Have You Sold Out Your Body?

No… I’m not talking about prostitution here. I’m talking about honoring the temple your spirit inhabits. What I’ll be talking about is how to be in your body and why. But first, a story about what inspired this post.

Last month, Martha Beck, Koelle Simpson, Bridgette Boudreau, Melanie Bates, and I launched the inaugural class of the 9-month Whole Health Medicine Institute Physician Training with a “Heal The Healers” workshop in Pismo Beach, California.  We began the 4-day event by asking the doctors to tell their stories about how they betrayed their bodies in order to become doctors.

How We Traumatized Our Bodies

Picture 16 doctors (17 including me), curled up in our PJ’s, lying on pillows, snuggled under blankets, in my ocean-view suite at the Dolphin Bay Resort, where the salty breeze blew in and the sound of ocean waves competed with the sounds of laughter and tears.

We went around the circle, telling our stories and bearing witness to those stories, one by one. I told the story of how I showed up with the flu when I was a second-year resident on my oncology rotation, expecting to get sent home because I was throwing up nonstop and had nearly constant diarrhea, as well as a high fever.

But I wasn’t sent home. A nurse put an IV in me, loaded me up with fluids, shot me up with some drugs under the orders from my attending physician, and fitted me with a Depends diaper. I was then ordered to scrub into surgery.

I did as I was told and promptly passed out in the operating room, dropping my surgical instruments into the patient’s belly and falling onto the floor, where I was lifted onto a gurney, taken back to the recovery room, given more intravenous fluids and more drugs, outfitted with a clean diaper, and asked to scrub back into surgery.

How We Dissociate 

It’s no wonder I started numbing out from my body. And I wasn’t alone. Turns out that most of us had dissociated from our bodies as a coping mechanism. After all, who wants to feel your body when you’re holding retractors at odd angles that are ergonomic nightmares in the operating room? During your training – and even in practice once you’re done training – you can’t always eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, or pee when you need to. So you numb out. You stop feeling. And then you betray your body even more because you no longer even feel what you’re doing to it.

My story was the least traumatic of the bunch. The ways in which we doctors sold out our bodies in order to survive our training would shock you. But I suspect it’s not just doctors who have sold out our bodies. 

Have You Betrayed Your Body? 

Think back to what you may have done in order to get ahead.  Did you pull all-nighters? Deprive yourself of necessary sleep?  Skip meals? Hole up in a cubicle when your body wanted to be outside? Neglect exercise?  Give yourself carpal tunnel syndrome because you’re at the computer all the time?

Or have you done even worse? As I share in Mind Over Medicine (you can preorder it here), there are copious data in the medical literature proving that work stress can reduce your life expectancy and increase your risk of many illnesses, particularly heart disease. Have you overworked your way to a heart attack? Has neglect of your self-care predisposed you to cancer? Might a chronic illness be the result of the sacrifices you’ve made for your career?

Are you ready to treat your body like the temple that it is? 

Write Your Own Prescription

What could you do – starting today – to reinhabit your body, tend it, love it, and honor it? Ask your body what it needs right now, then listen up.

Here are some ideas scientifically proven to improve the health of the body, in case any of them trigger a resounding “Yes!” (Mind Over Medicine offers even more tips!)

  • DanceNia Technique is great for somatic awareness, but all types of dance help you to be in your body
  • Sleep
  • Do a green juice detox cleanse
  • Set boundaries at work
  • Get a massage
  • Meditate
  • Do yoga
  • Engage in a creative project
  • Go for a hike
  • Give yourself permission to have down cycles
  • Have sex – with a partner or by yourself
  • Take a long bath
  • Feed your body a vegan meal
  • Attend services in a spiritual community
  • Follow a passion
  • See an energy healer 

Have any other ideas? Tell us what you’re prescribing for your body in the comments below.

With love and more body awareness,

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