Rest and Digest

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

Yesterday I was looking at a booklet one of my colleagues wrote about chronic stress. Reading through the symptoms I had one of those “a ha" moments where I recognized how fast I'd been going and how unconscious I can be of the ramifications of this. One huge consequence is on digestive capacity, for to properly digest our food, we need to slow down, disengage from all the activity, and allow some space.

Have you taken time to disengage and slow down while eating a meal today? The truth is that all the best, most wholesome food will not transform into healthy bodily tissue if we don’t slow down while we eat. Digestion is a parasympathetic response–it only happens well when we’re relaxed. There’s really no getting around this.

I spent years trying to heal my digestion. I had chronic gas and bloating and was prone to constipation, even though I ate a diet that was incredibly healthy and healing in terms of what I was eating. I had heard all about the importance of relaxing while eating, but it didn’t really hit home until I was sitting on the edge of the exam table with my ayurvedic physician, who was reading aloud to me the “how to eat” portion of a pamphlet on healthy digestion.

“Why is she taking the time to read this to me?” I wondered. “I can read it for myself. I already know all this.”

And then, Bingo, in a flash of recognition, I realized what my practitioner already knew, that I was not practicing this. I’ll tell you that moment got my attention. I was paying quite a bit of money to sit on the exam table and have my practitioner read aloud to me, but it finally sunk in.

A fish does not recognize water because the fish is immersed in water. Water is the ground of its existence. We do not recognize how fast we are going because everything around us is going so fast. To stop, breathe and disengage for a time is a radical act. If we are interested in healing our digestion, we must train ourselves to eat slowly, calmly and with awareness of our food. If we are chronically missing this piece, we can invest in all the organic food, probiotics and other supplements we want and not get anywhere. This was the missing piece for me. This continues to be one of the main things I pay attention to anytime my digestion is off. Knowing it already isn’t the point. It’s the daily practice of it that matters.

When we see where we really are, versus where we think we are because “we know already,” we empower ourselves to begin living in a new way. Awareness is always the first step. If we aren’t connecting the dots between our behaviors and the results of them, we won’t understand how to get different results in the future.

Where could you benefit from acting on the knowledge that you already have? What is your body asking for at this time?

Sending love on a sunny winter’s day in Seattle, Shannon