Our bodies are containers for our emotions, and when I move, mine like to spill out. It’s why I tear up frequently on my yoga mat, feel the greatest joy on the volleyball court, or have felt the salt or chlorine water absorb my tears without anyone else ever seeing them. I shutter to think what my mind and body would feel like without the sports I love because over time, without release, those emotions harden and take up space in our joints, tissues, and muscles in ways that cause us physical pain and hinder our performance and relationships over a lifetime. I’m often amazed that even though I do feel the aging process, my body and mind feel better than they did ten or fifteen years ago. Maybe it’s because I sleep better without babies in the house (COVID has keep the teenage late nights to a minimum), but the more I move, the more confidence I build in myself and my life plan and find the energy to move it forward every day. It’s why I am passionate about teaching younger people that sports aren’t just about what we do with our bodies, but how we connect them to our minds and our spirits that enrich our lives in ways that are hard to explain the first time we pick up a ball or dive in a pool. Life can be tough from a young age, and the neurotransmitters released in our brains when we move play a huge role in regulating our mood and teaching us how to manage our stress. Not only does movement allow us to release our emotions, the connection it builds between our mind and our body develops our creative space where some of the worlds greatest inventions and philosophies are born. So often I wish I could invent a transcriber for the thoughts I have when I play volleyball, practice yoga, or swim laps. Especially for athletes, breath to movement is active meditation that allows us to find the place we belong in this world. Flow induces some of the greatest ideas and story connections that retreat to the farthest reaches of my brain when I return to sedentary life. I’ve taken to using my voice recorder on my phone to try and get a few of these thoughts down just as I finish because it’s in those moments that my insides and my outsides come closest to matching, and that is one of my favorite feelings in the world.
Alignment, it’s something that every human is looking for whether they realize it or not. That feeling of freedom to be who we are, without shame, guilt, expectation, or the need for validation happens when the way we feel on the inside and the way we are understood from the outside match. It’s the place where we live out our purpose, we stop blaming other people for our feelings and experiences, and learn to take responsibility for our own life. I’m confident that if more of us could find it, there would be a lot less addiction in the world…from drugs, to alcohol, even social media and video games, because we find that space of feeling safe being exactly who we are and the comfort we find being in our skin becomes a rewarding experience. Even just moments of alignment give us a visionary’s point of view on our lives, then what other people think or do matters less to us and we organically find humans that are meant to be in our space to support us.
By this point, we know that there is no life that is untouched by trauma, but the upside to that troubling fact is that there is no greater catalyst for growth than pain. Pain shows up to motivate us to do something…stop drinking, lose weight, exercise more, whatever that next right thing is…just do it. But since I know it’s not as easy as Nike made it sound, here are some things I’ve learned about healing along the way:
From a traumatized place, it’s hard to imagine what a healing, more confident, and trusting version of ourselves looks like, so do the next right thing, take just one more step, you don’t have to conquer it all at once. Make small promises to yourself that you will keep and build trust one decision at a time.
Don’t ask too many questions of others about what that next step is, learning to trust our own intuition is part of the healing process, especially if you have been surrounded by doubters. I know this from experience, and while I have made tons of progress, I still find myself second guessing sometimes only to realize that my first instinct was the right one.
Start to dedicate time to relationships that feed your growth and distance yourself from people that create a drained feeling in your space. Don’t be surprised if it feels selfish or you take that criticism from others…this healing version of you is going to feel different, to you and to them.
Take care of yourself on a cellular level. Mediation, a breath practice, good quality sleep, hydration and nutrition make a difference in the way your mind and body communicate. Recently, I’ve added red light therapy from JOOVV to my recovery routine too - and the difference I feel (and can even document because of my Oura Ring HRV data) is incredible. More calm, sustained energy, better movement on the court, and the added benefit of healthier skin and better sleep make this product one of the best investments I’ve made in my health yet. The better our body and mind can communicate, the more gentle our healing journey will be.
Don’t let other people define you. We carry around ideas in our head about our own disposition based on outdated ideas from what people have told us our whole life. The truth is no one knows us better than we know ourselves, and if we have a gut feeling that something needs to change, we have to trust ourselves enough to listen and change it. If you think you should speak up more, do it. Turn scary into invigorating and make it happen. Healing is found in breaking the mold of how we have responded to life up until we decided those responses were leading us astray.
Learning to hold complicated emotions without bailing out by numbing or lashing out is a maturity process that is life changing. Don’t run away or numb your feelings, not only does it keep us from finding alignment, so much generational pain is caused when we take that road. Deeper understanding and better relationships are on the other side of this commitment to yourself. Breathe through the discomfort, we are always stronger than we first understand.
As a kid, 4th of July was my favorite holiday outside of Christmas. It was swimming pools, popsicles, and pool parties. It’s changed a lot over the years, I’ve found myself missing the volleyball tournaments that dominated the last five 4th of July’s (minus COVID of course). The South Bay has it’s own style of the 4th that isn’t exactly mine, but I’m happy tucked in, watching Wimbledon, and wishing all of you a happy and healthy 4th filled with the kind of celebrations that make this country a better place for every American. Being the optimist that I am, I know that we will be a fit, strong, and healed country if we can figure out how to move and breathe through all of this together.
And some happy lyrics for your 4th…. God Bless America!
Photo Credit: @sarahdemuthphotography