“In the end, everyone is aware of this: Nobody keeps any of what he has, and life is only a borrowing of bones.” – Pablo Neruda, October Fullness
The longer I inhabit my body, the more I embrace Neruda’s humbling words. Living with chronic conditions, such as psoriasis, as part of my evolving human experience presents a paradox of this understanding. With each new day of my reimagined life -- a life of increasing recovery and wellness -- this paradox becomes another entry point to the mysteries of my identity and the inextricable connection between my mind, body, and spirit.
As I welcome stillness and pay closer attention to this profound interconnectivity, I marvel at the meticulously curated collection of blood, bones, brain cells, and bicuspids that is me. I am a walking miracle of mechanics, each moving part mine alone to cherish or squander. I also see and feel the evidence of my own wear and tear, my faulty genetic wiring, the silent scourge of incessant inflammation, and the damaging effects of free-roaming free radicals. There is a delicate dichotomy at play between the miracle and the machine, and the more I surrender to this multidimensional interplay, the more myself I become.
I am not the sole conductor of this organic orchestra, but I am learning to play along by ear and listen more carefully to the messages I receive. Having ignored these messages for most of this life, I am working to awaken to new opportunities to nourish mind, body, and spirit in equal measure to help nurture a sweet symbiosis. The result is an upwelling of health and vitality relatively new to me during this earthly tour of duty, and an increasing sense of self that is simultaneously physical and metaphysical.
Managing chronic conditions like psoriasis, addiction, and anxiety requires knowledge, discipline, and, sometimes, medical intervention. I have embraced proven frameworks and developed daily rituals to build resilience to pain and stress, fatigue, panic, and other physical symptoms that wax and wane. Honoring these frameworks and rituals helps me cope and come to terms with my human frailties. But all of this doing and diligence can lead to a hyper focus on my physical self, and I can easily fall into the trap that this physical self is all that I am -- an assortment of maladies and behaviors to be faced and overcome.
To outsmart this terrestrial trap, my routine has also come to include multiple escape routes out of my body, out of my mind, and into a more spacious place inside where my identity is boundless and largely unknown to me. Meditation, mindfulness, and movement are the spiritual chutes and ladders of my daily routine. Together with gratitude, these practices help me surrender to and transcend the physical pain, gnawing anxiety, and the harmful self-sabotage that have defined me for so long.
Listen and Observe
Bringing a heightened awareness of the present moment into my body has helped me develop an intimacy with myself that engenders the courage to ask important questions: How do I feel? Is there any pain or tension that needs to be addressed and softened? What emotions are present and arising within me now? What is my body asking for today in a language all its own, and how can I best translate and honor these requests?
Embrace and Execute
When I ask and listen, the answers flow, and it is my responsibility to embrace what is and act in my own best interest. Sometimes I need more fuel, more movement, and more calming breath. Sometimes I need more rest, more rehydrating, and more regulating. Taking control of my health and relearning how to properly manage my chronic conditions has led to transformational change in my life and my level of self-awareness. In many ways, it has been a time of breaking down, reassessing, and unlearning. It has been a precious yet precarious time of recovery and self-discovery that continues apace. One step forward, two steps back.
Illuminate and Inspire
There are many teachers who illuminate the pathways of mind-body connection for me. They inspire me to integrate being and doing, manage anxiety and chronic disease, and find the middle way between the miracle and the machine. Among them are Eckhart Tolle, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Caroline Myss, Martha Beck, Mark Nepo, and Holly Whitaker. My family, my business partner, my husband, and a small circle of cherished intimates are also on the path -- all seekers themselves, all traveling similar inroads, all learning and unlearning with their own set of borrowed bones.
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