When I first started working with clients (before I even called myself a Joy Guide), my focus was mostly on the body because that is what I knew. After almost 15 years as a costume designer and stylist in Hollywood, I felt at home with the human form. I knew how to observe and calculate its many shapes and sizes, how to dress it to conceal "imperfections", how to visually transform people into their more confident counterparts, and I knew how to bring someone back from the brink of a naked meltdown in a fitting room.
I understood other people's external body and their relationship to them in a way that made me successful at what I did. However, at the height of my career making other people look and feel good, I had become a really unhealthy and unhappy person.
Who knew that someone who spent up to 18/hrs a day thinking about, studying, dressing, and tending to the needs of other humans' bodies, would be totally oblivious of their own? I had no clue what my body wanted or needed and I was constantly living in a state of discomfort. Thinking back on my past self, I feel sad because my priorities were so twisted. I wore pain like a badge of honor.
I never learned how to listen to my body and I developed chronic pain as a result. I spent 20 years of my life living in discomfort and I thought it was normal to feel this way.
My body was telling me- no SCREAMING- for me to listen. So when I didn't, I got a few fun gifts as a result:
-frequent headaches and migraines
-bronchitis, laryngitis, sinusitis, and other itus-es
-chronic pain in my neck and shoulders (and that still comes and goes to this day)
-consistent digestive issues
-pneumonia in my left lung
It was crazy because even after being taken down by yet another ailment, the voice in my head would say, "SUCK IT UP, JUNE. You gotta be tough! Stop complaining. No pain, no gain." So I repressed what my body was feeling, what it was needing and I did what I had to do to get the job done- whatever the cost.
The voice was initially motivating and it pushed me to accomplish a lot of things in my life that I'm still proud of; however, as I checked off the achievements, I was left with zero joy and 1000% agony. Any of my hard earned days off were spent being an empty shell of a human, going to the doctor, masseuse, physical therapist, regular therapist ... I even went to a medicine woman in Thailand who scrubbed rocks and ginger roots on my body, and SPOILER ALERT, nothing worked.
Turns out the price of sacrificing my body was high and the price I paid was not worth it. As the chronic pain grew worse, it f*cked up my mental health as well. I was feeling depressed, angry, and I did everything not to show it. It was my job as a stylist to make other people feel good, so showing up honestly wasn't "professional." Just like I knew how to conceal bodily imperfections, I practiced how to hide my mental and spiritual issues too. But ya know what?
The greatest gift is, even if you're in denial or lying about the pain you are going through, THE BODY DOESN'T LIE. It is now my favorite truth teller.
So once I discovered this gift, I decided to learn how to nurture this newfound communication with my body by investigating all of the ways I could heal my pain. When the conventional route wasn't working, I ended up seeing intuitive coaches, meditation guides, astrologers, shamans, sound healers, yogis, psychics, human design teachers, energy healers, and reiki masters (to name a few).
Was I desperate? HELL YES.
Was I skeptical? ABSOLUTELY.
But was it working???
What I discovered was that, no matter the modality, it felt like the method led back to the same principles. You have to get quiet and TUNE IN to your own damn channel. Not the news, not the books, not the bajillion and one distractions that are ever present in our world, but into YOU.
And, whatdya know? I actually started feeling a ton better because I stopped to assess where I was at and subsequently knew exactly how to tend to my needs! Instead of pushing through, I slowed down enough to see that I didn't even need to push at all. There was a doorway to joy right in front of me.
So step 2 on your map to JOY is listening to what your body is telling you. The mind can play tricks with you so it's important to find allies within yourself that you can trust. This is the power of the body.
Although listening to your body can look different for everyone, here is what I do for myself...
1) I grab my journal and I go to a quiet spot. I have a little lake near my house so I prefer to go out into nature to tune in. If you live in the concrete jungle as I used to, I would also do this check-in wherever I could find peace. Sometimes, it was the bathroom LOL. Wherever it is, I always make sure that I have time and I am not rushing to go somewhere else because the feelings that may come up could be intense.
2) Then, I write in my journal the following words - one underneath the other:
Womb / Hips:
3) When I'm done writing, I put everything down and TUNE IN. I start going through the list one by one and write down how that part of my body feels in that given moment. I use this exercise to learn how to hone in on my different senses instead of numbing them out (disassociation used to be my jam). And for someone like me, who used to suffer from a very active monkey mind, the act of tuning in and then physically writing it down gave me a very purposeful reason to check in with myself. Otherwise, my mind would think it, forget it and move onto the next... pretty much defeating the entire purpose of taking a pause!
Here is an example of what I've written in the past
Head: Slight headache. Tension on my scalp. Maybe my ponytail is too tight? Racing thoughts.
Ears: Tension behind the ears. I hear the birds, the distant sound of cars, and the pulse of my headache.
Eyes: When I close my eyes, I feel heat and a burning sensation. Lots of pressure. Computer fatigue?
Mouth: Definitely unintentionally grinding my teeth while doing work. Pain in the jaw.
Throat: Dry. Have I had any water today? Tightness like I want to cry.
Chest: Uncomfortable. Sadness in my heart.
And the list goes on...
4) When I'm done, I like to go back and reread it to see if there are any trends about what I'm writing. This is a VERY important time where I do not let my inner critic start telling me how obvious or dumb it is that I am in pain because that's not helpful OR productive (usually intensifies the pain). Then, I can see if there is something specific that needs attention.
In the above example. I really started getting somewhere good when I got to my chest. Writing down "sadness in my heart" made me realize that I had been holding back big emotions over a situation with a loved one. Logically, I was avoiding it because there was nothing I could do about the situation, but it didn't mean that it wasn't still impacting my being. So at the end of the body list I write down a section for Thoughts and jot down things that come up when I tune in.
Here is an example of what I've assessed from tuning into my body that day
Thoughts: I didn't realize it because I've been so busy, but hearing about my friend's situation makes me feel sad and helpless. There's nothing I can do about the situation so I try to be strong, but my body is telling me to cry it out. The uncomfortable feeling in my chest is from my heart breaking. The tightness in my throat comes from me choking back tears to keep it together. I am clenching my jaw because I am so angry and want to scream at how unfair life can be. And my head, ears, and eyes feel like they're going to explode from the pressure to solve an impossible problem while still holding it together for my own life.
***Of course, everyone's thoughts will look different or may not even be this serious. However, I felt like using one of my more extreme examples to get things across***
5) Sit with your thoughts and feel the subsequent emotions! Sometimes I'm already crying while I'm writing down the thoughts. Other times, I've unintentionally suppressed for so long that I'm emotionally constipated LOL.
So, I have to sit. I sit and allow my body to be a vessel for whatever needs to come out of me. I sit and give myself the time to do what feels right for me next. Take an aspirin? Scream into a pillow? Get up and go for a walk? Eat something? Whatever it is, I give my body the time and respect it needs and acknowledging the source of my pain usually alleviates a lot of it.
I understand that many people cannot help the pain because of a serious condition, but for those of us lucky enough to be able to change our circumstance? I feel incredibly grateful to take back some of my power with this exercise.
So give it a try and leave me a comment sharing what your experience is! I would love to hear. It may take a few times to really get the hang of listening to your body, but it is vital step on your map to joy. It is actually the gateway to fully finding your inner compass...
From my heart to yours,