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  • Listening to my body and (re)learning to slow down

    Posted by jenny-livingston on March 16, 2022 at 6:06 pm

    I recently mentioned that since the beginning of the new year, I’ve been dealing with back-to-back viruses. It’s been weeks since my initial viral symptoms passed but I am still dealing with some lasting effects, primarily exhaustion and a lingering productive cough.

    A handful of times in the last month or so I’ve tried to do too much too soon, and I’ve ended up paying the consequences. I finally had to admit to myself that I need to slow down; stop pushing myself. Trikafta has changed the way my body responds to illness, but I’m not invincible! I’ve spent the last few days truly listening to my body and fully resting. It’s been nice for my body, but my mind is racing with thoughts of all the things I “should” be doing.

    Finding that balance can be tricky. There are things I’ve put off that I’ll need to catch up on once I’m fully recovered, but I recognize that none of those things are as important as my health.

    Do you sometimes face the same kind of thing? Do you ever try to ignore your body’s signals only to wish you had listened better? Does your mind want to go, go, go even when your body is saying “rest”?

    paul-met-debbie replied 2 years, 3 months ago 1 Member · 2 Replies
  • 2 Replies
  • paul-met-debbie

    March 17, 2022 at 6:09 am


    Very interesting topic, Jenny, thank you for sharing your predicament. And I hope that soon your health will clear up. It might clear up even better if you look into what might be happening here.

    What comes up in my intuition is “cognitive dissonance”. Perhaps you could look into this, not as a cure, but as an analysis of what happens in the mind. As far as I understand it, it is about two (or more) conflicting thoughts, values, behaviours or attitudes and ways of the mind to navigate these. In your case one of them certainly is: “My health is the most important thing in my life”. Another one could be: “I should always be on target with things that need to be done”. Clearly, these cannot be satisfied all the times together, and certainly in times of declining health this becomes problematic. So this will lead to frustration and guilt, feelings of inadequacy and failing, occasionally interspersed with little moments of victory and satisfaction.

    Generally speaking this would result in a balancing act between doing the important things and taking care of your health. As long as this is feasible, you feel satisfied and happy. Your health will be “okay” (but could be better in your thoughts) and the chores will be ‘reasonably on scheme” (but there is still a backlog). And temporary disbalance would be tolerable, in the knowing that it will be resolved soon by either doing more healthcare or doing more chores. This is what most people do because health or being on target with chores or both will eventually be restored and happiness will return, it is after all only one pill or one chore away and within reach. And all kinds of beliefs can be created to justify a temporal or more permanent disbalance as well. The mind is very creative and thoughts are malleable because they are not bound to what really is.

    The diabolic element in this particular situation with a chronic disease is, that your health situation is not only dependent on what you do or let be, what you can control (in casu the amount of work you decide to do or not in order to honour your health situation, or the amount of attention you put in to improve you health directly by therapy and rest), but that on top of this it has a completely independent dynamic that is much stronger and fully out of your control.

    So, even if you take care of your health well, it might still decline spontaneously. Or sometimes even while not taking care of your health, it still stays stable or even improves despite you being overactive. This doesn’t stimulate the trust in personal healthcare and might lead to doing things contrary to health. Thoughts like “I now feel great, so lets take the opportunity to do a lot of chores, because tomorrow I might feel not good enough for doing this”. Or, “I feel terrible but there is nothing I can do, so I might as well do some chores anyway”. And many other thoughts or convictions might arise. You have to take a close look into these thoughts and behaviours to identify the dynamic that is going on.

    But in the end,  there is a more effective method, which is honouring and complying and surrendering to what really is, without nurturing thoughts to the contrary. What is really happening here, is that you have a separated mind. There is no union between mind and body. The mind should be a servant to and feature of the body, but in your case (and in that of most people) it has become a self-serving master. It should only be a tenant in the house, but it has become the landlord. It is belligerent in stead of peaceful. It calls the shots, no matter what. It determines what has to be done, why and when. The fact that the body is out of its real control, is most frustrating to the mind, but it has found a creative but perverse way of dealing with it by randomly pushing the buttons of our feelings and sensations, learning from this what buttons work best to assert itself as a separate entity and interfering with the natural processes. If health deteriorates, or if things are not done, it produces feelings of guilt and deficiency in order to assert its own importance and existence in a passive way. I feel, therefore I am. I think, therefore I am (Decartes). Of course, unknowingly, Descartes was only describing the mind itself and not, what he erroneously thought, Being. This is because he was not realized and could not perceive anything beyond the mind. The mind doesn’t care whether it or the body feels terrible or good or whether it thinks pleasant thoughts or worrying thoughts. With both it is equally satisfied, if only it feels that it exists and that it makes you feel that you are It (identification). It makes you think that it is capable of preserving the balance between duty and health, and when failing in that it makes you think that this is your fault. It doesn’t really think that health or chores are the most important things to take care of at all! This is the real cognitive dissonance that is going on. It only puts these thoughts into your consciousness to assert itself and give itself some impossible task to do that never ends, because it then feels immortal itself.

    The mind of course is itself completely impersonal, it is just a self-producing process of separation happening in the brain, that is neither good nor bad, malevolent or benevolent. But in fact, in those thoughts it is hiding itself, and all the while it only thinks that itself is the most important thing, and it really doesn’t give a shit for either health or chores, as long as it feels that it exists in any way possible. The mind can even make people who think health is the most important thing in their lives, to commit suicide (“health is the most thing, but if I can’t have this, I’d rather die and take the body with me”).This is because is has been put in the position of landlord and it likes to maintain that status. For the mind, this is a win-win situation, For the body however, and for the being as a whole, clearly not and it produces a lot of suffering, imposed on and endarkening the innate Joy of being.

    Dissolving this separation between mind and body, between what really Is and what the mind makes of it, is the only real solution. For this, all dissenting convictions should be dismantled. The thoughts about health and duty will (have to) vanish, the apparent conflict will be seen through as a play of the mind only. The thoughts of “I, Jenny, woman, mother, partner, sister, aunt, niece, American, animal lover, spiritual or religious, healthy or sick, meticulous or sloppy, intelligent or foolish” and whatever more identifications have attached to this “I”, will have to vanish. This is not a loss (only to the mind), but an enormous increase of true Being. This will lead to realizations, more realistically. Like “My health, chores and me are one”. “Everything in life is equally important and unimportant, the only thing important is life itself and it will take care of itself by itself”. “There is no control about what happens with health, but whatever happens, it will be alright”.  “Chores will be done or not, there is no doing or planning necessary on my part, I will find myself doing chores on the right moment, and on other moments I will find myself resting”. “Health and chores will take care of themselves, I don’t need to interfere, the body will know what to do and when, if left alone and not disturbed by thoughts”.

    In realized Zen Poets, this will produce poems like: “New pond, no sound of a frog leaping in”, or expressions of reality like: “Sky above, great winds” (both from the wandering monk Ryokan). In Jesus this produced sayings like: “The kingdom of heaven is within you”.  They all were simple people like we, who discovered the reality beyond the mind and never went back. We all can do this, it is not special of difficult if we really want it and are sufficiently fed up with the reign of terror of the mind, pushing us about, constantly creating mirages and illusory predicaments for us to navigate and solve.

    Of course, this will require (and produce) trust in whatever happens and seeing through the game of mind, the virtual reality it has imposed upon what really is. This trust will come when zooming out of the situation and realizing that 99% of things that have happened in your life so far, were out of your control and yet, you find yourself exactly at the right place where you seem to be now, and you have no clue how it came about, and you could not have done it yourself in your wildest dreams. In fact, you didn’t do anything yourself, things happened, including the illusory perception of “your decisions”.  This is the miracle of life and the cosmic causality that takes care of everything in an unknowable way. It happens no matter your “doings” because your doings are already incorporated in what happens. Whatever you do is perfect and is a feature of the whole. What is meant to happen, will happen despite of your efforts to prevent it. What is not meant to happen, will not happen despite your efforts to bring it about.

    So, briefly coming back to psychology: Every mental cognition is dissonant with reality as it is. The mind Is dissonance itself. Cognitive dissonance is the state of the human condition. Reality is not what we think about reality. What can be said about the Dao, is not the real Dao. Every personal thought about “the world (sickness, responsibility)” is innately dissonant with reality, with oneness, because it creates an artificial and illusory separation, where we find “ourselves” at one side, and  “the world” on the other, and think that the world is happening to us. It really is not. We are the world, there is no separation, we are happening as one. Dissolving this separation is dissolving all problems at once, which is different from trying to solve problems (what the mind thinks it needs to do). Nothing will be perceived as a problem anymore but only as “what is happening”, not to an individual “I” but to and in and as oneness itself.

    There is a lot peace and joy in that, you know. It is not a problem that we are blown about as leaves in the wind, because we are the wind as well. To realize this is the ultimate goal we have in life. It means truly seeing that there is no nothing to achieve, only the knowing that there is nothing to achieve. Being part of that cosmic scheme is our highest form of being. It is a completely impersonal experience of life, but ever so intimate and rich, not cold or detached but fully on and in and as the caring arms of Oneness. In that, taking care of health and chorus will happen naturally without any thought interfering or perceived conflict arising. And than what is supposed to happen, will happen by itself. So, don’t worry, just let go of thoughts and watch what happens in amazement. It is clearly a miracle indeed. And no matter what you do or think, this is what will happen anyway. You can let it happen in peace, or let the mind be ad odds with it and suffer. It’s your choice really.

    Hua Mi

    (fka Paul)

    • paul-met-debbie

      March 17, 2022 at 6:37 am

      The great Dutch poet Hua Mi in 2019 wrote this, to capture the entire process that seems to happen, and as a self-erasing answer to what his name seems to question:

      I am That


      I am that which knows

      when and where

      the shadow and the tree

      cause each other to be

      the knowing that knows

      when and where

      there is no tree

      no shadow and

      no me.


      (c) Hua Mi (2019)

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