Categories
Bodies Listening

Our Amazing Bodies

Photograph of the highest point on the walk I went on testing my endurance. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Above Abergwyngregan taken by myself 22nd March 2022

I am always amazed at my body when I listen to it. At the point when this photo was taken my heart was pumping and my breath was ragged. But that is to be expected.

I had chosen this path on a whim, though had had a bit of a look at the map the day beforehand, and I had walked the opposite way with my husband many years ago. But as I was going down the path from this point I noticed the pylons and I was very high above them. I could see the popular path to the waterfalls way below me but things seemed all wrong. So I sat down, got out my phone and tried to work out where I was. I couldn’t get a good signal and started to panic. I was on the top of this mountain surrounded by sheep and thought the path I was on could be wrong. My heart started racing and my stomach cramped and then my legs started to ache. I was at a point where I could convince myself that I could not go on. So I remembered my QEC work, got my autonomic nervous system [ANS] away from fight/flight mode, listened to my heart, put my phone away and continued along the path. This was about 45 minutes into my walk. The path curved left in a while and I went under the pylons and along to the waterfalls and back to my car.. I had been on the right path all along.

But what surprised me most of all was that as soon as I got my ANS calmed and started walking again my legs stopped aching and I did the next 75 minutes of my walk with not an ache. The pain in my legs was due to my fears. Interestingly my sister-in-law says she knows when she is nearing the end of a walk, no matter how long, because her legs start to ache. I know it is often seen as a form of encouragement to say “nearly there” but maybe that makes our bodies start to ache thinking we are nearly there.

I remember years ago when some famous politician’s car was blown up in the tunnel under the Houses of Parliament. One thing he said after was that even though he could not feel his legs he believed that no major blood vessels had been damaged and that he would survive. He said he had seen many young men on the battle field die because they had believed the injuries were fatal when they weren’t. Ok so different to my aching legs from fear that I was on the wrong path but also similar.

Another interesting thing with my body is that from Thursday or Friday I felt short of breath and it stayed with me till Monday. I even did a covid test to check I was negative. As you know from the My Sister post it was 10 years ago that my sister died. Well also 10 years ago a really close friend committed suicide. Eight years ago this same time period my son broke his collar bone playing rugby. Six years ago the same weekend my daughter had a major break up with a boyfriend and I helped her move from London to Cardiff. And then of course 2 years ago this self same time we went into lockdown. It was only when I was catching my breath at the top of yesterday’s climb that I realised over that whole period of last weekend I was holding my breath waiting for something bad to happen. Nothing did so now I can breath again. Again fascinating how my body remembered those incidents and was preparing itself.

I do think too often we are too busy and don’t listen to our bodies. Or we have so many other things piled around us that our heads are making too much noise to be able to really listen. Listening to our bodies takes time. Listening to our bodies means slowing down. Listening to our bodies takes understanding. Listening to our bodies means not judging them. Listening to our bodies means having a sense of awareness. It also means not being afraid to look back and ask “what happened then?”

I know this is a question I keep asking but – are we willing to slow down and really listen? to ourselves and also to the world around us?

Categories
christmas solstice

The Coming of Christmas

I know this is probably a bit early to use the “C” word but it is what’s been buzzing in my head. And yesterday was the start of Celtic Advent – in the Celtic Christian calendar there are 40 days of Advent just as there are 40 days of Lent – so here we go.

View across Dublin, sunrise March 2016 taken by me

he days are getting shorter, darker, wetter and colder as they lollop towards the end of the year. It is a time when we should be slowing down and reflecting on the year. If we tapped into our pre-industrialisation roots this was the time when our ancestors in the North would stay home and wait, wait to see if the sun would rise again, if the days would get longer or whether things would just get darker and darker. Sounds a bit familiar that – wondering if it is just going to get darker and darker? Solstice means “sun stands still” and it is almost as if the sun is thinking about whether it will start to climb again. In fact. But 4 days later it appears that the sun decides to stay around for longer, which is why Celtic Christians pick 25th December as the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth so show that when there is a fear of darkness fully encroaching over the world the Son of God came to turn back the darkness. It was also a way of showing Jesus to be the fulfilment of a pagan festival.

Our bodies still remember this but we fight against the natural reaction of our bodies with our warm centrally heated, light houses, and the commercial extravaganza that this season has become. Even in Church we make it into a busy time and a buying time.

In “normal” times I would be at my wits end at this time of year planning Christmas plays where I never seemed to get the cast until the day before, planning a nativity skit with 2 or 3 close friends who “got it”, as well as planning trips off to see friends and family down south and who was coming up to visiting us. Much more into my 21st Century busy boots rather than my ancient roots.

I am a planner who doesn’t like plans which means that I start my Christmas planning around October. I make lists that I then leave all over the house[ on the kitchen table, on the notice board, in my study, in my pockets; lists for this Christmas play and the skit and for other things I would have been roped into in church; lists for presents I think I should be buying; lists for the food I wanted to get for the “big day”; a timetabled list of our trip south.

I buy my Advent books, which this year is Christine Sine’s Lean Towards the Light this Advent & Christmas which I bought ages ago, and has been sat on the arm of my sofa so I don’t forgot to use it, looking battered and tired, and I’ve signed up for a couple of Advent writing course. Then because I don’t like plans I’d lie in bed and worry about the play, the shopping, etc but not get things done.

Of course this year we don’t know if we are going to be able to see any friends or family because of Covid rules. The weather is too unpredictable and days so short meeting outside will be difficult. Church can’t have lots of people in it so there’s no Christmas plays. I can’t go rushing round shops or Christmas markets buying things for people who probably don’t want them anyway! [Note gift giver is very low in my love languages!] Should I get lots of food? Will anyone be coming to visit us? I know my kids are hoping to but …

My body is feeling sluggish and unmotivated, which could be to do with covid rules and guideline, or could be because I can’t get out much because my ribs aren’t mending as fast as I would like. I’m sure they are mending as fast as they think best. But I do wonder if this year I am accepting my ancient roots more because of the restrictions, because I have had to slow down, had to spend more time inside just resting and thinking. At this time of year our ancestors would be resting from the busyness of harvesting and the preserving of the harvest; salting, pickling, bottling, making into wines, etc.

Maybe winter is a time to feel a bit low, to hibernate, and to ponder whether this year the sun will forget to shine and things just will get darker and darker. Perhaps this year God is staying that we all need to accept that feeling of lowness, examine its origins, to not try to rush around making it go away and trying to make things like they were last year. Maybe we need to hunker down and pray that the sun will rise again, that the light will return and that in the coming year as the days increase so will our energy, our productivity, our joy. And that the darkness will flee.