The body runs on memory. When you prepare for the gym, it predicts what it will need to successfully complete your workout. When you are about to take a big test, it makes you nervous because it knows it’s a big deal. And when your anxiety starts to tick up when a cat comes around because you know you’re allergic and you remember what happens when you’re around cats, your body, yet again is operating on memory.
Maybe the best story of this concept that I’ve ever heard comes out of the Australian outback. A guy was walking through the outback when he stepped on a tree branch. It stung a little but no big deal. He kept walking. A few minutes pass and he notices that his foot is a lot more uncomfortable than it should be for stepping on a tree branch. As the discomfort gets worse and worse, he realizes he didn’t step on a tree branch. He had been bitten by one of Australia’s most venomous snakes. He was helicoptered into the hospital while in excruciating pain. The entire, near-death experience was extremely traumatic.
Flash forward a few years later when he was back out in the wilderness, he stepped on another tree branch. This time, it was an actual tree branch and not a deadly serpent. His body reacted off of his memory and he was immediately in horrific pain. Crippled, he fell to his knees and began writhing in pain. His body was sending a signal that this needs IMMEDIATE attention because it remembered what happened last time he felt that.
This is an incredible display of the body’s incredible ability to protect itself. But what happens when this system isn’t working right? What happens when the memory isn’t protecting us at all, rather it’s hurting us?
What if the body’s memory on how to squat is wrong? What if the body signals that it needs pain medication when you have no pain? What if the brain is signaling danger when there is no danger at all. How can we overwrite this faulty programming?
Meditation and mindfulness.
When we can quiet the brain and shut down these thoughts we will operate, not based on memory but based on the way we are supposed operate. If our memory of the past is causing us harm, then the solution lies in the present.
“It takes repeated journeys into the present to let go of the past.”
Focus on your breath. With each breath you can feel the present. You can feel your lungs fill up and empty out.
Pay attention to your body. What do you feel? Not what you think should feel or what you want to feel, what do you feel?
If thoughts creep into your head, that’s fine, that’s normal. It’s going to be hard to shut it down at first. Just accept that the thoughts are there and let them fade away with each breath.