BY THE BOOK (by Jessica Skropanic) Your Body Speaks Your Mind
Our bodies can tell us a lot about ourselves through the symptoms of pain, recurring injuries and illnesses.
ver get butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous? Your bodymind is talking to you. When we are sad the body sheds tears. When we are angry our muscles tense. When we are massaged our muscles may release stored memories. Our bodies are speaking.
Western medicine has relegated the body to the status of a machine. When it breaks down, we fix it like a machine with surgery, medications to balance it chemically or to mask pain, etc. Deb Shapiro, author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, points out that while Western medicine has made incredible strides in its ability to ‘fix’ the machine when broken, it fails to recognize that the body is not simple a mindless gadget or a collection of parts. We are holistic, more than the sum of our parts. The body interacts deeply with the mind, absorbs our anxiety, fears, stress, and memories. Our bodies can tell us a lot about ourselves through the symptoms of pain, recurring injuries and illnesses. She is not saying that these problems are not real, just that there is a language the body uses to speak to us – all we have to do is learn to listen.
Shapiro’s book is divided into two parts. The first, “Finding Meaning in the Midst of Chaos,” examines the ways the mind and body unite into one ‘bodymind’, how the body speaks to us, and how to listen. Shapiro examines the environmental, cultural, genetic and emotional traits that make us what we are physically.
The second part, “Your Bodymind Revealed,” teaches us to examine our bodies part-by-part, beginning with the whole, moving to the bones, joints and muscles, then to the different systems and organs (nervous, immune, digestive, reproductive, etc.), stress and our survival instincts, the eyes and ears, and lastly mental disorders. Shapiro also includes an excellent bibliography for further reading.
This book is crammed with excellent exercises and research support. Shapiro’s writing is interesting and layperson-friendly. There are plenty of simple, easily-followed instructions for activities that demonstrate her claims and help the reader truly learn to hear what his/her body is saying. For example, to demonstrate the effects of positive and negative thoughts on the body, Shapiro instructs us to get partners, stand at a right angle from them, and hold out an arm. Spend a few minutes concentrating on something upsetting to you, then ask your partner to push your arm down while you resist. Note how well you are able to resist the push. Now think of something very pleasant and try again. Shapiro says that most people notice an immediate difference in their ability to resist the push. I tried it myself and...WOW! I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was – when I’m thinking positive thoughts.
This book also includes a CD with guided visualization practices. Track one is a short introduction and gives instructions for the use of the following practices. Track two is the first practice, ‘Talking with Your Body’, and track three is the second practice, ‘Bodymind Appreciation’.