Listening to the Wisdom of the Body: Welcoming the New Year December 31, 2021 15:38

Buddha in Fog Hong Kong

photo credit: Valery Rabchenyuk 

(If you prefer to listen to this blog post, please click here for the audio link)

Over the past two months, I have been suffering from very uncomfortable shoulder pain. I didn't sustain an injury. I didn't twist, turn, or lift anything in such a way that might have caused discomfort in my left shoulder. This pain has been a bit of a mystery for several weeks.

I have been carrying a relatively heavy shoulder bag from my car to my office at school on this arm, so I switched to a bag on wheels so that I could relieve any unnecessary tension in this arm. However, after several weeks, I didn't notice any significant change at all.

One of the mysteries of this discomfort is it has been difficult to pinpoint. I couldn't tell if it was in the bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments, or fascia. Also, the pain moved around. Sometimes, I'd feel discomfort in my shoulder blade--and sometimes I would feel an ache in my bicep--or tenderness near the left collar bone--sometimes it was a dull ache--other times, it was a pinching sensation. It was always morphing and shifting, and it kept me from sleeping.

After a few weeks, I started to worry about it...a lot.

I'm left handed, and having strength in this dominant arm is also essential for creating malas. Consequently, the worry wheels started to turn and spiral. Is it frozen shoulder syndrome, bursitis, arthritis, tendonitis, a repetitive stress injury, a rotator cuff tear?

The onset of this pain was sudden. It occurred right after my husband fell and broke his right ankle. Because of this, I wondered if the source was emotional. I realized that because of the nature of his injury and recovery, I was going to have to really step things up and take on more than I was already doing. I could metaphorically feel the weight of the world on my shoulder. Of course, I kept this to myself--I didn't want Jim to feel bad or worry while he was recuperating.

I was also experiencing additional emotional pressures at work, and, the ongoing pandemic wasn't helping things, either.

Jim's ankle healed, thankfully, but my shoulder didn't. I see an holistic chiropractor every five weeks. During my last appointment, I asked her to focus just on my left arm. Her adjustments helped relieve the pressure and tightness a lot! She agreed that the source, or at least part of the source, seemed to be emotional in nature. She didn't detect any obvious physical problems or red flags. I found that I was able to sleep more comfortably after this session.

Just before this session, I spent some time at home on my cushion and just allowed myself to be still and receive guidance about what I needed to heal.

After a few moments of stillness, the message I received was, "I need to feel safe, and I need to feel supported."

I listened to this message, and I have been honoring it ever since--by taking more time to take breaks and rest, taking time to adjust physical habits and behaviors that may contribute to this discomfort, taking more time to move mindfully (Feldenkrais lessons have been extremely helpful), taking more time to reflect, process, and let go of old, emotional wounds and moral injuries.

Every time my shoulder pops and cracks, it releases tension and makes space for healing.

As of today, it's not quite 100%; however, it feels significantly better than it did. The pain and discomfort have reduced, and my mobility in this arm is improving steadily.

The body knows things....and it carries a wisdom that the mind doesn't always recognize.

The body is also an emotional barometer of sorts. My left shoulder was letting me know that something was out of whack and needed healing. Once I began to acknowledge those things, to make space for them, and then let them go, the pain eased.

During this time, my meditation and movement practices were (and continue to be) especially important to facilitating continued healing. Taking the time to sit, to listen, to receive, and to move mindfully for a few minutes each day has been essential to finding relief and moving forward. In other words, pain can be a powerful teacher.

Ready or not, as we navigate our way toward 2022, I have several hopes and motivations for this upcoming year.

May we all continue to learn, grow, and thrive during this New Year.

May we all receive relevant guidance and support whenever it is needed.

May we all have the wisdom to respond appropriately once it is given.

May we all release what no longer serves us with grace and humility.

May we all feel safe, supported, and happy.

May we all be a source of safety, support, and happiness for others.

May we all continue to practice daily.

May our daily practice be of benefit to ourselves.

May we be of meaningful benefit to others.


Finally, Heartfelt blessings to all of you! May you find joy, good health, and prosperity in 2022!