The body is a means to connection to the spirit. Being open to what it tells us can lead us forward, often along a path that is quick and direct. For example, an upset stomach might mean that the fish we had for dinner wasn’t quite as fresh as the server claimed and that in the future we might be well-served to treat what that server says or what that restaurant serves with caution.
On a more subtle level, an upset stomach might instead indicate that there is something in our lives that doesn’t sit well with us or that isn’t working. For example, there might be stress at work or school or problems with our neighbor, parents, spouse, or kids.
How can we tell if the signal we receive is from a minor, transitory distraction, like a not-so-fresh fish dinner, or something longer term and deeper set? One big indication is to notice any patterns in your experience. Patterns that recur are often indications that there is a deeper cause that may not be readily apparent. It’s like the Princess and the pea. To the naked eye, the irritant – the pea – is non-existent because so many mattresses have been piled on top of it. We can’t even see it.
However, to the Princess lying on the bed, it is a huge irritant. I used to think this was a silly children’s fairy tale because it was ridiculous to imagine feeling a pea through even a single mattress, let alone a stack of them. Then I realized that it is a metaphor – albeit a flawed one – of how we are taught to deal with our lives.
When something happens or we make a choice that is troublesome, we might react with guilt, self-blame, embarrassment, and fear. However, rather than dealing directly with the problem and remove the pea, we pile mattress on top of mattress, trying to bury it deeper and deeper. The flaw in the metaphor is that as we push our problems or traumatic losses down, the recurring signals we receive get bigger and more insistent, not smaller. Instead of burying the pea, we grow it – potentially to gigantic proportions – as we add layers.
It’s as if the universe gently taps us on the shoulder with the issue at first. This first tap on the shoulder is so gentle that it is easy to ignore. If we do, we can go about our business and forget the tap ever happened. But the universe inevitably returns, this time with a more insistent tapping. If we continue to ignore it, the tapping will continue to grow and eventually, the universe comes along with a 2×4 to the back of the head.
Of course, if we continue to ignore the signal, we continue to build the pattern. As the recurring pattern of upsets, annoyances, or pain becomes more and more insistent, we have to work harder and harder to go on ignoring it. One way to do this might be to anesthetize ourselves so that we are numbed to the pressure of the metaphorical pea on our backs. Of course, in such a state, it’s hard to enjoy or even be fully aware of anything else in life, including things we may want to embrace.
Ironically, though, that rarely seems to be a problem because we become completely consumed with piling one mattress after another onto the stack as we try to bury the problem-pea. Of course, as the “tapping” grows more insistent, our stack building can become frenzied as we try harder and harder to bury a problem that only grows as we bury it.
How much better would it be to remove the stack of mattresses and get back down to the pea, remove the pea, and enjoy a comfortable night’s rest without all the drugs and distractions? How refreshing would a single mattress be compared to a swaying stack that has to be climbed with a ladder?
It doesn’t take royal blood to feel the pea through all of those mattresses. Life actually makes it hard not to feel it. If what you have been doing has not worked, do something different. Break the pattern. Dare to be honest with yourself. What patterns are there in your life? What peas are in your bed?
“Body-Mind-Soul IV” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.