31 Days of Movement: Spiritual Journey


The past few days I’ve been pondering how I’ll end my movement blogs this month. I’ve been curious what will show up.

Here’s what has shown up, all year in bits and pieces, and again here at year’s end. Spirit. 

This year as I ran, sometimes I would picture healing energy flowing through my body. I said a kindness prayer for myself and for the land around me and the people I love and then people it’s more difficult for me to love. May all beings be well, may all beings be joyful, may all beings receive love and care. 

I don’t pray when I’m not moving. Moving evokes my prayer. Dancing does that, too, though I’m usually moving too fast to stay with a prayer for long. The slow, steady pace of a run invites me to this prayer, and I’m thankful for that. I need more prayer in my life. 

The whole of this year has been marked by intense emotions, and often I dealt with them by eating a lot. I didn’t really notice that’s what was happening, which I think is the way it works. I don’t think I wanted myself to notice it because then I’d notice that these emotions were too much for me. I couldn’t process them and be with them; I needed a buffer, and my buffer was not just food but eating too much food at once. 

I didn’t want to notice the emotions, so I wasn’t willing to notice that I would experience an uncomfortable emotion and then respond by eating. Once I made that connection (about a week ago, while writing one of these blogs), I became fully aware of when I’m eating in such a way as to deal with an emotion. It’s not a bad thing, by the way, eating to nurture our emotions. It’s just a thing.

If I look at this from my body’s perspective, it was a failed strategy. My body suffered. If I look at it from my emotions, it was not a bad strategy. It bought me time. It soothed the edges while I kept at my life. 

If I look at it from a spiritual perspective, I see this was me caring for myself, which is really quite sweet. I was feeding my emotions, giving them extra love and support. I don’t want to romanticize behavior that to me often feels addictive, driven, and harmful. I just want to acknowledge that I was comforting myself the best I could right then. 

In 2012, I adored the sensation of a long run. I felt accomplished and spent after running 10 miles. I couldn’t do that in 2013 because my achilles was injured. I was forced to slow down. I went to strategy B, eating a lot. It got me through the year. I’m on to strategy C then, which apparently will involve more patience. 

My achilles injury is not just a physical manifestation to be dealt with physically. The repercussions of the injury affect other aspects of my life. Think of it as answering the call to spirit when we look at an injury and see invitations to make our lives more whole. 

A recent Better and Bolder post focused on a study that showed surgery to repair tears in the meniscus (in the knee) was not more successful than PT. A friend, my Nia black belt roommate Jane Rosen, wrote a lovely reply to that post in which she explained the many ways she changed her body and her movement practices in order to change the dynamic that caused the pain in the first place. That’s the thing. Far more important than making pain go away is preventing it from reoccurring. What were the dynamics that caused that pain and injury to develop? 

In Nia, the word “stalking” is used to indicate we are relentlessly pursuing something in our lives. Natural Time is the way we describe letting things evolve in their own time rather than mechanical, clock time. I’ve been stalking my achilles issues in natural time, which means pretty darn slowly. The issues that caused the injury and pain have been with me for years. 

Jane’s doctor told her that 10 pounds of body weight equals 40 pounds of pressure on her knees. I put on more than 10 pounds in 2013, and ate foods that have been linked to inflammation, and it’s possible my body aches more because of it. While the achilles tendon is very slow to heal (it doesn’t have great blood supply), I could have slowed down that healing further by not being my best with my nutrition. My injury may or may not resolve when I eat better. It seems a good change to make anyway. This is one way that my injury is an invitation to improve my life. 

Another physical change to make is to rededicate to eccentric heel drops, which studies show are one of the best ways to elongate and promote healing in the achilles. The heel drops are recommended twice a day with 3 sets of 15 reps for 12 weeks. Twice daily for twelve weeks is a lot of remembering to do something and having the patience to do it. 

Patience means the ability to stick with something even when it’s a bit boring, and that is not my happy place. It’s important to concentrate on form while doing these, so I cannot distract myself too much. I have to be deeply involved with the process, interested in what I’m doing right then, and not thinking about the next thing. If I can do that, just that, just being interested in the minute I’m doing that exercise and not thinking about anything else, that in itself will be a transformation.

I need a way to track that I’ve done each set. I could set out pen and paper and write it down, which is effective, or use an app, which is efficient. Instead, I’m going to use two small, beautiful bowls. 

In one bowl are 3 talismans. One is an earring (its match is lost) made from a watch piece. This reminds me that in my  relationship with time, I can be patient and kind. 

The second is a pendant that includes this attributed to Walt Whitman: “If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.” 

The third talisman is a glass pendant, beautiful bright green, supposedly made from ash from Mt. St. Helen’s. I have a long, deep personal relationship with this piece, and it feels good to bring it back into my daily life. 

When I complete my first set of the day, I move the talisman to the second bowl. When I complete the second set, I move a second talisman. When I do some kind of active healing work (foam rolling, tennis ball massage, heat on my calf muscles), I move the glass talisman. 

Every day, I will be active in my recovery, and those activities will be charged with a spiritual purpose, which is to be patient and to move slowly enough to notice what I’m doing. 

This kind of change has been happening for me already in 2013. I discovered this year that for much of my life, I have been stomping around, slamming my feet into the earth as I hurry to the next place. I stopped doing that. That’s a huge shift. 

Sure, I still stomp and hurry a bit, though taking off my shoes helps me slow my pace a lot. In fact, my friends and my husband didn’t want to go for a walk with me anymore because I slowed down so much. It’s cold and my shoes are on outside all the time and my pace picked up again. So did my hip and achilles pain. Huh. 

I can choose to stomp and hurry or choose to sway and savor. Isn’t it interesting how much of my life I chose stomping and hurrying over swaying and savoring? Humans are so funny that way.

2013 was in many ways a huge shift for me, and I’m still unbalanced. There was nothing bad, by the way, just inevitable changes of life. My hormones are still shifting, and some of my physical pain stems from those shifts. So, I’m patient. This lasts a long time, but it doesn’t last forever. My weight gain, too, seems to be influenced in part by hormonal shifts, and this has required for me to be far kinder to myself than previously I have had the capacity to be. 

My ultimate goal is to love my body unconditionally, and that means loving my body that cannot run long distances or fast, and loving my body when I weigh more than I like, and loving my body that aches. That’s one beautiful thing about turning 50: I lost some of my resistance. It’s just too much work and there’s no benefit to harassing myself over my body being as it is right now instead of being how it was or could be or how someone else’s body is. 

This doesn’t mean that I’m not motivated to eat well and move well. I’m still going for better and bolder. It means I don’t have to hate myself on the journey. The invitation is for me to spiritualize the journey. I add prayer. I add talismans. I practice patience, faith, hope, and gratitude. I learn to love better. I allow myself to change, to age, and still to grow and strengthen.