I had a big crush on my acupuncturist in Boston. Sure I was newly married at the time and Richie and I used to joke about it about. But who doesn’t fall in love with the person that cures them of migraines?

What I really loved was my acupuncturist’s approach to the human body and healing. He was the first person who modeled for me holistic care. In our intro session he asked questions about my health history and thoughtfully mapped out my body and its systems. After about an hour of talking about all the habitual ways I held or manifested stress (migraines being the most painful) he looked at me and said something like “congratulations, you are human!”

At the time I was in a competitive grad school program with intense reading, writing and coursework requirements. And when sick I felt like my body was letting me down. I even blamed myself–reasoning that if I was better skilled at managing stress I wouldn’t get sick in the first place.

For me illness = failure.

The acupuncturist set me on a new path in terms of how I look at my body—more partner than problem. He reminded me that everyone has weak spots and habitual symptoms and that such episodes are invitations to hold ourselves with compassion and check in with the overall pattern of our living.

For bodies are skilled at telling the truth. Whereas personalities might drive us harder and override our internal cues for rest or renewal — bodies have clear limits and frequently invite us to a different pace. 

Each one of us is a bio-indiviualist—with a body, mind, & spirit capacity that is unique. Some of us need to learn to rev up our engine a bit and engage more fully with life while others need tools to modulate the intensity.

Enter the 70% rule

This is an ancient lesson on moderation which stems from Tai Chi but is an elegant and useful approach to regular life, especially living in a culture which constantly teaches us to push through pain and work until the point of exhaustion. (In Tai Chi such an approach is called “practicing towards death.”)

How to integrate the 70% rule into regular life:

  1. Consider the work which you need to do today including family/home responsibilities and professional or volunteer work.
  2. As you move through each task observe the energy you put into it. Notice when you are straining (like operating at 90 or 100%) and see if you can simply pause, breathe, and draw back your energy a bit.
  3. Likewise when feeling sluggish and disengaged (operating at 50% of your capacities) see if you can stir up your own energy and connect your attention to the actual work at hand.

Sometimes as folks who are into the mind/body connection we wish we could just be whole and healthy all the time. And while there is a powerful link between our thoughts, our capacity to process emotions and stress and our overall health, it is a subtle and nuanced connection which teaches lessons on a daily basis.

Your body is your beautiful vehicle for relaxing into the sensory gifts of our world— whether that be squeezing a chunky baby, drinking a warm cup of tea, or taking in a sunset. We cannot simultaneously be open to such delights and invulnerable to physical bumps, infection, weariness. The 70% rule is a wonderful way to be in our bodies and our lives from the inside out in an open and receptive way. Try it! Tell me about your experiences in the comments section below.



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