Listening is a critical human skill. Historically, listening was important to survival in the wild as sounds indicated external threats. We still think of listening as something we do actively in response to outside stimuli. But there is also listening to ourselves. Many of us have lost this skill. We are bombarded by external stimuli in our busy, stressed, and cluttered world.
The practice of listening to yourself again needs practice. I have cultivated this in the Qigong work that I do daily. As I learn from this daily practice, I consider how this might apply to our health. When there is any sort of discomfort or “dis” ease in the body, your body is trying to tell you something. Are you listening?
At first you might consider all of this a nuisance. But what if you look at health challenges or symptoms from a different perspective. Could they be your teacher? Your body may teach you, if you learn to listen to what it’s telling you.
My Qigong teacher discusses how blocked energy can present as pain or stiffness and this can represent blocked emotions such as sadness or fear. Personally I found this interesting, because some Parkinson's research indicates that the body is locked in the "fight or flight" stress response. The stress response triggers an underlying survival fear. When we learn to listen to our body, we can begin to notice. This is the first step of listening. Just notice. As we begin to notice and listen within ourselves we can begin to move beyond the pent up pain and stiffness as we release the blocked energy.
Every morning, my husband John and I take a walk. John was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002. As we were walking one morning recently, we were discussing how much better he has been feeling in recent weeks. Since he tries different alternative health approaches, it is even more important for him to listen to what his body is telling him to "know" whether a new approach is helping or not.
This process of checking in, listening and knowing is at the core of understanding our health, whether you struggle with a chronic disease or simply want to feel your best everyday.
To better explain how listening to your body works and why it’s so critical, I’ll share a few examples from John’s life. Over the course of John's 18 years with Parkinson's, he has tried different forms of the medications and various supplements to help support his health. With each change it has been critical to LISTEN to what his body is telling him and decide whether or not something is beneficial or not:
- Stalevo - about six or seven years into John's diagnosis, the doctor changed his medication. Within a week, John was acting out in his sleep, hitting me, yelling, etc. While these are mentioned as Parkinson's symptoms, John had never had them until changing medications. He listened to what his body was telling him: “this isn't good for you!” He called the doctor, changed back to the previous medication and returned to more restful sleep.
- Thiamine - about three months ago, John added thiamine supplements to his daily protocol. We both noticed a difference in his energy level in just one day. He gradually increased his daily intake from 150 mg, to 400 mg over the past three months.
- Rytari - about three years ago, this new time release drug came on the market. Many younger people we know have had remarkable success with this drug. John spoke with his doctor and they worked to change him to this formula. It was a difficult transition and John didn't have the results others had reported. He was sluggish and never felt fully functioning. He returned to his tried and true Sinemet.
- Dietary sugar - John has long had a sweet tooth. After I developed the Sugar Shift product and he began to notice fewer cravings, he took on dietary sugar and kicked the habit, except for an occasional splurge. This past Thanksgiving, we had a few too many sweets in the house. He had a few of his worse days this year after binging on sugars. But this time, he listened to his body and mentioned what he noticed.
These are just a few examples over all these years. In the early stages, I found myself telling John what was good and bad for him, rather than teaching him to listen and notice himself. What we found over the years is that the true way to impact your health is to begin to listen to yourself and not abdicate direction from your spouse or health provider. That doesn't mean don't listen to your doctor. It does mean pay attention and let your doctor know what you observe is or isn't helpful for you.
If owning your health and transforming your well being is a goal for you, the best place to start is to listen to your body!
And if you’re looking to improve your sugar metabolism and increase your energy levels, click here to learn more about our revolutionary probiotic, Sugar Shift. It was transformational for John: his health markers began improving, he became more “regular” and his walking became smoother.
Martha Carlin, is a “Citizen Scientist”, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective , a microbiome company expanding the reach of science and BiotiQuest, the first of it’s kind probiotic line. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human disease. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.
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