Listening to Your Body (and Cooling the Flames)

I started reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames recently. My friend Angela recommended this book to me and I now keep it on my bedside table for little doses of reading before bed.

Right now I am delving deeply into the chapter called “The Language of True Love.” I have been thinking about anger and how it relates to language because for the past few weeks I have had terrible pain in my jaw (left TMJ area) and now in my left neck muscles. I know there is something to be learned by this pain. I know this pain is not purely physical in nature. I feel this pain has to do with my throat chakra and my speaking my truth.

I also think that this pain has to do with anger. After all, when we are angry or stressed we tend to clench our jaw, tighten our neck muscles, and stop breathing properly. These all create a hostile environment for the throat chakra — a chakra that is the gateway from the lower chakras to the upper chakras, the smallest channel in the body for energy to flow from one chakra to the next. If the feelings of the heart aren’t accepted and communicated via the throat, we can experience physical or emotional pain.

I received a massage today as part of my journey to soften the pain in my neck and as I was lying on the table the idea (not the feeling) of anger emerged. Am I angry about something? Has something gone unexpressed? I began to have a dialogue with my neck and jaw — one of curiosity and compassion. This internal conversation reminded me of a passage from Hanh’s Anger:

“When you are angry, your anger is your baby and you have to look after it. It is like when your stomach is upset, you have to go back to yourself and embrace your stomach. Your stomach is your baby at that moment. Our stomach is a physical formation, a physiological formation, and our anger is a mental formation. We must take care of our anger in the same way we take care of our stomach….”

After the massage session, I felt like my neck was this baby to look after, to console, to comfort. I also felt like I needed to listen to this baby and to let it scream if it needed to. (BTW, no screaming yet, but if need be, I will let ‘er rip!)

What physical pain are you experiencing right now — from the tiniest of annoyances to major discomfort — that could use some attention? What, beyond your physiology, might be contributing to this discomfort? And what might happen if you listened to this part of your body and cradled it like a baby in need or your care? And in your dialogue with this part of your body, what emotions reside there? Is there anger, fear, sadness? Allow yourself to feel what emerges, and most likely this awareness will lessen the pain.

I am glad to report that my neck is feeling much better this evening, but I also feel like there is more left on my journey of discovering what this area of my body needs to communicate. Next to my Anger book I also keep a journal, so I am ready to record insights and messages as they arrive. Perhaps a dream will reveal some insight tonight….

About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
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4 Responses to Listening to Your Body (and Cooling the Flames)

  1. karen Floyd says:

    thank you for this Courtney. I had an opportunity to make a list today
    of things that make me angry for a coach. It was interesting. This list
    and some other work we did drew me to the origin of the anger and even
    helped me understand from whence and why it came and how it formed
    itself into survival mechanisms that act as personas I can take on!
    I know that labeling things can limit them but in this case it was actually freeing. I now have some psuedo names I can refer to when these coping behaviors come up that will help me be more conscious and deliberate.
    I also became more aware that most of my powerful NO’S came from
    a place of clarity and some anger! hmmm positive action with anger!
    I learned that my body is WISE and my mind has KNOWLEDGE.
    I realized the importance of the body. You know we can be brain dead
    and not die, but we cannot be heart-dead and live!

  2. Karen,

    Thank you for sharing your process with anger and body wisdom. And how enligtening to give names to the personas within you that are coping/survival mechanisms. I would love to do something like that!


  3. massage reno says:

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information. Our lives are so full of stress and unfortunately that leads to impatience and anger. I really try to do a few things just for me each month, I really believe in that saying, “you must take care of yourself before you are able to take care of others.” I usually indulge in a relaxing massage each month and it really helps to keep me grounded.

  4. Massage Reno,

    Thank you for visiting my blog and I love how you make time to take care of yourself so you are able to care for others. Lovely.


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