Listen to Your Body

Listen to your body.

I have heard this phrase in many settings over the last few years but gave minimal attention to its meaning and even less effort to its implied demand. Bessel van der Kolk writes of it extensively (The Body Keeps the Score, 2014). I have read the book seven times. Resmaa Menake speaks of healing from all kinds of trauma, particularly racial trauma (My Grandmother’s Hands, 2017). The posture of listening to our bodies is part of The Allender Center Certificate in Narrative Focused Trauma Care Level I and II training. It was at Certificate II training (2019/20) that the low growl—”listen to your body”—became an unavoidable roar.

I have lived an active, healthy lifestyle for many years. I regularly exercise, practice good nutrition (well, that’s my goal), and get plenty of rest. I keep my mind active learning new concepts, counseling, and teaching graduate students. I make every effort to live stress-and-worry-free. It is a good goal, and a frequent delusion. Lurking deep within my body are memories of deep harm that scratch and claw for attention.

The first Cert II Level training weekend in October 2019 was deeply revealing and invited new stirrings in my body. Late in January, I had something akin to the flu and was laid low for two weeks. During the early onset of the illness, I passed out while vomiting, fell, and landed on the hardwood floor face down. The result was two wicked-looking black eyes and a scraped nose! During my protracted convalescence, I gave serious attention to the roar.

The second weekend for Cert II was at the end of February. Still not fully recovered from whatever I was experiencing, I boarded the plane and headed back to Seattle. My joints and muscles were extremely sore when walking – especially back and forth from the hotel to the school up and down the steep Seattle hills. Rising from a seated position seemed to result in the highest level of pain. I also had a dry, hacky cough. I found the second weekend of training more deeply unsettling and inviting. Themes, reenactments, in friend interactions and group, emerged with more prominence, along with flashes of insight and new understanding. The roar was overpowering.

Listen to your body, Christine.

On the way home from that trip (Red-eye flight February 29-March 1), I got sick on the plane, vomited again in the terminal rushing from one plane to another, and was generally miserable. Vague and sketchy versions of the outbreak of Corona in Seattle wafted through the terminal and on the news. Exhausted and feverish, I crawled into bed upon my arrival home. That was the beginning of a virus (not COVID) that has persisted until now. I am fever-free since April 30 but still have days when it spikes. I have had multiple blood tests to help identify the culprit that is ravaging my body. But the scourge is beginning to retreat, and I am improving.

Listen to your body, Christine.

I am listening, I am tuned in. I am curious and open to what my body is inviting me to feel and experience after many years of holding it all together. I hear my body telling me that it is tired of carrying the weight of diabolical harm. My joints burn from the weight of the trauma I have endured and survived. My muscles are weak and strained from years of tensing to footsteps in the hallway or anxiously trying to read the safety of the room. My head and shoulders, where I carry the bulk of my tension, soften to the touch of my kind and skilled massage therapist – something I have finally allowed my body to relax and enjoy. My mind is clearing as I flex and bend with yoga instruction and position. It responds more deeply, more contentedly to the embrace of my husband. My spirit revives as I am invited to rest in my life at home since the pandemic began, and dances with abandon in Spirit of God.

My heart is full and my face lifted when I think of the goodness and kindness I know in the life I now live.

I think it is interesting that all these changes started occurring after my father—one of my main abusers—died last year. It is a connection I am only beginning to understand.

Listen to your body, Christine.

I am listening and experiencing healing in ways that are long, long overdue.

1 (1)Christine Browning is a lover of story—including her own. She loves to hear and longs to respond well to others’ stories. A late bloomer in the field of education, it is her absolute delight to teach at Milligan College in East Tennessee. She also counsels women who have experienced trauma and abuse. Christine is the mother of three adult children, three incredible grandchildren and has been married for 42+ years to her delightfully playful husband, Tom.