Narrative Medicine and the Wild Woman Archetype

This month, I am focusing my creative energy on writing, exploring the connections between how I journal and tell my stories and the Wild Woman within me.  Last summer, I bought the book Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I read the beginning and it fed my soul in new ways. Because of life and the swirling of time, it got misplaced behind other books while I dove into skills labs. It remained hidden until recently when my friend played audio of Dr. Pinkola Estés during our writing group. She chose to share the rendering of La Loba, a story from the book. It was so beautiful. I immediately went home in search for it. When my hands finally touched it, I felt sparks.

This book anchors me to the book that’s inside of me, yearning to spill onto a page, and it is sparking in me this desire to share the importance of narrative medicine.

So this week, I want to discuss the nature of how we are being in our stories. She says:

To further our kinship with the instinctual nature, it assists greatly if we understand stories as though we are inside them, rather than as though they are outside of us. We enter into a story through the door of inner hearing. The spoken story touches the auditory nerve, which runs across the floor of the skull into brainstem just below the pons. There, auditory impulses are relayed upward to the consciousness or else, it is said, to the soul… depending on the attitude with which one listens.

Ancient Dissectionists spoke of the auditory nerve being divided into three or more pathways deep in the brain. They surmised that the ear was meant, therefore, to hear at all three different levels. One pathway is said to hear the mundane conversations of the world. A second pathway apprehended learning and art. And the third pathway existed so the soul itself might hear guidance and gain knowledge while here on earth.

Listen then with the soul-hearing now, for that is the mission of the story. 

It is worth my sharing of this entire passage, because I believe she asking us to explore story on at least two levels. Where are we in relationship with the story and how can we understand the ways our body can hear the story?

As I reflect on what I have journaled and think about what I will write in the future, I gain the following perspective: I am not only the story teller but I am also there to witness my own story. And the way I do that will have an impact on my path.

I am given freedom, permission, connection to the Wild Woman to write out from another part of myself. The way I hear my own story from my soul or just merely as a conversation I had with myself as a woman in pain, as a confused woman.  How profound a difference might this make? It changes the outcome of understanding my health history and the the lessons I learn in order to change and grow in strength. In order to feel my way into my feminine and embrace the woman I am instead of letting the voice get lost in a sea of mundane. Instead of letting myself get swallowed up into how hard the journey was/is, I can let it led me to my strength.

She continues to tell us how this listening from the soul is a connection to the Wild Woman, a gateway:

Bone by bone, hair by hair, Wild Woman comes back. Through night dreams, through events half understood and half remembered, Wild Woman comes back. She comes back through story.

I am reminded of the way I tried to write my story out for doctors when I was seeking treatment and help. It was chronology based: this doctor said this, I said that… and of course parts were missing. Our perception of real events changes and is altered over time.  I compare this to my journal or generative writing written in real time with my group. The generative pieces are filled with more fire, filled with more grace, filled with more suffering. This contrast is very useful as I set out to develop an outline for my book.

These entries are the seat of the soul, where sometimes I am reflecting on something from childhood or a journey home, those events half understood and half remembered, when surrounded with the present moment in my journal, have much more context and so many more pieces of a feminine and honest me than the ones I wrote to bring into yet another doctor’s office. In that monologue, I am desperately trying to get every detail out correctly, to not miss a thing, to present myself as not crazy, to validate my abdominal pain instead of just accepting it, being mad at it, or letting it exist just because it does.  Instead of allowing them to dismiss it.

In my journal, no one  dismisses the pain (and therefore me), and when I listen to these pieces from my soul, I see how I started to become whole again, and I see that young girl scared and trapped inside me begin to bloom and come out and join me.  And I understand why.  So, tell me, where is your Wild Woman?

Where does it take you? How do you reflect on your writing and your own story when you imagine that you are writing for the soul? For the connection to the Wild Woman?

 

From the jacket:

Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species. For though the gifts of wildish nature belong to us at birth, society’s attempt to “civilize” us into rigid roles has muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls.

In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and stories, many from her own traditions, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature. Through the stories and commentaries in this remarkable book, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand the Wild Woman, and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine.

Dr. Estés has created a new lexicon for describing the female psyche. Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul.

Estés, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. Rider, 1998.

Five Reasons You Should Practice a Body Scan Ritual

The biggest part of my journey to become a coach was pain transformation. Many things contributed to that transformation and one of them was being able to be comfortable inside my body. To achieve this comfort, one tool I used was a body scan.  

I offer my general body-scan audio as a suggestion for you to try; it’s on YouTube so anyone can access it!  It helps us bring more awareness to our body in safe, guided ways. If any of the following scenarios apply to you, it’s a great time to begin this ritual:

One: If you’re looking for an intro to meditation and need a place to start.

Two: The body scan can be used for relaxation alone, and incorporates some nice deep breathing. I recommend it for those that simply need an easy way to maintain stress levels and grow self- awareness.

Three: If you have mild to severe chronic pain, this can help your mind to accept that area of your body with the pain instead of being angry or ashamed of it. It’s really hard to heal when we’re at war with ourselves or when all we try to do is numb the pain or band-aid it. This was my experience, please read my deep-dive blog post if you relate! I share a lot more insights on how it works and why it is a great tool.

Four: If you’re feeling really wound up, or tight in your body. This can be a signal that a chronic condition is preventable if you take action. If you’re starting to notice some occasional body pain (headaches, stomach upset, etc.), this can be a great way to help nip it in the bud before it becomes a chronic condition, especially if it’s related to stress. It’s free and only takes about 20 minutes a day. If you find it resonates with you, I would do this for two weeks straight and then drop to 3x per week. It will restore the energy you have recently felt waning.

Five: Advanced meditators that are experiencing pain related to stress in their bodies and need assistance navigating it can benefit. Listen to the audio once or twice and take it from there. The audio I made also ties in with the chakras, so you can visualize them as you do the body scan. It includes front body and back body chakras. I will have a post about chakras, and about how I purposefully made this body scan different than others to include them.

If you like what you hear, I also offer personalized audios. If you enjoy this journey and there’s a specific area of the body you want to spend more time exploring and loving, that part of the body scan can be extended to give you a deeper experience. This experience will help you feel like you can take your time. You won’t be rushed through your pain points or have to pause the recording to dive deeper.  Connect with me if that sparks your interest!

 

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to treat, prevent, or cure any disease. The statements within are opinions of the author and are not to be used in place of a medical providers care. If you have a pain, please contact your medical provider. Please find a licensed medical professional that will support you on your healing journey.

Deep Dive into Body Scans for Healing

Today, I posted a brief article about the five different reasons you might want to bring body scans into your daily ritual, focusing on who the practice would benefit. If you missed it, you can read it here. You can also listen now, on YouTube.

If you related with topic number three, I am glad you are here. 

As a tool to help heal chronic pain, the body scan can really help us by breaking the cycle of escaping from the pain enabling us to use our minds to start the healing process.

By recognizing sensations of pain, we can start to understand why they are happening and not waging a war on the pain, which is also waging war on our body, spirit, and mind. This type of relaxation offers supportive guidance and encourages us to relax tight and guarded areas. It allows healing to begin in three ways:

  1. restricted blood flow finally makes it to the area that is tight and the body can start its natural healing process
  2. relaxation techniques are proven to reduce stress which reduces cortisol in the system and promotes a healing state
  3. new pathways in the brain are formed, and we begin loving our whole selves

It took four years for me to get a diagnosed with what was causing my pain. The pelvic region is very complex. I was in physical therapy when it was determined I might have to get surgery to repair the small tear I kept aggravating, that they finally found with a lot of scans.  It’s important to work with your medical provider if you have pain. It’s important to not give up. I understand that habits form very easily while trying to treat and diagnose pain. I want to help you have healthy habits that feel true to you.

I want to share that this process took time for me. It’s only one piece of my healing journey but it’s a part I found so important its worth sharing with everyone that might be suffering from pain. Plus, I absolutely love body scans.

After I heard I might need surgery, I happened to find a neurology-focused chiropractor. She supported me for the next year of my healing journey, along with discoveries I made about my health in my health-coaching program and other self-care practices.

I have to admit, I was dedicated to getting better, and I know that mindset of perseverance, being open to new things, and being in action about the healing journey are all important, because without those elements, I would have never found the body-scan meditation to begin with. If this sounds like you, keep reading.

At first, I couldn’t do the body scan, but the more time I spent, the further I was able to move down into my legs without just skipping over my abdomen, or getting stuck there all together. I spent daily sessions for over three months in awareness of my painful area. You will need to have patience, but if you stick with it, this can help you move the pain needle down and teach you more about yourself.

I am a firm believer that emotional and mental struggles manifest in our bodies, and just the same, when we have an injury or physiological issue causing pain, it can manifest painfully in our minds and hearts. And I believe that’s why this works.

 

Many times, the anger or sadness we feel towards our area of pain makes it very hard to heal, because we are tense. When we promote and allow the opposite–relaxation–we are giving ourselves freedom to heal. We can find ways to relax and bring love and acceptance in, it feels different and scary at first, but we must also consider the alternative, often times we have already been struggling in pain for years and what we’ve been doing is not working, even with the support of a licensed practitioner. Our quality of life is low.

This is an opportunity to allow healing to come in. So, if this meditation feels uncomfortable, work with it. Change can be uncomfortable inside at first, but transforming pain is rewarding and will help you in the future if other things come up.

It helps me, I still use this tool for stress maintenance and I know now that relaxing and bringing awareness to my pain actually supports my healing process, it lets me know something is off inside and gives me a chance to redirect  and heal before it turns into a chronic condition. It helps me be more aware of my body and the signals. That’s one of the beautiful things about meditation and why I am telling you all this in a blog post.  Meditation is inside us already and that shouldn’t cost anything.

If you have suffered for a long time it might be really scary to be in the area that hurts. That’s okay and it’s normal. Simply skip over that body part for awhile, or lighten your awareness of it until you’re ready.  

My body scan meditation is available on YouTube. It’s slightly longer than the one I used when I was healing for a few reasons, one being that I really wanted to break the torso down more according to our chakras (energy centers). Although I don’t mention chakras in the audio, if you are familiar, you can always bring them in to the meditation as you like. The second thing I wanted to pay attention to is way the earth has the ability to support us, so just think of a happy cat or dog, or any contented animal you’re familiar with. Think of the way they sleep or nap, or when you pick them up, how they might become dead weight in your arms, trusting and relaxing on the full support beneath.  We can do this as well, and I teach you how in the video.

Even with all of this, I didn’t want to make it too long, because I know time can sometimes challenge us, so it’s under 20 minutes!

Feeling ready? Relax into your body today. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

To further support you, I make customized audio files that focus on your particular area of pain. Book an appointment with me and it will take about 15 minutes to ask you some questions so I can customize the recording. The reason I am offering this is because I often had to pause the recording I used in order to spend more time exploring my abdomen, you might feel you want that for your area. And I can offer that additional guidance. The recording will be between 8-20 minutes, depending on what your unique relationship is with meditation and your daily routine.

The other 30 minutes you will also have an opportunity to ask questions about the support I had during my time with chronic abdominal pain, how I healed, and know that you’re not alone in your own personal struggle with pain. Sometimes it just feels good to talk about it with someone new that has had a similar experience.

The total is $30 for this 45 minute session and the recording. Please consider that this is for the time it takes to make the recording and for the coaching in the call.  I will give you everything I have to offer during your session and that time is what I am charging for.  There are no obligations to purchase anything else, in fact, unless you ask, we won’t even discuss my other services. Please book with me if you would like to dive deeper!

Listen to my free session now for an introduction!

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to treat, prevent, or cure any disease. The statements within are opinions of the author and are not to be used in place of a medical providers care. If you have a pain, please contact your medical provider. Please find a licensed medical professional that will support you on your healing journey.