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Both Hands

On the one hand, the body is a physical thing; flesh, blood, muscle, bone. Turn too quickly and you twist your ankle joint, skimp on your sleep, and you’ll be snoozing at your desk. We know all too well so many of the effects of our actions on the body, particularly those things which signify to us that we’ve gotten hurt, or are unsafe. Just as you know not to put your hand in the fire, you know your limit in pie. Sometimes, however, the messages from the body may be a bit more quiet and difficult to understand. The subtlety of difference between hungry and dehydrated, or craving sugar may fly mostly under the radar until the distinction is extreme and requires overcompensation.

Similarly, we have our emotional edges, because, on the other hand, the body is an emotional thing. After a long day of lectures, meetings, working, and running errands, I would be glad to come home and just relax; though if I walk in the door and find a mess needing my attention, I lose my cool. Situations that would otherwise have not been a problem, can be the straw that broke the camel’s back under other circumstances. Recognizing our emotional boundaries, and when we begin to nudge or push those edges can be a challenge, and often require a kind of self-awareness and continual checking-in with our context to determine what may be triggering a specific emotional response. Again the subtleties of our emotional spectrum can be felt with that same self-awareness we cultivate when determining the difference between boredom and hunger, or exhaustion and anger.

Because as humman beings, we inhabit one body, both the physical and emtoional realities play out in a constant dynamic in the body that is YOUR body! My response to the mess in my home co-exists with the stress level of my meeting that day; our bodies’ physical responses do not exist in isolation of our emotional context, and vice versa. My hunger is in the context of my sadness, and my anger is in the context of my back pain; and either of those could be the context of the other.

We’ve gotten very accustomed to the determinism of modern medical science, and yet we experience on a daily basis the incredible resilience of the human body. When we cultivate that resilience by building self-awareness we build the ability to distinguish subtleties of both physical and emotional realties. We then are able to actively and healthily step into the dynamic between the physical body on the one hand, and the emotional body on the other hand. Then we can hold ourselves with both hands.