Day 249

Illustration for NYT opinion article “In My Chronic Illness, I Found Meaning”, by Dadu Shin


One of the most helpful pieces of advice I’ve heard since quitting has been to be IN the body: to observe the body when it starts to heat up with anger, or accelerate into fight-or-flight mode, or feel other undesirable feelings driven by emotion. Is your heart beating fast? Do your temples heat up or feel pressure? Do you find yourself holding your breath?



Just by observing the natural responses of your body, you can help yourself calm down – or at least be more in control of the situation. Recognizing the physical element of what is happening gives the opportunity for a physical response – taking a deep breath, rubbing your forehead, relaxing your tense shoulders, stretching.

It’s amazing to me how I can go an entire day without being truly IN my body. The line of work I do is creative and primarily happens in the mind, sitting in meetings or at a computer. Of course this defines most jobs these days. But without some form of exercise or break to get outdoors – it’s not unusual for me to realize at the end of a day that I haven’t given one thought to my body.

Learning to bring my mind into my body more has helped in a number of ways. I feel more connected with my own health. And with this awareness of the connection between the mind and body, I’m given better context for the monkey brain thoughts that run through my head.

Sometimes I feel like I’m just waking up after a lifetime of being asleep.

A relevant article*:

Eckhart Tolle reveals the best strategy to deal with anxiety and depression

“If you are present, the painbody cannot feed anymore on your thoughts, or on other people’s reactions. You can simply observe it, and be the witness, be the space for it. Then gradually, its energy will decrease.”

Tolle says the first step to enlightenment is to be an “observer” of the mind:

“The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not “the thinker.” The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.”

*Caveat for this article: I’m not sure Tolle’s insights apply to the clinically depressed mind. Chemical imbalance cannot be fixed by mere awareness.