The strangest thing happened to me the other day. I have been going to see a chiropractor, which is strange in and of itself, because I’m terrified by any cracking of my body. I cringe and shiver if I even accidentally pop a knuckle, but I was starting to experience some back pain again and needed to feel like I was doing something about it.
So, there I lay last Friday, face down, after a few adjustments and with one left to go. He said, “this one is going to be intense, because this is where you seem to be holding quite a bit of . . . CRACK . . . emotion. Immediately, and I mean immediately, my eyes were leaking and soon I was in an all out cry. Now, I tempered it with some little laughs, in order to quell the awkwardness, while pleading, “Sorry, I don’t know what is happening here.” He was far from surprised and, evidently, he knew it was coming all along. He casually told me that I was holding emotional pain, because our bodies do that kind of thing, and to go take some time for myself to read and try to relax for the rest of the day.
You see, I used to eat a lot of corn dogs, “Cheese-Its,” cookies, etc. . . If it was processed, it was mine. I used to think that anything yoga, meditation, gluten-free, organic, essential oil-ish, was for fancy people and, well, we all know I’m not fancy. But over the course of the past few years, I have changed. I haven’t become any fancier, but I have dipped my toe into the waters of all the things mentioned above. I’m am a purist with NONE of the things above, but I really think there is something to all this stuff and I wish I would have discovered their importance in my life sooner.
For whatever reason, I actually felt like it was somehow anti-Christian to live in this sort of natural health world (as if corn dogs are more Christiany). In the case of yoga and meditation, I know how I came to that bent. They are spiritual practices and I knew so little about both yoga and meditation, it just felt safer to steer clear entirely. It is seriously embarrassing to admit that. Jesus is so so so far beyond these little misinterpretations of what Christianity is all about. He is after after my heart, not my diet. He is for a life of freedom, abundance and grace, not rules.
In addition to just feeling uneasy about the world of yoga, I was simply, also, very unlimber. Any time I had even attempted yoga, before the past year, it was more of a stomach workout from laughing at how my poses looked, compared to the rest of the room. Fortunately, all the amazing instructors I have had, emphasize how yoga is a comparison free zone. My friend Surya can attest to my novice yoga skills when she tried to teach me a little yoga . . . and that was before back surgery. Over the years, she has posted on FB her crazy yoga moves that would require the average citizen to dislocate their bones in order to get into her positions, so I was going to send her a picture of me touching my toes. I’m still not quite there, but this may be as close as I get, so this one is for you, Surya.
You see, I really do think God created us. I think he created our bodies so intricately and so amazingly. I think he created our bodies to be emotional, to be strong, to sometimes be weak, to recover, to live despite disabilities, to fight infections, to be taken care of, to be connected to our souls. Of course, when my body is not working or I see someone else in emotional or physical pain, I struggle so much. While, I do sincerely struggle with the imperfections of our bodies, I have always loved these verses. Even enough to memorize them when I was in high school for some reason. Psalms 139:13-16.
For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s word. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was Made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
I think I have separated my body and soul so far apart, they sometimes work at odds with each other. I’m pretty convinced that grief and stress had a lot to do with the plight of my back. I don’t think I would be minus a disc in my lower back right now had Dave not died, or if I had known more about how the body stores emotional pain and how to let it go. I still don’t even know much about that world, but I want to know more and I believe there is a strong connection. Actually, that reminds me of another story.
In the summer, we went camping to a lake you should never go during the summer. It was a million degrees during the day and then at night, there were tornado warnings. We spent two of our three evenings huddled together with the rest of the campground in the women’s bathroom, to escape giant falling tree limbs, scary winds and what felt like imminent death. By the last day, my body was aching everywhere, like I had run to the top of Pikes Peak. I kept trying to stretch and loosen up, but absolutely nothing helped. Finally, before bed, I decided to give yoga a try, and while I had stretched all day long, it wasn’t until I really focused on breathing and doing the stuff you are supposed to do while practicing yoga, that I had complete relief. That was when I was all in with this yoga business.
I go to two different places for yoga. One provides more of a challenge physically with an amazing instructor, Alison, that I love, because she tells you every little detail about every position and I need that. The other place I go focuses more on the body/mind/soul/spirit/Holy Spirit connection. Here is a little bit from the about page of The Haven Studio where I go:
And as a group, we sink deep together and allow the space, the physical movement, and our heart’s posture to lead us into profound, personal and corporate worship. Trust yoga asks the question: “What do you have for me today, God?” In the Holy Spirit’s presence we gather, and like Samuel (I Sam 3) we open our hands and ask God to speak to his listening people.
All of that to say, it is an interesting road, seeing and experiencing first hand, how grief has affected my body and how I evidently am continuing to store emotional pain, based on my chiropractor visit the other day. I want to continue to learn about God’s intricate design for the healing of our hearts, souls and physical bodies. (BTW-there is a grief yoga class by one of the Haven instructors this Saturday at Lifetime Fitness. I think I’m going to try and make it and would love some company).
This feels like a very unadventy post, but these soul and body connections feel important to me as I get ready to lean into the anniversary of Dave’s death and the celebration of the birth of my Jesus, my Wonderful, my Counselor, my Mighty God, my Everlasting Father, my Prince of Peace.
Megan’s Take: Phew. This is such an interesting, convicting, sometimes divisive, yet important topic. God absolutely created our bodies and souls to fit together in harmony. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us that our body is a temple, a housing place for the Holy Spirit. So, why on God’s green earth, have we kept such a distance from healthy living (mind, soul AND body) in the church as a whole?? I have so much to learn in this regard, but your story inspires me, Holly. Not to give up sugar! Gracious. Let’s not go too crazy, but to sit down and ASK God what he may have for me in the way of healing in all senses of the word. Perhaps the most important question to ponder in all of this is WHY are we doing what we’re doing?? Is it to please man (ie., look cuter, skinnier, younger, etc for other people’s approval/interest) OR is it because the God who created us wants to lead us into abundant life and part of the process might be to take some intentional (potentially ‘drastic’) measures in order to head in that direction…
Body and soul being connected to each other….I feel like I keep hearing this in my life. I know you’re right and I have seen you shift from your corn dog days to you now more whole ways and I’d say it definitely agrees with you.
This whole thing makes me want to open up my hands and take about 10 big deep breaths – I’m just in the middle of such an intense work season that sometimes I craft a false notion that if I gut it out a little longer, more will get done. That’s a pretty good indicator if I’m honest that my body and my soul aren’t talking to one another.
Love this insight – and love your sweet humility and you showing us this new place.