Somatic Meditation (Hello body, thanks for all the fish) by Debbie Farrar
My body needs fish. No, it LOVES fish! I have been vegetarian, vegan and even raw vegan & fruitarian in the past. I have argued with confused ladies in food shops who could not tell me if animal fats were used in the making of their wares and thought that somehow this made me morally and spiritually superior to them and other meat eating murderous carnivores like my parents, teachers, employers, partners, random strangers, anyone whom I wanted to rebel against!
However, after 2 decades of this (I am 43 now), I found that I became very skinny, my immune system suffered, my energy levels were very low and my joints were plagued with pain. Add to this the fact that my periods stopped completely, which is not a good idea when you are trying to get pregnant. I tried to combat all this the vegan, and then vegetarian way without success. Then I visited a very reputable and much published nutritionist who told me that my periods would not start again unless I started eating fish at least 3 times a week. (She had wanted me to eat red meat, but we compromised on fish). I couldn't bring myself to do it at all. I had always balked at the smell of fishmongers as a child and had rarely eaten fish at all, even when I ate meat, I would always say that I hated fish. So we compromised and I started taking vegan supplements instead.
This turned into a £50 a month habit. I needed so many supplements a day that I literally rattled and was often sick as the coating of the capsules really aggravated my stomach, even making me sick a few times. I persisted and my periods eventually started up again, but I felt like shit. I even managed to get pregnant a few times, but after a series of miscarriages I realised that my body was not actually absorbing all the nutrients from the supplements. I stopped taking them & my periods stopped again. They were obviously doing something, but I could not continue with them for both financial and health reasons.
I decided to start eating fish. This was no longer about my getting pregnant; I gave up on that idea after losing 7 babies and figuring that maybe I was meant for other things. This was about my body feeling healthy. I had always been a sickly person. Epileptic, allergic, psoriasis, eczema, sinusy, snotty; candida & fungus had a field day as they tried to decompose my body every chance they got. I had to stop listening to other people telling me how bad eating meat was, and figure out how to look after my body myself.
It was a very difficult thing for me to do. I hated the thought of buying fish wrapped in plastic from a supermarket shelf. My hormones were already all over the place, so I had cut out food & drink from plastic containers. Plus I have a degree in Environmental Science. I know way too much about the fishing industry and its impacts on fish stocks. One of my senior year projects was an ethical & environmental impact assessment comparing aboriginal subsistence fishing to that of more modern methods. I was not about to compromise my core values.
I also remember that as a child, when I did eat fish, the only times I did was when my parents' fisherman friends came round with the pick of their catch, and spilled out all the freshly caught fish over our huge kitchen table and we were each allowed to pick our own fish for dinner. Those fish smelled good! They smelled full of life and energy, not like the rotting fish smells that turned my stomach in fishmongers.
It took me a lot of meditation to eat my first bit of fish. I remember chewing it slowly for ages, not wanting to swallow it. But as soon as some of the fishy goodness reached by stomach, my body started singing! It really wanted fish! It needed fish! I could feel pulsating fishy goodness vibrating through my body. This was a palpable physical sensation, akin to how I feel while meditating.
My Grandma always used to say that if I listened to my body quietly it would tell me what I needed to know. She taught me to trust my gut and heart when I was young. I was so sorry that I had forgotten that precious knowledge, and that I reclaimed it too late to be able to share it with her again in the flesh. However, I was grateful that my teacher Godfrey Devereux had guided me to trust the inherent wisdom of the body again through the process of somatic meditation.
I started to listen closely to that innate bodily wisdom. Every meal became a somatic meditation. I used the sensations that I felt in my body before, during and after eating to determine whether or not I should continue to eat that food or supplement. Using this somatic meditative technique, I learned which foods could heal my body gently and naturally, and manage to wean myself off the supplements within a month or so. Other useless junk that I had been putting into my body also stopped being ingested pretty soon after that. It was not a chore or even a choice to give it up. Even chocolate - my drug of choice at that time - I just stopped wanting it, stopped thinking about it. If I smelled it my pulse would race and I would feel nauseous.
It wasn't long after that I started noticing that my body had the same response to certain forms of media and even people. I stopped watching TV. I had already given up on news over a decade ago, but now even the stuff I thought I was choosing to watch ceased to resonate with me at all. Lots of other things I was just doing for the sake of it, stopped happening too. Pubs & shops fell off the radar, as did some friends, who I suspect might think I have become a recluse, or I don't like them. But this is not about them, its about me. I still only feel love for them. I just also feel love for myself, and I am allowing myself to act in accordance with that feeling, rather than according to the comforting acceptance that I saw in the faces of others when I did behaviours that matched their expectations.
I do not feel as though I am missing out. I feel like I am engaging more fully and intimately with myself, my life and nature than ever before. The nature of my own presence is palpable.
Debbie Farrar (October 2014)