SkyDancer Bibliography
Music List
CHC Home
Katherine Thanas

"Hearing the Voice of the Body," pp. 43-47 in Being Bodies; Buddhist Women on the Paradox of Embodiment , edited by Lenore Friedman and Susan Moon.

Thanas describes how she has learned to go "to the body for answers when I do not understand what is arising in my life." This involves a deep listening, because "most of us do not know how to listen to our bodies" — in fact, have "turned off the voice of the body," so that it "obediently went silent as we agreed not to notice our emotional or feeling life."

She reports experiences with times her body has rebelled against this repression, by developing problems that demanded attention. She describes how hard it is "to attend to physical symptoms which may be disgusting or frightening, to welcome them." (She says she has to be alone, and sometimes lies down in a fetal position.)

But I think the crux of the practice she's describing, is in this paragraph:

"The deep attending to hard knots of holding is a powerfully compassionate act, a turning toward rejected parts of our being. As this newly compassionate observing occurs, the object of observation, the body/self, is transformed, and we move from denial to acceptance, from rejection to inclusion. This is the beginning of metta practice, loving-kindness for the self."

Even after all the metta I've been doing, the idea of turning this compassion toward my worst physical problems.... does scare me. For example, lately my ability to tolerate foods has become so poor that I am eating mainly summer squash and zucchini, chicken, lamb and rabbit. This worries me: what about nutrition, a balanced diet? What if this gets worse?

I keep trying to add other things, and getting sick from them. I don't have a doctor who has any idea what's happening to me. I have a couple of theories, and can test them by trying various supplements that might help — carefully! I have been focusing my attention on this plan — which is good, but I realize on reading Thanas, that I'm avoiding giving attention to my body.

It's clear I need to do some "deep attending" to my body, to my headaches and nausea and, oh, yuck, all the mess of it.... During a bad bout of it, I just want to escape the pain. When it's not bad, I just want to get something productive accomplished while I have the energy. I have not been actually paying attention to the symptoms ... certainly not welcoming them.

I think this is as far as I can get right now: I understand that I need to do this. I'm not quite ready to invite the demon to tea, but I'm aware that she's sitting guard at my door. Maybe I could get as far as setting the table....

© copyright Catherine Holmes Clark, 2003; last updated 1March 2003