For the last week, I've been practicing Martha Beck's body whisperer exercise, which is basically spending 10 minutes soothing your body through kind thoughts and words until you reach a state of relaxation. I tried moving on to the next exercise, getting in touch with your body, but I found it almost impossible to discern what was going on in my body (Beck's point exactly) and so I've gone back to the whisperer.
It is disconcerting to see how amazingly anxious I get each time I sit quietly and try to calm myself. It is more than the usual monkey mind that happens with meditation. There's a sense of deep distress that I'm sure doing something productive or eating something will fix. And it makes me realize how little I know about relaxing.
For as long as I can remember, I've been drawn to books on relaxing and resting and slowing down and simplifying, all while keeping my life going full tilt. What I know about relaxing comes from overeating: consuming so much food that I'm sluggish and unable to do much except nap or watch TV. I miss alcohol, not for the taste or the oblivion, but for the sense of relaxation I got from that first hit, the way my shoulders would go down and my gut would unclench. While sugar and fat didn't work as quickly, they worked well enough and so it's no wonder I've been reluctant to let it go.
I do believe Beck is on to something and that this will work but it's going to take a lot longer than the four days she suggests to do undo a lifetime of anxiety.