Being mindful of the simple details of life’s everyday beauty can help heal a body that rebels against an over-booked lifestyle.
By Beth Leianne Curtis
There is true beauty in the small moments of life. The way the curtains softly frame my dining room window allowing gentle rays of morning light to break through as I sip my red raspberry tea. The way my three-year-old lays sleepily across my chest, blond curls matted with sweat, napping and nursing at two o’clock in the afternoon. The way my five-year-old’s eyes widen with joy when he cuddles up with our cat, Sam. Of course, finding these joyful moments of life is easy – that is, if we stop and allow ourselves to be mindful, to notice them. Often, with the all too hectic pace of life, we miss the beauty of many events because we are frantically rushing towards our next appointments. We live by the stopwatch, sandwiching in event after event, until we’ve squeezed out every last bit of time a day can offer. Our calendars fill all too quickly and time marches on, leaving us lost in a whirlwind of activity. It is little wonder we forget the details of life as we live our drive-by lifestyles.
Yet many of us can and do choose a different way. Just as many of us have chosen to live outside the box with our choices to give birth without drugs, to wean our children on their own time frame, to fill our bodies and our children’s with unprocessed whole foods, we can choose to live mindfully, with intention and awareness. After all, in the words of Lao Tzu, “A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.” Sometimes we just need to recognize that step!
So it was for me. My decision to slow down the merry-go-round was triggered by my body’s rebellion against my overbooked lifestyle. I developed a “mystery illness” which left me so dizzy, nauseous, and chronically exhausted that I could scarcely get out of bed. Several batteries of tests from allopathic doctors confirmed everything was “okay.” But all the while, I was running from specialist to specialist looking for answers as I got sicker and sicker. Finally, testing pointed us to a diagnosis of “Ménière’s disease,” an inner ear disorder that presents with some, although not all, of the symptoms I had. I was scheduled for yet another round of testing on my ears when I decided that the running and searching was only making things more stressful for me, my body, my spirit, and my concerned family. I decided instead to see an acupuncturist in the hope that a more wholistic approach to my sickness would provide the relief I was desperately seeking.
Having grown up in a household where being mindful of eastern healing modalities was the norm (my stepmother is a shiatsu practitioner and I was raised macrobiotic), I was already familiar with the concepts and philosophies of acupuncture. This familiarity allowed me to forgo the nervousness that sometimes worries new clients around the “needle issue.” I scheduled my appointment on my overcrowded calendar of events and eagerly awaited my first session. While I was hoping that the physical application of needles to my body would be helpful, I was shocked when it was actually the first words my acupuncturist spoke that presented me with the biggest step towards my awakening to health. After I finished describing my symptoms matter-of-factly to my practitioner, Beth Ann, I was dumbfounded when she quietly turned and said to me, “Beth, your world is spinning out of control.” As the tears fell down my face, I was struck by not only how powerfully my body was manifesting the spinning metaphor, but how submerged in the whirlpool I was for not even noticing it! By simply being mindful of and putting intention to my body’s illness, I was able to make a giant leap towards reclaiming my health – body, mind, and spirit.
By simply putting intention to my body’s illness, I was able to make a giant leap towards reclaiming my health – body, mind, and spirit.
It is now over a year later and I still continue to see Beth Ann for periodic treatments. My physical symptoms have almost completely gone away and I have stopped swimming in a whirlwind of dizziness. I now try to be mindful of my choices and make conscious decisions about the activities and events that I plan in my life and for my family. It is this decision to find mindfulness and stillness in my hectic life that enables me to receive all the benefits of the acupuncture treatment.
I remember hearing somewhere that “we teach what we most need to learn.” Of course, as irony dictates, this is exactly the case in my own situation! As a Childbirth Educator and Birth Assistant, I empower women to trust their bodies and to open to the energy of birth – body, mind, and spirit. I encourage women not only to educate themselves about our culture of birth, but to embrace their own bodies’ strengths and capabilities. Part of the journey to release fears around birth requires awareness. It requires mothers-to-be to understand who they are as women – their hopes and dreams, their strengths and weaknesses – and then to use the self-discovery as a framework to embrace the work of labor and birth. Teaching mindfulness and body awareness to other women seemed relatively straightforward to me. Of course, all the while I simply was not able to apply the same concepts to my own life and my own journey of obtaining balance and clarity.
In truth, I have had to make some adjustments to my day-to-day life, which has not been easy. I have had to let go of relationships that were competitive, stressful, or subtly negative. This has meant letting go of some friendships that continually put an emotional drain on my life and it has been a hard process. Yet, as I let go of relationships that caused me stress, I have replaced them with new, amazingly positive and healthy friendships and connections. When I put mindful intention into creating peace in my life, an entire new community of support opened up to me and my children, almost like magic!
I try – sometimes not always with success – to create space on my calendar by allowing myself and my unschooled children days of complete unstructured “non activity.” In fact, some of our most joyful days over the past year have been days of staying close to home, just letting the days unfold in no particular direction. Putting full attention into playing and breathing has enabled me to step back and really experience the joy in my son’s laughter and, indeed, my own!
Luckily, I now know that life will continue to offer me simple moments of bliss. All I have to do in return is practice the stillness and awareness to notice them.
Beth Leianne Curtis owns Believe in Birth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is a Midwife, as well as a Certified Childbirth Educator and Certified Birth Doula. This article was first published in Natural Life Magazine.