The Healing Power of Listening

Sunday, November 09, 2014

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The Healing Power of Listening
Why you should listen instead of ignore.

Last night, I was convinced I was dying.

This was probably due to a multitude of factors. For one, I had barely gotten any sleep the night before thanks to a bout of food poisoning that woke me up in the middle of the night and left me terribly sick until morning. Of course, the food poisoning was my own fault. I had barely eaten anything all day, and what I did eat would have been considered destructive to any functioning digestive system.

I woke up much later than usual, and skipped my morning routine of coffee and yoga. Thus throwing my entire body further into turmoil. I spent most of the day curled in the fetal position on my couch, drifting in and out of consciousness. An hour before work, I broke and made a cup of coffee before taking a shower and getting ready. I was developing a headache which I took as a sign of my caffeine addiction. I told myself I’d be fine after coffee, and for the most part I was.

I went to work feeling slightly off-balance, but still capable of functioning for the night. I’m lucky enough that my work doesn’t require much of me cognitively or physically. When my headache started getting worse, I had my brother buy me coffee when he came to visit me. I noticed I couldn’t taste the coffee, but I figured it was just poorly made, and drank it anyway.

My headache continued to get worse.

By the time I left work, my headache had turned into the worst migraine I’d ever experienced, and I had lost complete feeling in every part of my body except the pounding behind my eyeballs. I was cognitively aware of every movement, but I couldn’t feel anything. I felt like a robot.

As soon as I got home, I started freaking out. I was pinching the skin on my arms and legs and I couldn’t feel anything. I’d been through many terrifying medical ordeals, but this was the first time I could remember losing my sense of touch. It was a nightmare to be cognitively aware of my body and it’s movements, but unable to actually feel any of it.

My mother works in the medical field so I called her in the middle of my freakout, curled up in a ball on my bed with my palms pressed against my eye sockets and my head tucked into my knees. This is how my mother found me several minutes later when she arrived at my door with soup, ibuprofen, and a bottle of water. She was convinced I was under some sort of emotional distress that was expressing itself physically. She was also concerned that I wasn’t eating very well. Like most people, she didn’t think my vegetarianism was healthy. While I tried to convince her that I was fine emotionally, my best friends showed up at the door. I had made plans with them before work, but I had called to cancel because I couldn’t feel my limbs, and I didn’t think I should attempt to drive.

Within minutes, they had me laughing while I finished my soup. And perhaps it was the ibuprofen kicking in, but my headache had started to fade, and I suddenly felt incredibly hungry. I put on my clothes, handed over my keys, and the three of us went out to eat like we originally planned.

I’ve been a vegetarian for over a year, and off and on for the greater part of the past seven years. The benefits of being a vegetarian had always far outweighed the consequences, and I’m typically a happier and healthier person when I avoid the consumption of meat. However, last night, the only thing that sounded good on the menu was a big, juicy burger and an endless order of boneless wings in every flavor. My body was desperately craving meat.

So that’s exactly what I gave it.

My friends cheered every time I ate a piece of chicken, and recorded the first bite of my burger. It was the first time I’d eaten meat in a year. The last time I ate meat, I’d wound up terribly sick for two days.

But this time I was fine.

Greater than fine actually.

Half-way through my meaty meal, the feeling was restored to my limbs. I could feel again! I was so happy I would have cried tears of joy. But we were in public and I have issues with shedding tears in public, even happy tears.

So instead I sang Taylor Swift all the way home, and gave my friends giant hugs while telling them how much I loved them. I went to sleep last night with a full and satisfied stomach, and woke up this morning feeling my usual amount of amazingly alive.

I was expecting to feel different.  Like the morning-after-I-lost-my-virginity kinda different. Something major has changed, and yet nothing has changed all at once. It was my first time eating meat in a little over a year, which is kinda a big deal, but it was completely normal, insignificant almost, at the same time.

“Does this mean you’re going to start eating meat again?” My friend had asked me last night.

“I don’t know.” I had said.

And I still don’t know. I don’t know why last night of all nights my body needed to eat meat. I don’t know what changed or if anything changed at all. All I know is that I listened to my body, and it was that simple and yet not-so-simple act of listening that healed whatever physical illness I had been experiencing until that point. 

I believe in the healing powers of our own awareness. I believe the solution to every problem in our lives comes from within, and harnessing our ability to look within is the greatest strength we could ever possess. I believe in kindness, love, and truth. I believe that’s what we’re made of and for.

And that’s why I became a vegetarian. It was much easier for me to look within, to be kind, to love, to see the truth while eliminating meat from my diet. Being vegetarian forced me to fill my diet with foods that are natural and wholesome, to make smarter decisions about what I put in my body.

But being vegetarian also meant putting restrictions on myself. It meant denying my body meat whenever that’s what I craved, and while those cravings were rare, they were still real. And I had refused to listen. Instead, I’d search for the possible deficiencies that could be contributing to my craving, and satisfied my body with an alternative source. Sometimes this worked, but most times it didn’t, so I’d give my body something vegetarian-friendly and widely appreciated, like chocolate or french fries. Not the healthiest of options, but satisfying enough to ignore my craving for meat.

I thought this method was working for me, but obviously I was wrong. Ignoring doesn’t make anything disappear. It just makes things worse.

So now I’m making a vow to listen to my body, my cravings, and myself instead of ignoring them. Maybe that means sometimes I eat meat. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know yet.

But I’ll be listening.

And that’s all that matters. :)

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