Your Body Is Your Sanctuary

A sanctuary is a place of poignancy and preciousness that harbors us from the outside world or any tumult we might be feeling in our lives. I propose that our body is actually our sanctuary. It might be new to think of our bodies this way- we might be more comfortable thinking of them as a machine to feed, a shape to criticize or a place to avoid- but when we truly strip away the layers of self-harming habits, what is left is simply the perfection of our sensations. In order to really live these new BDE habits we are building, we need to allow ourselves to feel the sanctuary of fear, frustration, restlessness and even anger. These are the emotions and sensations that drive our mindless habits and tuning into them can be the most powerful and immediate antidote we have as humans. We can begin to befriend our bodies and allow them to become powerful allies in mindfulness.

I have been thinking about the process of emotional eating since the blog post on Thursday and reflecting on what is really happening to us from a perspective of Mindfulness. When we snack mindlessly, or even snack purposefully to create a fleeting feeling of comfort or calm., it requires us to check out of our bodies in the moment and ally with the quiet thoughts or beliefs running like an mp3 on repeat underneath our conscious mind.

On the surface, when we begin to eat more consciously, and turn away from foods that inflame our bodies and fog our minds and begin to practice awesome self -care like regular exercise and supplements, those underground mp3 thoughts can get louder because there is nothing to muffle them. At this point in our Best Day Ever Summer Challenge, (halfway!) those thoughts just might be getting a bit stronger, while the habits are becoming newly engrained. Fortunately, the positive results from not turning to foods and practices that harm us are more concrete and can be the motivation for remaining in the zone of self- care, mindfulness, exercise, and healthy eating. However, tuning into uncomfortable feelings is not something most of us are practiced at- so it may seem strange at first.

Let me give you an example from this week- (I posted about this on Wednesday) When faced with an uncomfortable and painful interaction first thing in the morning that day, I was able to sit with my warm cup of coffee and for an instant, reflect on what was coming up in my body. I felt fear, anger, a quivery-ness in my skin and muscles and hot in my chest. It was after I named these sensations and had the briefest moment of ‘tuning in” to my body- I had the sudden flash visualization of grabbing a sugary treat- and the rush of well-being that immediately followed in my imagination body. My mind was trying to exit me from those bodily feelings. See the connection? My body was actually my sanctuary in that moment, and not the cupcake (which would not have worked, anyways!). Instead of acting on my thoughts and feelings, I allowed myself to tune in and not act. It is actually that simple, but certainly not easy. If we can allow ourselves to retreat to the safety of feeling our actual feelings, trusting they will pass naturally and NOT ACT, soon what arises is a whole new way of living.

I can hear your protests- “But what if the feeling does not go away? What if I just get more upset?” Actually, addiction research that looks at the neurobiology of cravings says that cravings only last 20 seconds (20 seconds!) in our systems. Anything beyond that is our thoughts feeding the cravings. So, it is physically impossible for an uncomfortable feeling to last and last without mentally contributing to it to make it that way. This is where we can become thought ninjas and mindfulness warriors and where we can apply the power of allowing the sanctuary of our body sensations. When you have a difficult feeling arise (I am thinking of the someone who posted this week about emotional eating while reading about emotional eating), simply drop into your body- to what is ACTUALLY HAPPENING and ride it out. Don’t fight it- allow it to move through you. I believe that when you do, “poof!” the craving or impulse to eat emotionally will evaporate. Our bodies will not fail us, but will give us the powerful sensory information we need to make a change, or to set a boundary, or forgive ourselves or someone else.  I encourage you to experiment with this and let us all know how it goes! We are all in this together.

Here is a guided practice by Meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzburg. It will help you lay the foundation to be able to do this in the moments of your everyday life when you need it most. She guides us through allowing sensations to come and go as we practice mindfulness by focusing on the “object” (or focus) which is our breath. It is also just a super relaxing meditation.

Written by Karen King, MS, LMHC
Karen is a practicing counselor in the Pacific Northwest

Read more about Karen at

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