I grew up with a rather black and white view of the body and what it means to be well.
If I eat this many calories in a day, I’ll lose this many kilos.
If I take this tablet for my heartburn, the heartburn will disappear.
If I turn my attention to happy thoughts, I won’t have to deal with the negative ones.
The emphasis was always on “fixing” problems, without much thought about underlying causes or how my emotional, physical and mental states relate to each other. It would never have occurred to me that stress held in my stomach could be causing the heartburn, or that my sugar craving could be stemming from a comfort pattern I’d created as a child. Without much inner awareness or curiosity, it was inevitable that the kilos, heartburn and negative thoughts came back.
The work for me has been about understanding my body as an ecosystem of interconnected parts—parts that are both tangible and intangible, as Matthew Sanford says in this issue. Matthew is a yoga teacher who’s paralysed from the chest down, and who’s been able to reclaim his wholeness and the internal sensations throughout his body by tuning in to the mind-body connection. He’s shown me that healing is not necessarily about getting back what we’ve lost, although of course it can be; it’s about feeling the fullness of our experience while being in relationship with what we no longer have.
A big part of learning to reconnect with my body has been learning how to take care of it. A string of bad habits and mindless consumption has meant I’ve effectively been “trashing” my inner ecosystem. What is the work in repairing this damage, and how do I draw on the wisdom both inside and out to best serve my physiology? These are questions that television host Osher Günsberg has been deeply invested in. After a painful decade of addiction and mental illness, he implemented a rigorous self-care plan of mindfulness, medication, daily exercise, healthy eating and regular connection with others in order to bring himself back to a manageable state of wellbeing.
Many of the stories in this issue are about how we can access a more compassionate place in ourselves, and surrender to our human being-ness rather than always feeling the need to control. One of the greatest teachers I’ve come across in letting love in and connecting to inner wisdom is Nicaraguan-American healer, Brenda Salgado. She reminds us that self-love is the most necessary—and the most challenging—work we can offer the world right now.
Also in this issue is the remarkable best-selling writer and advice columnist, Cheryl Strayed—a true empath who, for more than two decades, has been unpacking her own stories and experiences to help others heal from emotional trauma and open up to new terrain in their lives. Both she and speech pathologist Rosalie Martin show us how storytelling has the power to heal our pasts, feel agency in the present and become who we want to be in the future.
The act of healing feels particularly pertinent at this point in time. Almost everywhere I look, there is a broken system or depleting natural resource or wounded psyche that needs regenerating. This issue of Dumbo Feather is inviting us to start with the self—with the body and mind, yes, but also with the emotional and spiritual dimensions that make up who we are. In looking after these ecosystems within, we might just find ourselves extending the same care and consciousness to the ecosystems we are in.