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October 19, 2014

My Body is my Teacher.

Maria_Fendrick Lovely Feet for ElephantJ

At the age of 13, I was introduced to the idea that thoughts have the power to create our reality.

While my teenage self found the concept appealing, it took me a few years of research and experiential learning to figure out how that could possibly be true and to test the hypothesis for myself.

Nowadays when I hear the expression, “Thoughts become things,” I hear the the twofold meaning of that statement. The speaker is not just talking about how thoughts determine our perception of the world but how they also generate energetic patterns that result in real, palpable changes in our bodies and our experience of the journey.

It is in this way that our bodies are living projections of the contents of our mind, both conscious and subconscious, and our most useful tools in self-healing.

My own body rushed to my aid two months into my first semester at a small, prestigious, liberal arts college. I woke up in the middle of the night with the sense that the foot of my bed was on fire. In my half-conscious state I realized there was no smoke or flame, just two unbearably hot, itchy feet under my covers.

I pulled the covers away and clawed my feet until I broke the skin and finally fell back to sleep.

In the morning, as I surveyed my companions south of the ankles, I began to notice tiny water blisters under the skin on the pads of my feet. I then realized then that I had inherited my father’s reaction to stress—a condition between eczema and psoriasis that he couldn’t fix until he worked a less stressful job.

Since I wasn’t in the position to drop out of school. I tried to do more to relax but even after adding regular gym sessions, yoga, meditation, tai chi and qi gong, my flaming feet kept waking me up and the rash on them spread.

Although the severity of the rash and the itch varied depending on what was going on in my life—final exams versus summer vacation—for about three years the skin condition on my feet persisted. I drastically changed my diet, took up regular yoga and meditation practice, transferred out of the small, stressful, prestigious liberal arts school, tried a bunch of different supplements, saw different healers and all that had changed was the location of the rash on my feet.

It had migrated from the soles of my feet to the tops of them and slowly but surely it was working up my ankles. There was a point when the rash was so severe that it woke me up nightly.

I knew the situation was serious when my yoga teacher gasped at the sight of my bare feet, blurting, “Where did you get such a bad case of poison ivy!?”

All along, I knew that this weird foot skin thing was one of my body’s ways of communicating with me, but at first I was too stubborn try to figure out what my body was saying. Initially I became extremely self-conscious and I tried to hide my feet. However, this becomes pretty hard to do when you are a yoga instructor and avid practitioner.

There were many times when my feet distracted me from my practice and pulled me from my intended state of gratitude or joy and started the shame train rolling.

“Wow my feet are ugly.”

“How come I can’t get my life together enough to heal these?”

“I should be better at dealing with the things that stress me out than I am.”

The snowball effect of this kind of thinking would pile even more stress on my shoulders when I was supposed to be getting relaxed which only compounded my problem. Instead of being grateful that I had a visible feedback system, I felt shame because I knew I was responsible for the rashes and I couldn’t figure out how to fix them.

As my journey progressed, slowly but surely I started to love my feet for what they were: free transportation and flippers that were super functional and in perfect working condition.

Once I was able to embrace my feet and create a space for gratitude for what they enabled me to do it became easier and easier to look past their blemishes. I forgot that my feet should look other than they did and was caught off guard a few times when I was asked what was wrong with them. My knee-jerk reaction became, “Nothing.”

As the shame I used to walk with started to fall away. I dawned my flip flops with confidence (and without nail polish) and gained a spring in my step. The mere act of accepting my feet how they were did not heal them by some miracle overnight but it did open the door for healing to find me.

By loving reality—the fact that my feet had rashes all over them—things lined up to “give me” what I knew I already had and was already grateful for, which were beautiful feet.

I started to put more time for rest and play into my life and was introduced to a supplement that improved my circulation and gradually, the skin on my feet began to clear. My gratitude for having beautiful feet, before anything about them had changed, was now matching up with what was physically reality.

It’s inspiring to see how the body changes in response to what or how one thinks.

What this whole thing boils down to is love what is and watch it change. Even if you can’t figure out exactly what is causing the problem you’re suffering from, by learning to love what is, the cause will eventually surface and changing your mind will allow your body to change.

By continuing to resist the reality that my feet did not look as “I thought they should,” I am positive they would have stayed that way and that I would not have found the help I needed to heal them. I am so grateful my feet became my teachers and gave me an opportunity to help others learn from their bodies in the same way.

Trust the journey, people, and remember that walking with faith only requires you to put one beautiful foot in front of the other.

 

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Author’s Own

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Maria Fendrick