“I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves.” ~Louise Hay
Here’s my secret: In order to fully heal over a decade of debilitating digestive disorders, I had to stop trying to heal. Instead, I had to do nothing. What, do nothing? Yes, that’s exactly right—I had to let go of the search for the perfect cure. Let me explain.
I developed chronic gut problems at age fourteen—such a precious age! After being dismissed by doctors (“It’s all in your head; it’s a girl problem”), overprescribed antibiotics for years on end, or just given hopelessly ambiguous, catch-all diagnoses like IBS, gastroparesis, candida, h. pylori, and leaky gut (as any sufferer of gut problems can relate to!), I became my own wellness warrior.
For twelve years, I was on a crusade to find the “right” answer: the right elimination diet, the right supplements, the right doctor, the right healer, the right yoga poses, the right amount of water for my body weight, the right breathing techniques, the right blogger, the right retreat, the right fix that would heal my gut once and for all.
In truth, I was stuck in a healing loop, and healing became my identity. Sound familiar? I let myself believe that I could never be truly healed, so that I would always be chasing the next popular protocol or promise—paradoxically, it was almost easier that way. “Healing,” which is one of the most profound inner transformations we can undergo, had become a completely disembodied, intellectual exercise.
I have to be gentle with myself. My quest was not deliberate self-sabotage. You see, I was desperate to get better.
To not be afraid that any given food, no matter how “healthy,” could set off a land mine of symptoms. To not keep living small so that I could be close to a bathroom and heating pad at a moment’s notice. To stop being defined by my “stomach problems,” and start living fully, or living at all. Until the gut problems led to a cascade of other health problems, and I had to wake up.
In my healing loop, I was cut off from my inner voice, from my inner guidance, my compass. No wonder I couldn’t get off the loop to a place of true equanimity, balance, and wholeness, in all areas of my life.
I had no access to my gut intuition.
Now, I can’t say for sure what came first: suppression of this intuition, which led to gut issues, or the onset of my gut issues themselves, which led to further suppression of my intuition.
Either way, indigestion, in any form, is literally the inability to let go of the past, of experiences and events that are transient, but that we choose to let define us. Our guts are where our will, personal power, and courage reside. Or, when imbalanced or compromised, our guts are where fear, inaction, and indecision take hold.
We know this on the same instinctual level that leads us to say, “She’s got guts; trust your gut; I have a bad gut feeling about him; be more gutsy!” But what if we actually listened and trusted our guts? What does that even mean?
Similarly, we’ve all heard about the mighty microbiome—how we are basically superorganisms composed of trillions of gut bacteria that support everything from immunity to serotonin production. But how does this information translate into the beautiful unification of mind, heart, and belly that leads to quantum healing?
Sure, we know to take probiotics and eat fermented foods to feed our good gut bugs, but how often do we hear about the metaphysical roots of gut problems—fear, dread, anxiety—and how to weed them out?
Beginning to Digest My Emotions
Eventually, when I was twenty-six, I became so depleted from outsourcing my healing powers to “experts,” that the only wounded healer I was left with was myself. Sicker than ever, I realized that no elimination diet would ever work, because there was something else eating away at me.
What was I not digesting? After twelve years of gut problems, I began to ask myself this question. A wonderful massage therapist told me to start talking to my belly, to ask her what she needed.
Every day, I lay down with my hands resting on my stomach, and I simply said, “I am willing to feel what is ready to be felt. I am ready to digest my emotions.” That’s all I did. I lay there and waited for my emotions to arise.
My belly was so tightly contracted, so afraid of herself, that at first, nothing came up at all. I felt completely detached from my entire digestive tract. After all, I’d been beating her up for years, admonishing her for making me sick, feeling completely helpless and victimized in the face of symptoms.
So I just kept my hands on my belly and trusted. I spoke to her softly. “I am well. What I need to heal is already within. I am willing to feel what is ready to be felt.”
Little by little, tears came. I imagined the pain was dissolving as black smoke and floating out of my body. Days passed, then weeks. My belly began to give in. I began to digest. And when I did, my whole body shook with the emotion I was most afraid of, fear itself.
Fear—of failure, of success, of my power, of my weaknesses, of not being enough, of being too much, of the future, of the past, of what was not and what would never be.
I was holding a lifetime of fear in my stomach, and my stomach was contracting around it, protecting that fear like my life depended on it. My life did depend on it—as a defense mechanism from the vulnerability and open-hearted living that lies beyond fear.
That fear was slowly depleting me of my life force, of my ability to assimilate anything positive, from nutrients to joy.
At first, facing a fear so elemental and ingrained can literally seem like dying. And a death of sorts is taking place.
A deeply somatic, cellular release is underway. All the body needs is support to let the process unfold. S/he needs love, rest, and compassion. S/he needs to know she is safe—and s/he will do the rest.
It was in that space of not trying to heal, of doing nothing, where healing really began. Because ‘nothing’ is where the little voice of gut intuition can take form. That little voice, what I call the Inner Wise Woman (or Man), can emerge—first quiet, wounded, and confused, and then a little more resilient each day.
Begin to recognize that voice. Listen to its timbre, its intonations. Learn to trust it. S/he is never wrong. And beyond that voice is where true healing, and true living, begins.
How to Practice Emotional Digestion
How do you digest fear? How do you sit with a belly full of fearful thoughts long enough to witness and dissolve them?
This is the process of emotional digestion that healed my gut after twelve years of incessant pain and discomfort. It is a powerful practice of learning to trust yourself and your intuition, and, if done regularly, will transform much more than just physical pain.
Each symptom is a sign, a messenger, of an inner imbalance at play. You have to get quiet enough to listen to the messages.
Lie on your back in a comfortable position where you can fully relax and release. Place your hands on your belly. Don’t do anything—don’t think about the pain, or what could be causing it, or how to fix it.
Just breathe and be. Trust that the information you need will surface at the perfect moment, when the body is ready to impart his or her wisdom.
After you have brought your mind-body into a state of peace and coherence, send your body a signal of safety by repeating an affirmation:
“I am well. I am whole. I love you and I’m listening.”
You may lie here for half an hour, or for hours. You may be ready to tune in after a few minutes, or you may need to repeat this practice every day.
Know that wherever you are is perfect, and everything you need to heal is already within. All you have to do is listen.
Once you have become comfortable with the practice of simply listening to your body, you are ready to ask him or her what s/he needs. Tell your belly (or whichever part of your GI tract is in pain), either aloud or in your head:
I am fully ready and willing to feel what needs to be felt.
And just see what comes up. Breathe into the answer.
It may be a resounding voice in your head, or a wellspring of emotion, or a very subtle shift in perception. The more you practice, the more refined your intuition will become. Once feelings have begun to arise, ask your belly:
What messages are you sending me through these symptoms?
What feelings can I release from my gut, so I can receive what I need in this moment?
What information do I need to know to heal?
Meditate on the answers. Again, depending on the duration of your symptoms, this process may take months or years for answers to fully reveal themselves.
Don’t worry. Everything is unfolding in perfect time.
You have listened to your body’s innate wisdom and asked for answers. Now it is time to shift this knowledge into deep healing. You are literally transmuting the pain so you can make space for more beauty, grace, health, harmony, and peace in your life.
If you have been storing fear in your belly, call upon courage and belief.
If you have been storing scarcity mindset and inaction, call upon abundance and willingness.
If you have been storing low self-worth, call upon gratitude and peace.
There are many ways to shift a physical manifestation of a metaphysical imbalance—both somatic and emotional. Here are some potent and practical ideas.
Write through whatever answers arose in your emotional digestion, meditation, and self-inquiry practices. Ask your belly to write what s/he really needs to you/through you. Then, do not judge the words—just let them flow. You may be surprised what comes up.
Repeat a positive, present-tense statement daily for a month. For indigestion, author and healer Louise Hay suggests the following: “I digest and assimilate all new experiences peacefully and joyously.”
Move the energy through you. Dancing, shaking, and yoga are among the many powerful ways to literally shift your energy by moving it out of your body, and calling in more refreshing, open, and higher vibrations.
Try energy healing. Sometimes, the support of an intuitive energy healer, reiki practitioner, or bodyworker is fundamental to releasing stored psychospiritual blockages from the body.
Once you have listened, asked, and shifted the energy of fear, pain, indecision, lack of will, or whatever arises from your gut, you make space for a radical, new capacity: your intuition. Your inner knowing. Your Inner Wise Woman or Man.
Next time pain arises, instead of trying to heal, ask your intuition: What does my body need to heal?
And listen as s/he tells you the perfect medicine for your unique body vessel.