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In last Tuesday's post I mentioned that I will try to devote Tuesdays to talking about what it means to choose joy for and through your body. After 50 some years of letting my imagination and mind run my life, I'm slowing down enough to listen to what my body has to say. In our fast-paced society, where to-do lists often create adrenaline junkies, stress can take an unknown toll on our well-being.
 
People carry stress in different ways, and mine tends to accumulate in my muscles. Last year I started using a stretching video to release some of the balled up energy that was trapped in my legs, and on my to-do list was to find a good yoga video to continue the stretching and relaxing that my poor body is desperate to have. Thanks to a friend who loaned me a copy of "Yoga for Back Care" I am starting to unwind and stregthen my lower back, which has been giveng me some trouble.  

The same friend who lent me the yoga video also had some "acuballs" in her goodie bag, and they are working wonders as well. When I went to a massage therapist to work out some pain in my upper back and shoulder area last year, I would grimace when she even touched some parts of my back. She told me that when stress accumulates in our muscles, we actually store up toxins and these need to be released through the deep kneading that you get from a massage. But massages are expensive. These balls do similar things; placing them underneath a tight spot in your back, neck, feet or any other part of your body helps the muscle release the tightness. Breathing into the relaxation, and following your session with lots of water will help your body truly flush away these bad chemicals, and open up the energy pathways through your spine and along your feet.

One of the things that I'm noticing while I'm doing my yoga and using the acuballs is how important it is to be connected to my breathing. For years I was an adrenaline addict, pushing myself to do more and more, enjoying the sense of being a machine. It was kind of a head trip. I didn't have a chance to slow down the adrenaline naturally (and I'm not sure I would have known how or even wanted to) but my body decided to do it for me and after a while I crashed. For years I couldn't even watch a movie with the least bit of adrenaline inducing action without my body feeling physically ill.

But getting rid of adrenaline still isn't enough. I'm learning that I need to keep slowing down in whatever I'm doing, breathing evenly and deeply, not holding my breath, or tensing up to get through the next task. As someone who likes to do a lot of things, this will be the biggest challenge. Will this pace allow me to feel like I'm getting enough done? I have to trust that it will, that the work I am meant to do will fit into a day while I am treating my body in a loving fashion.

Not only am I treating myself well, but I find living this way results in a different relationship to the task or person I am interacting with. Whether I'm slowing down to enjoy the process of chopping onions, rather than just whizzing through it to get on to the next thing, or paying attention to the person at the check out counter, I am engaging in a different quality of connection.

Martin Buber in his book "I and Thou" describes this as moving from an I-It relationship (where the "it" is non-connected and distinct from oneself, often something used or only experienced) to an I-Thou relationship (where a meaningful connection is formed.) To move into an I-Thou relationship with my body, means that I (my mind or Ego) don't just use it to get me around from place to place, but realize that my body has something to contribute. My senses make a contribution to my joy; my muscles need to relax so I feel free and am able to experience fullness of movement. Even though "I" want to keep going, my body tells me we should stop now. I'll live a better life if I'm listening to all the voices in my head (and the rest of me!)

"Let's Choose Joy" is an encompassing phrase. It encourages quality of life in community-whether it's the community that makes up myself (body,soul, mind and spirit), or the community I find outside my skin. Learning to breathe and paying attention are some ways to help me on that path.