I've spent the last three years working on two major restoration projects. One involved my body and the other involved a 1903 home. I've had a chance to reflect on lessons that I've learned along the way, so I thought I'd share them here. Let's start with lessons from my body project first. After all, without my body in good working order I wouldn't have been able to take on the house project.
Lesson 1: Pause and Listen
If you are experiencing pain, stop and listen. Rule out the serious stuff with medical practitioners and listen. Your body is trying to tell you something.
It was January of 2018 when I was at my breaking point. I was in an endless cycle of neck pain, ocular migraines, TMJ, daily motrin, finally resulting in an ulcer. Nothing was improving despite PT, acupuncture and daily exercises. I was chasing the pain and masking the symptoms without addressing the problem and ended up in a worse place.
Luckily, I stopped and listened to my body and I found an amazing translator to help me through this process. It was called Foundation Training and I am forever grateful for it. It opened up a conversation with my body that I had never had before.
I realized that I had to change the way my body was moving. That's brings me to my next lesson - Move Well.
Lesson 2 - Move Well
I used to be a workout addict. I would workout daily - cardio, weights, yoga, sprint triathlons. Then I would go to my computer and work for HOURS. I considered myself to be very active but in reality, I wasn't. I was only active for about 2 hours a day. For the rest of the day, I was holding myself in bad positions at my desk, in the car, even doing my daily chores. Yes, I was working at an ergonomically perfect workstation, but I failed to move. My lack of good movement created a "locked" body that I would then take into a workout. I was loading a broken machine.
My body got used to this "locked" way of holding itself, something Dr. Eric Goodman, the creator of Foundation Training, calls "complacent adaptation". I had to unlock my body and unwind it against gravity. I changed how I was moving and sprinkled good movement bites into my day - all day. Luckily I had my translator, Foundation Training, along with the book on the subject, True to Form, to guide me through how to do just that. Brushing my teeth, walking my dog, driving my car, working at my computer, even cooking and doing laundry. My body responded very well to this new way of constantly moving. My body felt supported, light and long. I had never felt so good.
Through this process, I even changed how I moved from the inside out using my breath. That brings me to my next lesson - Breathe Well.
Lesson 3 - Breathe Well
I never used to think much about breathing. I always took breathing for granted and figured that all breaths were created equal. Shallow, deep, fast, slow, mouth, nose - it was all the same to me. Good air in and bad air out. Boy was I wrong.
Turns out you can influence your body's physiology with your breath. I just finished reading Breath by James Nestor and was amazed at how important breathing is to our wellness. Probably the most important thing. Read this book if you want to improve your wellness with little effort.
A big part of Foundation Training is Decompression Breathing, where you use an expansive breath to decompress your torso (and axial skeleton) and create space for your muscles and joints to move properly. When you combine this powerful breathing method with movement, magic happens.
Breathing well also creates a certain calmness to the mind and body, allowing yourself to listen and be patient.
Lesson 4 - Be Patient
This should probably be number 1 because patience is key when trying to restore your body. When you're patient, then you can also be kind and compassionate with yourself. You'll also become curious. Because you're not judging yourself and you're listening, you can allow your curiosity to unfold and lead you into new ways of doing things. You can also re-discover your past.
Lesson 5 - Find your Inner Child
This is a new lesson for me. I've realized with the pandemic how much I treasure what I experienced in my childhood and how much happiness and comfort it brings me now. What stands out the most is my relationship with nature. Almost all of my best childhood memories take place outside. Building forts and making mud pies with my sister. Soaring on the playground swing. Riding my bike. Climbing rocks. Skating on Great Pond. Sailing in Maine. I am so grateful that, at 48, I can still do all of these things.
These five lessons (Listen, Move Well, Breathe Well, Be Patient and Find your Inner Child) are still things that I need to remind myself of on a daily basis. Whenever my body starts complaining, I pause and apply these lessons and get back on track. It's a daily practice but one that I'm grateful to have found.