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Mind, Body, and Soul

20 J0000008UTC 2011

It’s been a month since I ended my Paleo experiment and posted my last Paleo post. That was fun and added insight to my own personal nutrition, but now I have a lot bigger things on my brain. Not so much fish or rice or strawberries, but illness and health and why these are such an everyday struggle for so many people.

“Troubled Mind” by Mark Jones

The thoughts came from a place of anxiety. It went like this. I had a lot of big, emotional stuff going on– you know, things that are troubling to the mind and make a person bite her lip and pick at her fingernails more than usual. I’m not much of a crier, though, so I just kept going– working, helping other people pick out which brand of vitamin D is best, riding the bus, researching obesity, and selecting salmon at Food Hole. Somewhere in there, I took a little spill on some wet stairs. No big deal, right? But I landed squarely on my back and elbows, triggering an old stupid back injury from a year and a half ago– and injury that really messed me up for a long time. I rallied. I was going to be mentally tough and said to myself upon going out for a day of climbing, “I am not going to complain today and I’m not going to sit down.” Along the trail, under a nice, shady pine, I freaked. My thoughts went from, “I’m going to be strong,” to, “Why is everything always so effing hard for me?” and then, “I’m probably going to die alone right after my husband leaves me for a really hot, awesome climber chick and my precious, fuzzy dog dies a terrible death.” I almost hyperventilated. There was no brown paper bag to help me.

Over the next couple weeks I tried climbing really easy climbs that are suddenly too hard for me and work on really, really easy bouldering problems that were nigh on impossible. My body has nearly come to a startling rigid halt. I hurt when I sleep; I hurt when I sit; I hurt when I walk. I eat well. I take my fish oil and turmeric. I breathe, just a little, maybe. I think, probably too much.

So, with my back in a pretzel, I finally went to magic hands yesterday– my massage therapist who I wish I

psoas muscles

could visit weekly. After I publish my first book, I will. This guy does not give glorified back rubs. He works on the body, calms the mind, locates centers of stress, releases stored energy, and explains the work he does. He also rests his hands under the spine for craniosacral therapy, feeling the ebb and flow of the cerebrospinal fluid through the body. My arms and shoulders had no range of motion yesterday, tied up from the act of protecting my injured back. Now they will open up fully. My psoas muscles, deep within the hips, are shortened and tight as piano strings. He is working to release, lengthen them back to normal. When he works on my body, I imagine. I imagine blood flowing to the areas on which he is pulling, pushing, and moving. It is during that imagination process that my range of motion increases and the best work is done.

Later that day massage guy sent an article to me he had just received, about the psoas muscles. It went on to say that when they are chronically too tight and pulling on the legs and back, a host of issues can ensue– starting with anxiety and branching into immune, digestive, and reproductive problems. So, you can see the cycle: stress and/or injury cause shortening and tightening. Shortening and tightening causes additional anxiety and more health problems. Anxiety and health problems cause more stress and tightening. All from a few small, buried muscles that no one thinks about.

The culmination of July’s health frustrations is a word to you, reader:

There is a delicate, balanced, yet powerful interplay that must exist between body, mind, and soul in order for optimal health to be secure. When one is endangered and retracts, the others will over-compensate, sometimes for help, sometimes for harm. If one degenerates and becomes ill, surely the others will follow close behind. When one improves, often the others follow suit. When each is tended within our ability, the others find greater peace and higher capacity.

Very rarely can the body remain healthy if the mind is ill; very rarely can the mind stay healthy if the soul is battered; and if the soul is damaged for too long, it should not surprise us if the mind and body break down. This doesn’t mean we must be ‘perfect’ in all three. It means that we can’t just check out, feeding the body trash, filling the mind with trash, or treating the soul like trash– for each one will inevitably affect the others.

Therefore, be kind to yourself– your whole self, body, mind, and soul.

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