At various times throughout our lives we may experience a psychological, emotional or physical symptom. The cause may be very simple, easily found and sometimes easily resolved if its not life threatening; but there are times when symptoms seem to have a mystery of their own and are pointing to something deeper, and not so easily resolved. While it is important to address physical symptoms at their own level by seeking medical help or an alternative practitioner, they can point to unresolved psychological or emotional issues, usually stemming from the past and unconsciously carried into the present.
Unexpressed feelings and emotions can get held or locked in the body, and an unhealthy attitude of mind or way of thinking may develop to try and cope with this. As a result the flow of our energy, including spiritual energy, gets blocked, and can sooner or later manifest as a physical symptom. While this is not an exact science, we need to find a way to feel our feelings in order to free up our energy and our will to experience more of our innate wholeness or well being. After all, it is in our feelings, pain or joy, that we are most alive, and so to push them away often results in pushing away our own life force.
Many alternative schools of health and well being are open to the idea that the body mirrors what we have hidden in the unconscious part of the mind; that when we experience a physical symptom that doesn't seem to have an obvious cause, there may be a hidden message that we are not hearing. Indeed we all know the impact of stress on the body, and many of us have stresses in our lives that we are either not aware of or we believe they do not have that much of an impact. This can be a form of denial. Thus the symptom calls us to be attentive and listen to its message. This ‘inner listening’ leads to greater self awareness and hopefully a greater self honouring, and will therefore enhance our capacity for self healing.
The term ‘felt sense’ was originally coined by Eugene Gendlin who developed a psychotherapeutic process called Focusing. A poem that has come to be called ‘The Felt Sense Prayer’ beautifully expresses the importance of giving quality time to be with ourselves with patience, care and compassion, by engaging our awareness with the felt sense of the body, so that we may feel for and listen to, what in our lives needs healing, change, and perhaps new direction.
Please note, I am not the author of this poem. The author seems to be unknown as yet but some believe it was written by a Chinese doctor. If anyone knows who the author is, please do let me know.
The Felt Sense Prayer
I am the pain in your head, the knot in your stomach, the unspoken grief in your smile. I am your high blood sugar, your elevated blood pressure, your fear of challenge, your lack of trust.
I am your hot flashes, your cold hands and feet, your agitation and your fatigue. I am your shortness of breath, your fragile low back, the cramp in your neck, the despair in your sigh.
I am the pressure on your heart, the pain down your arm, your bloated abdomen, your constant hunger.
I am where you hurt, the fear that persists, your sadness of dreams unfulfilled. I am your symptoms, the causes of your concern, the signs of imbalance, your condition of dis-ease.
You tend to disown me, suppress me, ignore me, inflate me, coddle me, condemn me. I am not coming forth for myself as I am not separate from all that is you. I come to garner your attention, to enjoin your embrace so I can reveal my secrets. I have only your best interests at heart as I seek health and wholeness by simply announcing myself.
You usually want me to go away immediately, to disappear, to sleek back into obscurity. You mostly are irritated or frightened and many times shocked by my arrival. From this stance you medicate in order to eradicate me. Ignoring me, not exploring me, is your preferred response. More times than not I am only the most recent notes of a long symphony, the most evident branches of roots that have been challenged for seasons.
So I implore you, I am a messenger with good news, as disturbing as I can be at times. I am wanting to guide you back to those tender places in yourself, the place where you can hold yourself with compassion and honesty. If you look beyond my appearance you may find that I am a voice from your soul. Calling to you from places deep within that seek your conscious alignment.
I may ask you to alter your diet, get more sleep, exercise regularly, breathe more consciously. I might encourage you to see a vaster reality and worry less about the day to day fluctuations of life. I may ask you to explore the bonds and the wounds of your relationships. I may remind you to be more generous and expansive or to attend to protecting your heart from insult. I might have you laugh more, spend more time in nature, eat when you are hungry and less when pained or bored; spend time every day, if only for a few minutes, being still.
Wherever I lead you, my hope is that you will realise that success will not be measured by my eradication, but by the shift in the internal landscape from which I emerge.
I am your friend, not your enemy. I have no desire to bring pain and suffering into your life. I am simply tugging at your sleeve, too long immune to gentle nudges. I desire for you to allow me to speak to you in a way that enlivens your higher instincts for self care. My charge is to energise you to listen to me with the sensitive ear and heart of a mother attending to her precious baby.
You are a being so vast, so complex, with amazing capacities for self-regulation and healing. Let me be one of the harbingers that lead you to the mysterious core of your being where insight and wisdom are naturally available when called upon with a sincere heart.
One of the ways I work is to help my clients connect with their felt experience (or felt sense) of the body, in order to feel what is truly alive for them in a moment to moment experience. As painful as this can be at times, it often reveals a vital energy that may first appear as anger, sadness or a whole gamut of emotions, but nevertheless, a vitality to be embodied.