Musings in the Olive Grove

Body and Soul


The soul attempts to gain our attention in many ways, including through body symptoms.  Illness for me was a powerful soul messenger, impossible to ignore. When I became ill, I intuitively knew that it was not only the physical symptoms which required my attention, it was something deeper.  The illness had its own intelligence and language that I was yet to understand. It was a psychopomp guiding me on a profound underworld journey, one that changed me forever.

Below are some journal entries I made at the time in my attempt to heed and find meaning in the message.

“My body is covered in purple and red rashes. I look like a torture victim. Like I have been bashed. Some of the rashes look like knife marks, others as if I have been burned with hot objects. This is a horrifying visual representation of the suppression of so much of me.  I look like I am wearing red body armour. This defensive symbolism does not surprise me as I have been stoic hiding how I have truly felt for most of my life. Automatically absorbing the feelings and pain of others whilst ignoring my own as if they were of no real importance.  I have pushed my emotions deep into my body whilst presenting the world a smiling face and a giving heart.  I feel like I am shedding the old literally.  My skin is peeling off, bleeding and full of pus.  It is so itchy, at times I just can’t bear it! I want to scream! I do scream. Sometimes I smell rotting flesh. I will never forget this smell as long as I live.  I feel like Inanna in the underworld, a piece of rotting flesh hung up on a hook. 

Billions of fire ants eating away at me.  There is no escape, it is me and I am it.  The rash has been traumatic on all levels. The physical indications are excruciating, weeping, itchy, bloody, itchy, itchy, itchy, red, raw, stinking lumps and splinter like pain.  I think the worst part is how it affects my mind, my thinking. It has brought up so many past memories activating fear, despair, and anguish. I feel so alone, scared and in pain.  My body is shedding suppressed emotional torture. I truly have felt like the serpent shedding her outgrown skin. 

Will I ever come back from the underworld?  Who will petition the Dark Goddess for my soul?” 

We may think that symptoms appear out of nowhere. Trauma specialist Bessel Van der Kolk speaks of the body keeping the score, in that the mind may forget stressful life events, however the body does not.  Further to this, physician Gabor Mate reminds us that our body responds to our beliefs and emotional coping styles. Therefore, if we are living in adulthood the expectations of others imposed on us from childhood, after a while our body will say no for us if we cannot do this for ourselves.     

The body has its home in the soul and physical illness speaks to us through the language of emotions, story, dreams and archetypal images. Developing a sensitive, compassionate dialogue with this world will reveal wisdom, meaning and a pathway through the darkness. 

During my time in the underworld I found a therapist to whom I could tell my story and who worked with symbols and the imagination.  I painted and drew images of my wounded body and I entered into conversation with them and acted on insights I gleaned. I journaled, read, studied, journeyed, explored the world of natural therapies and found what worked for me, changed the way I worked, ended my marriage, and over time discarded what no longer had an authentic resonance in my life.  

I learned that we are given what we need and not necessarily what we want, the difference between healing and curing and most importantly to do the work and trust the process. Learning to intentionally listen to the promptings of my soul, notice redundant self-defeating patterns and trust my intuition became a priority. I began to develop my soul praxis.

This experience gave me powerful awareness of my inner world and how to navigate my way through tough and transformative life experiences.  Since then I have undergone many dark nights, the difference being, now I have the language required to petition to the Dark Goddess for my soul.

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