I am the pain in your head, the knot in your stomach, the unspoken grief in your smile.
I am your high blood sugar, your elevated blood pressure, your fear of challenge, your lack of trust.
I am your hot flashes, your cold hands and feet, your agitation and your fatigue.
I am your shortness of breath, your fragile low back, the cramp in your neck, the despair in your sigh.
I am the pressure on your heart, the pain down your arm, your bloated abdomen, your constant hunger.
I am where you hurt, the fear that persists, your sadness of dreams unfulfilled.
I am your symptoms, the causes of your concern, the signs of imbalance, your condition of dis-ease.
You tend to disown me, suppress me, ignore me, inflate me, coddle me, condemn me.
I am not coming forth for myself as I am not separate from all that is you.
I come to garner your attention, to enjoin your embrace so I can reveal my secrets.
I have only your best interests at heart as I seek health and wholeness by simply announcing myself.
You usually want me to go away immediately, to disappear, to sleek back into obscurity.
You mostly are irritated or frightened and many times shocked by my arrival.
From this stance you medicate in order to eradicate me.
Ignoring me, not exploring me, is your preferred response.
More times than not I am only the most recent notes of a long symphony, the most evident branches of roots that have been challenged for seasons.
So I implore you, I am a messenger with good news, as disturbing as I can be at times.
I am wanting to guide you back to those tender places in yourself, the place where you can hold yourself with compassion and honesty.
If you look beyond my appearance, you may find that I am a voice from your soul.
Calling to you from places deep within that seek your conscious alignment.
I may ask you to alter your diet, get more sleep, exercise regularly, breathe more consciously.
I might encourage you to see a vaster reality and worry less about the day to day fluctuations of life.
I may ask you to explore the bonds and the wounds of your relationships.
I may remind you to be more generous and expansive or to attend to protecting your heart from insult.
I might have you laugh more, spend more time in nature, eat when you are hungry and less when pained or bored, spend time every day, if only for a few minutes, being still.
Wherever I lead you, my hope is that you will realize that success will not be measured by my
eradication, but by the shift in the internal landscape from which I emerge.
I am your friend, not your enemy. I have no desire to bring pain and suffering into your life.
I am simply tugging at your sleeve, too long immune to gentle nudges.
I desire for you to allow me to speak to you in a way that enlivens your higher instincts for self-care.
My charge is to energize you to listen to me with the sensitive ear and heart of a mother attending to her precious baby.
You are a being so vast, so complex, with amazing capacities for self-regulation and healing.
Let me be one of the harbingers that lead you to the mysterious core of your being where insight and wisdom are naturally available when called upon with a sincere heart.
I first heard this poem in a dharma talk by Tara Brach. When I shared it with my yoga, mindfulness teacher and friend, Jackie Long, founder of MBSM, she led our group in a helpful writing exercise to create our own felt sense poem.
To create your own poem, set aside some time in your day when you won’t be distracted. It’s also important to write in a space that will nurture and inspire the creativity of your own deepest wisdom. If you can’t think of an ideal time or space, please do the best you can. Your intention is what matters most. It often helps to engage in some type of embodied practice first to ground and hear what your body has to say to you. This can be through yoga, meditation, a walk, Qigong, dance, etc.
You may choose to set a timer and write for a set amount of time, say 10-15 minutes, encouraging the flow of pen on paper regardless of any mental blocks you encounter. If this feels too constricting, write for as long as you’d like until the process feels complete. Remember, this is your healing journey. You can modify this exercise in any way you wish.
Grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. don’t matter. What matters most is the gift of kind, gentle, and loving awareness you bring to your body and this process. No one is here to judge you. There is no place for any critical voices, only kind ones. If the critical voices drown out the kind ones, pause and think of what a supportive person (parent, partner, good friend, spiritual being) might say to you, and keep writing.
Begin your poem with I am, listing as many physical, emotional symptoms as you’d like to. See where the writing takes you, and try to address any message from this wise physical or emotional discomfort. What is it trying to tell you? What is important to remember?
A harbinger is a person or thing that signals the approach of another. In your writing, may you discover a wise message that helps you heal your way back to wholeness. I would love to hear about your process or anything else you’d like to share with me. Here is what emerged for me.
River of Breath
I am the stones of guilt in your belly weighing you down,
the gas bubbles of indigestion, of fear
mixed with volcanic eruptions of anger.
I don’t want this story. I want another –
where the fires of transformation burn bright in my belly,
where everything is digested with ease,
where a river of breath flows through me,
through us all, decorated with
soft pink cherry blossoms and lotus leaves.
Let no place in my body be immune
to its life giving waters,
its divine healing energy.
We simply need to be aware,
to notice all the places of contraction,
pain and hurt, and say
Come to me now, sweet river of breath.
Bathe me in your beauty.
Baptize me with your love.