I've been recently blessed (not!) with a red face. A malfunctioning set of facial blood vessels that expand and then fail to contract back down again - basically they do whatever the hell they want to do, and not what they're supposed to do. It's a fairly common skin condition called rosacea. Sounds pretty, but it isn't. It's actually quite embarrassing. Like your own body is somehow giving you a slap in the face.
I've probably had it on and off for a very long time, most of my adult life. But it has taken a totally new meaning in recent months as I become more attuned to my body, and aware of its language. Ok, so this post is not about self-pity, bitching about bodily shortcomings, or trying to rally other rosacea-sufferers into action (there are things you can do to make it better - look it up!). It's about paying attention to what our body is trying to tell us. Sometimes it can be subtle hints (tiredness anyone?); most often the body needs to scream and shout to get your attention (hmm, in so many ways I can think of!). Or slap you in the face.
Whack! I have issues with visibility? Then here's a red face for everyone to see. My fieriness is unbalanced and out of sync? Have some serious heat on my face until I feel uncomfortable. I really wanna control everything? Here, have this skin condition which could be triggered at any point and without notice. Oh, so I want to be LIKED? Yes, looking like a beetroot is gonna make me feel my best.
Once you get past the full-blown, heart-wrenching irony of whatever physical ailment you may be suffering from, you can actually see why that irony is precisely the reason you have it. Your body is getting you at whatever is going to be most noticed by your mind (it doesn't have to be visible to others). Because otherwise you will keep ignoring the message. That's what we all do. We take our bodies for granted and wilfully ignore any somatic signs that we're not broadly on balance.
Ok, so what did my rosacea teach me about where I'm at?
1. Embodiment is key to a healthy and aware life. Our body is not just our vessel. It is a system of wisdom and life onto itself. I think the biggest health issue for most people in the developed world is that they are in their heads ALL the time. And in their bodies close to NO time.
2. Pause and assess the state of the relationship between your mind and body. Are they friends but only talk occasionally? Maybe when one of them is having a meltdown and needs support? Are they total strangers, like people on the bus who make their utmost effort not to come into contact with each other? Are they like relatives from different social backgrounds? With the mind being the haughty, snobby, well-to-do uncle and the body being the nagging child of a good-for-nothing cousin?
3. Understand that the body-mind connection is a two-way street. If you feel energised and happy, your body will show it (dancing in the kitchen yeah!). But you can also move your body (if you're not up for dancing, try stretching or jumping up and down) to feel revitalised. Use your body for awareness, don't abuse it by ignoring it.
4. The body is generous. It really doesn't like to corner me and give me a slap in the face. But I've just been ignoring it for too long. The body is appreciative. Live a more embodied life and it will show aspects of yourself you didn't know were there. Joy. Presence. Aliveness. Depth. Strength. A limitless capacity for connection (with oneself and others)...
5. Self-care. Oh, such a big topic. One of my favourites lately. I'm not just talking about warm baths or going for walks in nature (but knock yourself out!). I'm not referring to pleasant activities in the comfy light of self-indulgence (which we all need regularly). I mean understanding and enforcing your boundaries. Saying no as a potent spiritual practice (you wanna say yes? say no first). Putting yourself, and YOUR BODY, first with awareness of your needs, what's good for you, and what's not.
Was does saying no have to do with my rosacea? Well, for too long I was saying no to the rosacea. I was playing it down, aggressively treating it with medicated creams, and hiding it under make-up. Now I'm saying no to what causes my rosacea - my flakiness and inconsistency when it comes to making changes in my eating, drinking, socialising, and self-care. I'm saying no to my soft and fuzzy boundaries, and to putting my needs anywhere but first (ok, sometimes second - after my son's!). I'm saying no to hiding and diluting my voice. I'm saying no to pushing down my fire/passion rather than let it come out in creative and assertive ways. I'm saying no to basically not being myself.
I don't get irritated (worst thing!) when my rosacea flares up. I take it as a sign that for a while there I wasn't listening to my body, I wasn't embodied. I humbly take the slap in the face, and I come back to my body. Fire. Heat. Movement. Bones. Skin. A beautifully intricate feeling and sensorial machinery of wisdom so often unloved and ignored. The only way to be in this world.