: if you crave it constantly and it’s unhealthy, you probably have a mild addiction to contend with.
I know it can be offensive and misleading to throw the word “addiction” around. If you don’t like that, just call it a strong, constant, and/or chronic craving. That’s a more specific way to state what we’re dealing with here anyway.
Generally, the best thing you can do is experiment. Try to replace the food you always eat with something else for a little while. It’s hard to tell whether something actually feels good to you (in absolute terms) if you have nothing to compare it to. Cookies and added sugar and Taco Bell and Cheez-Its are great until you stop eating them for a month: then they’re the most horrible things you can imagine. Then it becomes clear that your body doesn’t want or need these things at all.
Then, the vegetables you always hated become your favorite foods. Eating them is a treat: they taste good and even a few hours later they still feel good. There’s no guilt or energy-crash that comes with them, and there is no need to ever experience these things as a result of eating if you don’t want to.
I know, it’s hard to believe if you haven’t been there. But isn’t that the point of these belief experiments—to finally go there?
It’s been hard for me to believe that I don’t have to act like a freak towards myself in order to stay healthy, but I’m finally starting to see that this may be possible.
What’s been particularly difficult for me is that it seems like I’m doing everything right physically (well, aside from running on injuries), but it is quite obvious that I’m doing everything wrong psychologically. Unless it turns out that vegetables are actually bad for me, clearly the psychological component matters.
If I regard food as poison, then it will be poisonous to me. If I regard my body as a weak, inherently flawed mass of meat, then that body will not be strong. The way I objectively treat my body matters, but the way I subjectively treat it matters more.
My body and my mind are not separate: the body reflects what goes on in the mind and the emotions. If there is to be any hope of my body healing, the healing must start with my mind. Otherwise, even the best objective treatment imaginable will only be rejected by my mind, because it will still believe that the body is weak, and so it will be weak.
Even if the physical pain doesn’t go away, it will be of immense relief to me to get rid of the psychological pain. If I can get on good terms with my body then I will not be quite as bothered by its shortcomings anymore. Instead of worrying about my health all the time I’ll be able to focus on other, more important things.
This is not at all to undermine my health: I think that to be my best, I need to be at peace with my health—no matter how great or horrible it may be. I’ll always keep trying to help my body be better, but if any progress is to be made at all the mind must be improved as well.
There is no need to be afraid of my own body anymore. Instead, I can eat and exercise and do all sorts of craziness because I love my body and I like feeling alive—not because I’m afraid that my body will degrade if I don’t do these things. If it seems that there is no more aliveness to be felt in my present activity, perhaps it’s time to stop, step back, and attend to the next thing I desire.
My body is simply me, and there is no need to fear myself.
The next belief I wish to implement might be more of an attitude (isn’t an attitude a bunch of beliefs, anyhow?), and it might seem kind of cheesy and cliché, but I’d like to give it a go: I can always be my best.
Your body is an animal: it doesn't ask for much
Just a little music and a soft touch
Why don't you let it out to play?
Your heart is in a birdcage, singin' in your chest
You want to shut it up but give it a rest,
You're gonna die one day
-"Smoke Alarm" by Carsie Blanton