Episode 29: Fall in Love with Your Fibromyalgia Body with Janet Farnsworth

Fall in Love with Your Fibromyalgia Body with Janet Farnsworth

Let Love Move You Beyond Your Pain, Fatigue and Fear

  • Fibromyalgia, abuse, whatever may have happened to your body in the past, or whatever is happening now, you still can love the body that you’re in.
  • Because you have fibromyalgia, you have a special kind of wisdom, a gateway into more intelligence about your body and what it needs.
  • When it comes to our bodies, and even our pain, there is so much to be curious about, and to build a loving vocabulary around.
  • We have within us so many resources to repair and to get healthy, even when we have certain aspects of ourselves that are challenged and taxed.
  • Learn the single most important practice for reconnecting with your body, which might sound really boring and really obvious, but it is actually the most powerful.

Our body can feel like a battleground, like it’s us against fibromyalgia, and this fight is happening inside of our body. Many of us with fibromyalgia “check out” from the neck down because we have to, just to get through the day. We’re in so much pain. We’re so fatigued. What if it were possible to fall in love with your body, right now, exactly as you are? Tami and her guest, Janet Farnsworth, offer this extraordinary gift in this special episode, which is our Valentine wish for you.

About Janet Farnsworth

Janet Farnsworth, nationally recognized yoga teacher and body-empowerment coach, inspires students to break through old beliefs of shame and blame and instead, connect to their bodies as the source of their greatest wisdom and joy. Founder of The Practice of Now: Let Love Move You, Janet has created a movement therapy practice designed to heal and nurture our relationships with our bodies. Janet believes authentic movement is the fastest way to physical, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being.

With a graduate degree in social work, Janet also brings a background in expressive therapy, psychodrama, ecstatic dance and yoga. Her book, LOVE YOUR BODY: The Ultimate Guide to Stop Making Your Body a Battleground is a how-to for anyone who is ready to feel empowered and at peace with their body.

Links & Resources

  • Get free copies of Tami’s books here
  • Tami will be teaching LIVE, one class each month, for the entire year 2020. This is the same information that she teaches her Coaches, clients, and students. These classes will not be recorded, so we hope you can join us LIVE. Go to FibroWorkshop.com to find out what Tami is teaching on next.
  • Janet Farnsworth is an internationally recognized yoga teacher, somatic therapist, and body-empowerment coach who has spent years coaching women how to love their bodies again. Contact Janet and grab a free copy of her book at JanetFarnsworth.com.
  • Below you will find both a full transcript and video of the episode, with the studies mentioned in the show linked in the transcription.
Play Video


You are listening to the Fibromyalgia Podcast with Tami Stackelhouse, Episode 29.

[00:50] Welcome to the Fibromyalgia Podcast! I’m your Coach, Tami Stackelhouse. 

Today’s episode is going to be my Valentine’s Day gift to you. Today we’re going to be talking about a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and I hope is going to lovingly stretch you just a little bit. We’re going to be talking about how you can love your body even with fibromyalgia. Now, I have a friend of mine who’s going to be joining us for this episode, and I will introduce you to Janet in just a minute.

[01:29] Before we dive into that though, I do have this week’s listener shout out for you. This is from NurseAnn63 and was posted on our iTunes account.

[01:40] She says, “Thank you for doing this podcast. It has really changed my outlook. Until I found this podcast, I was frustrated and angry with my condition.” She goes on to talk about her job, what her doctor has tried, all kinds of different things, and then she says, “Once I learned you started a podcast, I was excited. Now was my chance to learn more from the Coach herself. Your humor, knowledge and no nonsense approach to teaching is wonderful. I have learned so much that has helped me to manage my life and job better. I am no longer angry or frustrated. Every day is approached as a chance to learn and grow. I am thankful for this journey and look forward to each day. Thank you, Tami for every episode.”

[02:33] Thank you, Ann for sharing this. I love that you shared your journey with us. I love that you went from frustrated and angry about your fibromyalgia to now being thankful for this journey and looking forward to each day. Honestly, that is my wish for every single person who is listening here today.

[02:58] You might be angry. You might be frustrated. You might feel like a prisoner in this fibromyalgia body that you’ve got, but I promise you things can be different. You can feel better. It’s not just a trick of the mind. You can truly feel better.

[03:16] A lot of it is changing your outlook. We need to… As I’ve mentioned on other episodes, the three legs of the stool to help you feel your best with fibromyalgia:

  1. We’ve got to actually address the things that are going wrong in your body, the nutritional deficiencies and all of that.
  2. We need to address your mindset, how you think about your body, how you approach managing your life.
  3. Third is the lifestyle piece of this. Things like having good sleep habits, changing your diet, potentially, how you move your body, all of those kinds of things.

[03:58] Thank you so much for your review on iTunes and thank you so much for listening.

[04:08] I also want to tell you about this month’s Fibro Workshop. If you guys have been listening to the podcast, you know that I have been doing monthly workshops on fibromyalgia, that I’m doing for free, for anyone to attend. These are online workshops where I am going to teach you the exact same things that I teach my private clients, my students, and even my Coaches. We are going to be going through all of the material in my Fibromyalgia Advisor training program, and I’m actually going to be teaching it live.

[04:50] Our next class is going to be on Monday, February 10th at 3:00 PM Pacific, (that’s 6:00 PM Eastern time). This workshop is going to be focused on helping you add more joy to your life. You might remember that we covered this in Episode 13, where I did a walk-through of an exercise that I use called the Joy List.

[05:18] This workshop is going to be an expanded version of that, where I am going to coach you through your own Joy List and how you’re going to add that joy back into your life on a daily basis. I really, really hope that you can come. This is a powerful exercise that can really change how you look at your life, because life is your experience of it. If you’re not enjoying your life, then it’s not going to be very enjoyable. I know that’s circular, but there you have it.

[05:56] With fibromyalgia, you still can have that joy in your life. We just have to be more purposeful about how we add that in and really think through that perhaps a little bit more. I hope you’ll join us on Monday, February 10th and go through that workshop with us.

[06:16] Now a couple of little things about the workshop. Number one, you do have to RSVP. There are a few reasons for that. One of them is the fact that this is actually going to be where I teach you and coach you live. I can only do that with so many people, so there is a limit to how many people can attend. Please make sure you RSVP. We have a unique link for each class, so you will have to RSVP for each class to get the link for that class.

[06:49] The other thing is that we are not going to be recording these workshops. The reason for that — I know this has been disappointing for several of you — but I’m doing that for you. I am doing that to protect your own medical information, your own privacy, and to create a safe space where you can come in and share what’s really happening in your life, so these are not recorded.

[07:17] We also lock the call at five minutes after, which means you do have to be on time. I know that can be a challenge with fibro bodies and brains, so don’t worry, we will send you several reminders to help you remember when the class is, so you don’t miss it. Just know that we’re doing these things to create that safe place for you to be able to really share what’s happening in your life, so that I can coach you better. I hope you’ll join us.

[07:48] The link to RSVP is FibroWorkshop.com. It is going to be that same link to register for all of the classes. We’ll just change that out, and put the most current workshop up there. Just go to FibroWorkshop.com, and you’ll be able to register for the next class. Even if you’re listening to this podcast a few months down the road, just go to FibroWorkshop.com. You’ll see what our next workshop is and be able to register for that.

[08:18] I want to read to you one of the comments that we got from our January workshop. She said, “Thank you, Tami for all your wonderful help. It was so wonderful to feel normal, even for a short period of time.”

[08:35] I hope that you will join us, be a normal for a little while, as you’re in a room full of other people who understand what it’s like and don’t think you’re weird. I hope you’ll come and join us on February 10th.

[08:50] All right, so now I want to introduce you to my friend, Janet. She is a master of social work. She’s a bestselling author. She’s a body empowerment coach, and I met her in a group that I’m in, [a group] of authors and coaches.

[09:13] One of the things that I get to do is mentor brand-new authors that are coming through. Janet is one of those authors. Her book has come out. I can’t remember exactly when it was released, but it’s been just in the last few months. In fact, her book isn’t even in bookstores yet. You can get the digital copy on Amazon, but the paperback hasn’t even been released yet. She’s a brand-new author, and I have gotten to know her in this group.

[09:44] Seeing her passion for helping people love the body that they’re in is what made me invite her to be on today’s episode. I thought what might be more helpful for you guys was not just me talking to you, but you hearing a conversation between Janet and me as we talk about our own journeys to loving the bodies that we live in.

[10:14] With that, I want to read you Janet’s official bio, because actually, I kinda love it. It’s super cute. Then we will go into our actual conversation so you can hear us talk. This is Janet Farnsworth. As I said, she’s a master of social work. She’s an author, a body empowerment coach, and she inspires students to break through old beliefs of shame and blame, and instead connect to their bodies as the source of their greatest wisdom and joy.

[10:49] Janet is the founder of “The Practice of Now: Let Love Move You”. She has created a movement therapy practice designed to heal and nurture your relationship with your body. Janet believes authentic movement is the fastest way to physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being. She has a graduate degree in social work, so she also brings to that a background in expressive therapy, psychodrama, ecstatic dance and yoga.

[11:27] Her book is titled Love Your Body: The Ultimate Guide to Stop Making Your Body a Battleground (affiliate link). Can you tell why I invited her? When I saw the title of her book, I’m like, Oh my goodness. That is exactly what a lot of us feel, right? Our body is a battleground. It’s like us against fibromyalgia, and this fight is happening inside of our bodies. Anyway, her book is a how-to for anyone who’s ready to feel empowered and at peace with their body.

[12:03] She currently resides in Austin, Texas where she is proud to be part of Conviction Yoga, a program to bring the healing arts of yoga to incarcerated men and women. Yes, she teaches yoga at the prison. She is a personal survivor of the blame game and currently enjoys the challenge of finding ways to wake up each morning and be glad to be in the body she actually has, particularly the stretch marks on her stomach and the cellulite on her thighs.

[12:38] She says when she’s not trying to hug her almost-adult children, she loves being on almost any boat, watching old movies, and eating buttered toast, either one at a time or all together.

[12:50] I am so excited for you to hear the conversation that Janet and I had. 

I do want to give just a little caveat here. For whatever reason, this particular episode got recorded differently. I must have had some settings set different, so this did get recorded differently. There was also a little bit of an internet connection problem, so you will hear a couple of words get dropped out here and there. I wasn’t sure what to do with that, but the conversation that I had with Janet was so good and so powerful that I thought it would be more helpful for you to hear the real thing, than for us to try to go back and recreate what happened naturally.

[13:40] I apologize for the weirdness of the audio, if you hear a little bits and pieces. I did have Janet restate a couple of things, where I knew that the internet dropped the important part of what she was saying. I think for the most part, you will get what she’s saying. Again, for whatever reason, it just got recorded differently this time, so I apologize for that. We’ll be back to our normal stuff here shortly.

[14:11] With that, I would love for you to listen in on Janet and I as we talk about loving the body that you’re in. Fibromyalgia, abuse, whatever may have happened to your body in the past, or even is happening now, you still can love the body that you’re in. Here’s my conversation with Janet. Enjoy!

[14:38] TS — All right. Welcome, Janet. I am so glad that you are here with me today, and I am so excited to talk to you about this subject.

[14:50] JF — Me too! I’m excited. What’s going to happen? This is fantastic. I’ve been so looking forward to this.

[14:56] TS — Yes! I know we’re talking in January, but this is the episode that’s going to come out on February 4th, which means this episode is sort of my Valentine to my listeners. I thought, what a better thing to talk about than love for Valentine’s Day, right? In our world, loving your body is such a radical thing to think about, but it really changes the game when you can make that happen. I thought, what better than to invite the woman who wrote the book Love Your Body?! (affiliate link)

[15:37] JF — Woo-hoo! Yes! Yes, yes, yes.

[15:40] TS — Perfect. Why don’t we start a little bit with… I mean, I just read your official bio to everyone, but why don’t we talk a little bit more about your story. I’m sure you weren’t born, and from day one were living in this place of loving your body.

[15:57] JF — Oh my goodness, no. Girlfriend, it took me 40 years before I even considered the possibility that I could — forget about love — just actually be friends with the body that I have. Thank you for the question, because I think it goes to the heart of why I believe so fervently that whoever you are, how ever you are, you have the capacity to make friends with the biology that you have.

JF — 
My personal story is that I grew up in New York City, kind of regular life, but then I was assaulted as a very young child, and pretty quickly I learned the body was not a good place to be. There are all kinds of things to talk about and to say about what happens when there is an immediate traumatic event, but unquestionably, I learned in every cell of my body that I did not want to be in it.

[17:03] JF — In my case, I kind of … for about 40 years and did a lot dissociating and a lot of distracting, a lot of numbing, a lot of thinking that I was being okay. I mean, I was living this, you know, this quasi empowered life. I was a clinician working with women, and actually working with assault survivors, and yet always there really wasn’t a connection to me.

[17:39] JF — I’m so glad that we can see each other in this podcast. Those of you who are listening, who can’t see, I literally, I’m touching my shoulders, I’m putting my hands on the mass that I’m in.

[17:54] JF — You know, until, like, Harry Potter — for whom I’m a huge fan — until we can throw the Floo powder into the fireplace and suddenly you’re somewhere, our existence is actually in our biology, right? That’s how we’re alive, from the first breath that we’re born.

[18:16]  JF — My body was one I really didn’t want to be in. In my case it was trauma, but I’ve had the great gift of working now with a lot of people who have a lot of different reasons to not be comfortable with the bodies that we have. Waking up in it is the process that, for me, is what I’m here to share and to talk about. Having gone from… Like, “No, no, no, no, no. I don’t like my body. Get me out of it and keep me out of it…” to, “Oh yeah. Hello best friend!” Best date you’ll ever have on Valentine’s Day. Forget about the chocolate. Forget about the boyfriend, or the girlfriend. You, my friend, and you, can be just the best of companions.

[19:09]  TS — I love that. I love that. That’s actually one of the sentences that really struck me when I was reading your book. It was when you said, “I discovered my body was an unsafe place to be, so I left it.” I think a lot of people listening to this podcast can really relate to that statement. Maybe not necessarily the word ‘unsafe’… A lot of people end up with fibromyalgia due to past trauma, so unsafe may be the right word for a lot of you listening. The word might also be ‘uncomfortable’ or a painful place to be. Right?

[19:49]  TS — I think a lot of us with fibromyalgia kinda check out from the neck down because we have to, to get through the day. We’re in so much pain. We’re so fatigued. We just kind of have to not pay attention. But y’all, that’s how you get better, is to tune back in.

[20:06] JF — Yes, that really is it. Tami, you and I had a moment to connect before this moment, but I’m always so grateful to learn about all of the different ways that humans are born into, all of the different ways that we get to be in our bodies. I use that expression “get to be in” deliberately, because this is not from a Pollyanna-ish way. Please know that, and you can’t know it unless you hear me say a little bit more. I genuinely believe that the things that are our challenges are our biggest teachers.

[20:47] JF — I had this incredible opportunity to work with a woman who was actually born without arms. She just has hands at her shoulders. She has a book called The Impossible Only Takes a Little Longer (affiliate link), which is gorgeous, right? She, by the way, spins fire — seriously — does karate, and actually just had a baby.

[21:10] TS — Oh my goodness!

[21:11] JF — Now Sheila, who has given me permission to talk about her, has a very particular and pretty unusual experience of her body, right? Most of us would look at that… I spent a lot of my childhood being very afraid of people who I could see had physical challenges. Because, Tami, I identified with them. I could see someone in a wheelchair and I felt, “I know what that feels like.” Now, someone in a wheelchair might look at me and say, “Back off. You don’t know what it’s like.” 

They would be right, but the internal feeling of being trapped, feeling immobilized, a feeling of being unable to control my body, that I do know about. Those are the ways that I now know better how to feel in control of my body, how to feel agency. It is because of the opposite that I know. Similarly with Sheila, her capacity to talk about the “impossible only taking longer” is because she has experienced the impossible.

[22:22] TS — Right.

[22:23] JF — What you’re saying about your population, this group, your listeners, this community… I’m fascinated to know more, because I feel like you have a wisdom and … That you know better the subtleties of what it is to be in your experience, and then how to live a full life.

[22:48] JF — It kind of flips the challenge on its head. I mean, for me — and I don’t know if you have this experience, but I’d love to know — I know that now I can interact with my perpetrator, not with a sense of, “Hey, let’s go out to dinner,” but with a sense of — and this is 13 years of recovery work… I mean, I did an absolute rejection, and I needed to be angry, and I needed to be clear, right? Have all of the process of working it through. I now can be with the person and the experience that caused me the greatest pain in my life, and I really, really get that he is my greatest teacher. That those experiences are my greatest teachers.

[23:42] JF — I don’t know if you experienced that. You know, it’s fibromyalgia, but whatever that is, right? Like what does that do? Do you ever feel like it’s a gateway into more intelligence?

[23:54] TS — For me, I think fibromyalgia is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. I know a lot of people listening are not in that place. If you’re not there and you think I’m crazy, that’s totally cool. There were many years that I was not there too. You know, over the last… I don’t know, it’s been 12 years since I was diagnosed. I mean, it’s literally made me a better person. I’m more compassionate. I understand people with disabilities much better. I’ve walked in those shoes.

[24:33] TS — It’s also given me gifts of things like: I am much more aware of the choices that I make. We all only have 24 hours in a day. I’m just maybe a little bit more aware of it. One of the things that I see often, with authors and coaches — Janet and I are in a group with others — I see there’s a lot of “shiny object syndrome.” Like, I’m going to go chase after this thing or that thing or whatever. I have that a lot less, simply because I know I can’t. That’s not even an option for me. I’ve got to stay focused if I want to do the things that I’m here to accomplish. That’s one of the gifts I think, is that.

[25:19] TS — Also, just how in tune I am with my body. What makes her feel good, what makes her feel worse, what I need to do to recover, all of that kind of stuff.

[25:34] JF — You know, I’m so happy to hear that. I have to say, since this is your *love* episode for Valentine’s Day, what more deserving reality could there be than to love your experience of yourself? I mean, in the Practice of Now, which is the name of my business, the Practice of Now is the way to love the body. The Practice of Now has to include all of it, which is to appreciate when you say that, you know, for those listeners or those parts of us which are saying, “Uh-uh! I am so not interested in being in chronic pain. I don’t want this to have happened to me.” Whatever that thing is, we have to make room for it.

[26:22] JF — I’m guessing that you didn’t get to the place you’re in by denying, pushing it away, telling yourself you, you know, we’re so full of it, or we can’t or we won’t. [Instead, you can] actually open up your awareness, so that you can accept all of you.

[26:46] JF — I’m not quite sure what my point was. It was something!

[26:50] TS — One of the things that came up for me when you were talking was that one of the biggest tools for me to get to where I am today has been curiosity. You know, rather than coming in from a place of “should” or “shouldn’t” or what things are “supposed” to be, but coming in more with curiosity. Just thinking about, “Okay, if I do this, how does my body feel? If my body feels this way, and I do this, then what happens?” You know, and really just having that curiosity, rather than expectation, or condemnation, those “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”.

[27:36] TS — That was another bit I loved in your book. We start feeling bad about our body, and then we see all this information that says we shouldn’t feel bad about our body, so then we feel bad about feeling bad.

[27:49] JF — Right! Exactly! I know. We studied this, and we know it exists. 

Yes. I love that. I love this concept of curiosity. You know, one of the ways that we do the practice is by arriving in our bodies like we had arrived in a new city or even a new planet, and everything was a source of curiosity.

[28:13] JF — I’m a big sci-fi fan, I’ve already mentioned Harry Potter, I’ve mentioned Star Trek. Whatever those tricorder readings are, you’ve got the away team, and you have the first team that lands on the planet, you know, like the science team. They’re all just exploring the weather and the topography and the geography and you know, the wild life. If we do that with our own bodies, there’s this universe of information.

[28:42] JF — Speaking of books, in your book, one piece that I loved was when you were talking about looking at the parts that make up the whole. To me, it’s like, yes! Be interested in all the information, like your sleep pattern, or how you digest. I mean, there is a galaxy, like there’s an infinite amount of information, just by being in the moment and caring and being curious about you.

[29:16] JF — If you can, fall in love with that, as if you had just met someone that you really, really liked. Like that way we make a new friend. You just kind of want to know everything about him or her, and you’re really interested, like you really care. I know when it’s flipped, when we own the experience of this, and someone is asking us about us, we might feel self conscious. You know that experience, when you really want to know about someone, when you’re really enchanted and enamored with somebody? You know, it’s kind of like you smile and feel happy. You can’t go the other way. You actually get really interested. You kinda can’t help but fall in love.

[29:59] TS — Right, right.

[30:01] JF — You know? It’s like, “Ooh, that’s so interesting,” including the stuff that normally is like the drudge, the mud, the bad weather. It’s like, it’s all the planet, and it’s so interesting. It’s like, put on a show for me.

[30:16] TS — It makes me think of when my husband and I met. Scott happens to be red/green colorblind. What you’re talking about just reminds me, when I found that out, like all these thoughts went through my head. Like, “Oh, Ooh, I wonder what the world looks like for him? How fascinating is that, that when I look out at the trees and the landscape, like, it’s red and green, and he doesn’t see that. That looks different to him. What does that look like?” It was just so fascinating, like you said.

[30:59] JF — Like point out one of the green things to him and say, “What does that look like? What do you see?”

[31:07] TS — Yes. He was getting kind of annoyed with me, cause he’s like, “I don’t know, this is what I see.”

[31:14] JF — I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somehow! 

We are interested. Our experiences are so interesting. That idea of being interested, and then discovering how worthwhile you are, is a practice, especially for those of you, or those of us, or those who have chronic pain or something that is something that we want to avoid. When we have big incentives to not pay attention, right?

[31:54] JF — I mean, pain is pain, and there’s a very good reason we call it that. Right? It’s a thing that we don’t want. We want to move away from it. To me, the practice is then even accepting the part that doesn’t want to go into the pain, recognizing and making room for, “I really don’t want to be in this place.” There’s a whole concept — I’m forgetting now the first woman who, I think it was a woman, who coined the term — radical self-acceptance, which to me is such a powerful one. That idea that we have the capacity, and there’s an invitation, to accept all of us, all of it, including the part that doesn’t want to be accepted.

[32:41] TS — Right, right, right. Accepting the unacceptance, so to speak. When it comes to pain, there’s a whole universe, just in pain. I was just talking with a client about that earlier this week, that you can be curious about the pain. I know my body well enough now that I know, Oh, that’s the pain that anybody would feel of using a muscle maybe a little bit too much, right? That kind of ache. This is the pain of, Oh, something’s wrong. I need to go see the doctor. I think I hurt something. This is the pain of fibromyalgia. This is the pain of whatever.

[33:28] TS — There’s even within just pain, there’s so much to be curious about and get to know, and really have a vocabulary around — sharp pain, aching pain. You know, it’s kinda like talking to a mechanic about a car, right? I don’t know if you ever have, but like, “Is it a “ting ting ting” or is it a “kachunk kachunk kachunk”?” Right?

[33:58] JF — When I get older, it’s just the rattle rattle!

[34:00] TS — The snap, crackle, pop!

[34:03] JF — Sag and drag, whatever!

No, I love that. I have to say, when I heard you saying that, [I had] this physical reaction of feeling calmer. When I heard you invite that curiosity, me just talking with you, I felt like, ahhhhh. You know, that feeling of, “Oh, it’s okay. I can be interested in all of me.” Which then brought up for me a curiosity. I think that’s actually an act of great courage. I would think that, you know, your listeners and you, I’d be interested to know what the experience of courage is with symptoms, with experience, with living that reality, and being able to sustain that curiosity. Because that’s a muscle to me. That’s like a commitment. It’s like, that’s the practice. For some reason the word courage came up.

[35:11] TS — Yeah. There is a certain amount of courage to face the thing that is your greatest enemy, so to speak. To face your greatest fear. To open up to… If you think about the idea of, we’ve sort of checked out from the neck down. To open that up and to check back in, I would imagine that there is a lot of fear there around that. Oh my goodness, if I do that, am I going to be so overwhelmed with the pain and the fatigue? Is this gonna take me out? Kind of that same sort of fear as if, “If I open this door, is there a wild tiger behind it?”

[35:59] JF — Do you know? Yes. 

That reminds me, I actually talk very specifically about this in my book. I worked with somebody who actually came to me because he was suffering from a relationship breakup that he hadn’t been able to get over for a year. He was in a lot of chronic pain about this breakup, and he had “pushed past it.” I use, you know, quotations around that. He kept pushing. We’d discuss this possibility of, “What would it be to just let yourself be depressed? I mean, really genuinely grieve?” He said, and it was so specific. It was just such a pointed experience. He said, “I’ll drown. I’ll never get out of bed. I won’t leave the house.”

[36:45] JF — Now, obviously there are some people, you know, that we get dragged in, we get marinated in it. To me, there is also this possibility, that sometimes, when we really allow the tiger in, and we let it tear around the room… or we let the tidal wave wash in…

[37:05] JF — His experience was, he said he sat down on Friday afternoon, and he was ready to stay there until the long weekend was over. Then maybe he would text me, and we’d talk about how he’d get up to get to work. He said he sat down, and he did this work of softening, and being okay, and thinking about her, and thinking about the loss and feeling in his body, the agony — cause I’m a somatic therapist — doing that welcoming of the healing experience. Then he started to cry. He spent an hour crying, and about 45 minutes after that he started to stop crying. He stopped. He started to stop.

[37:43] JF — Every feeling is transient. Every moment. That’s why the practice of being in the moment is so powerful. When we really get to just be as we are, we get to watch that the moment will change.

[38:02] JF — You know, I teach in jail, and I also teach yoga, and that experience and being with people who are truly at a high crisis level in their [life]. I mean, it’s pretty much as bad as it can get in many very real ways. A lot of them in recovery, they’re literally detoxing, they’ve lost their jobs or are losing their families, they are facing time in jail — and these are property crimes, drug crimes, lest we start telling stories about the, you know, whatever. People who are in pretty awful situations.

[38:35] JF — This practice of just being on this…. Breathe and actually tolerate the moment, it becomes then like water or the river, and we realize that this exact moment that we’re in actually just ended. That sweet moment where I saw you smiling, it’s gone. Now, I can go to the recording. [But there’s] something very real about you and me being spontaneously in the moment that passes. 

The same thing is true for an experience, a moment of pain, right? It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have more, or that it’s going to come back. In a chronic condition like his, this is an experience of what one expects, but as you said, if we don’t expect what’s to come, and we don’t anticipate, then there’s a possibility there’s something else in here besides what we thought was only going to be horrible or bad.

[39:41] JF — Or maybe, maybe there’s a little bit of breath in here. Maybe there’s a little bit of compassion. Maybe there’s information about how to take care of this, which is to me, the exquisite practice of being interested in your body. All of that information, all of that gorgeous intelligence that can tell you exactly the way no single person can. You know better than anybody, and only when you connect to yourself, we let all of that natural brilliance and information talk to us.

[40:23] JF — It’s just, it can’t come through if we’re cut off above the neck. It can’t come through if I’m not feeling and being interested in what’s here. It’s silent because no one’s listening.

[40:40] TS — Right, right. We kind of walk around, and like you said, it’s silent. We’re also walking around going, “La, la, la, la, la, I can’t hear you.”

[40:52] JF — Oh yes! Oh, yeah. I call that macaroni and cheese, or shopping, or the internet. I’m like, “Oh, starch. Yes. Please.” 

By the way, sometimes macaroni and cheese is exactly the right thing for me. I’m not saying the “la, la, la’s” are all bad. I mean sometimes my genuine knowing is, “Oh no, no, no no, it is soothing time”, and it can be macaroni and cheese. I’ve recently started to watch “The Brady Bunch”

TS — That’s awesome!

JF — We actually record that show, and I know when I turn that puppy on, I am in total soothe mode. I am in check out, disconnect. I’m looking at Marsha’s shoes , and that’s the only thing that matters to me. If you’re not under the age of 25, we can talk later, but, you know, “The Brady Bunch”.

[41:44] JF — Anyway, so that’s just to give a little shout out. Because sometimes we do need to not be in it. I mean, equally, that’s true. Right? We only know the difference by being interested.

[41:58] TS — I’ve talked a lot about this concept, and one of the questions that often comes up is, “So how do you check back in if you’ve checked out? How do you check back in without being totally overwhelmed?” One of the things that you mentioned when you were talking about the client you were working with was texting you to get that help. How am I going to go back to work? Having somebody that you’re working with as you check back in can be so helpful, right? Because it kind of provides you a little bit of a safety net. You know you’re not going to drown because you know you’ve got that other person there. That could be a friend, it could be a coach, a therapist, a spiritual director, or whatever, but not going into that alone.

[42:49] TS — I know that this is what you do. I would love to hear from you some ideas for people who are listening. How would you go about checking in with your body when that seems like a really scary thing to do?

[43:03] JF — Yes. Thank you so much for that question. Of course, for me, there are dozens, if not a thousand ways to be interested in oneself. All of the thousands of systems in you that are working to make you well, to be interested in all of them is a life practice. 

But the single most important one, which might sound really boring and really obvious, is actually the most powerful. And it’s breathing. It’s deliberately breathing.

[43:39] JF — Before I say even specifically how or in what way, let me give a little shout out for breath, because if you didn’t have it, you wouldn’t be alive. There is nothing that you need to do with your linear, ego mind for it to be happening, which means that one of your most profound technologies that is keeping you alive has nothing to do with what you’re thinking. Nothing. Which also means that that thing that is keeping you alive is way beyond your concept of yourself. That thing that is sustaining you thinks that you are so important. It’s never gonna let you go.

[44:31] JF — No matter what. Like even right now, if we all tried to hold our breath… Like even just here, if you took a big breath, and you held it, and you kept trying to hold it, while I’m talking, a moment’s going to come where your brilliant body’s going to push that out. It will release your breath, no matter what your intention is to do. [Same with] the other way. If you breathe out and hold your breath out, that agitation that you have, that impatience, that panic, that longing to [breathe in], that’s also part of your intelligence. That desire to be whole and alive is who you are.

[45:19] JF — Your breathing connects you to the best of yourself. You get to think it. “Ah, I’m going to take a big inhale.” You don’t have to interpret it or understand it. You breathe in, then you breathe out.

[45:38] JF — There’s a very particular way — and I’ll just share this one tidbit which I love — which is that when we bring our hands to our face, and the corners of your hands are on the corners of your lips, and your fingertips are on your temple… This has been clinically shown to soothe the nervous system.

[46:00] JF — Inhale through the nose, and exhale through open lips like the letter O, and you extend your exhale. You are telling your nervous system that, even though the mind might think there’s a tiger in the room, that tiger, that tidal wave, actually there’s not. When we’re panicked, we hold the breath in. When we exhale in an extended way, we’re letting the nervous system know: I don’t have to hold my breath to survive.

[46:33] JF — That simple act does two pieces:

  1. It immediately soothes anxiety, which is keeping us up and out of our experience. 
  2. Then, it connects and makes space by engaging your physiology to connect you back to yourself. 

It’s not a linear process. You can’t think, experience, when you breathe, right?

[46:59] JF — When you take that big breath, it sounds so dull. I’m a yoga teacher. I spent 12 years thinking, “That is so boring.”

[47:11] TS — I want to doooooooo something, right?

[47:17] JF — Yeah, right! 

But that! That’s the first thing. Big inhale, longer exhale. You will engage the neural networks and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system in your body to connect and then to relax. Because if there’s that feeling of, “I do not want to be in this,” that means that you are feeling some kind of suffering right away. We want to soothe that suffering. We don’t want to push it or beat up on it or say, “Oh, you’re supposed to feel good”, as we discussed.

[47:50] JF — I think this community has got to be so fatigued already by being told, “Oh it’s all up in your mind” or something. Right? Like, no, we honor what your experience is. When you breathe, it’s like you’re bathing your experience with love. To me, there’s no greater expression for love than breath. I mean, in fact, it’s everything, really. We could talk about that more, but that’s the first. I told you there’s dozens and a thousand. I could tell you more, or we could just leave one one.

[48:24] TS — I think that’s great. Do you talk about these in your book?

[48:30] JF — I do indeed.

[48:31] TS — I thought you might.

[48:34] JF — There’s a whole little chapter — well not a whole chapter, but there’s a big old chunk in there — on breathing as an act of love.

[48:42] TS — Awesome. For those of you who are interested in learning more, I will definitely have the link where you can grab a copy of Janet’s book, Love Your Body. It’s just her name, JanetFarnsworth.com. I’ll have all of that spelled out in the show notes for today. You can go grab that, and you can download a free copy.

[49:04] JF — Thank you Tami. I would love to give my book away. Let me love on you by letting you love yourself. It’s so much fun! Can you think of a better date than you? No one likes the same music the way you do. No one likes the same food the way you do. Like, no one has the exact same taste as you do. Can you think of a better date than yourself?

[49:29] TS — I tell you what, I have some fascinating conversations with myself, too.

[49:35] JF — Exactly! You are interested in the same ideas. No better person to love on than you for Valentine’s Day. Then all the love just [flows out to] everybody else.

[49:48] TS — One thing we haven’t touched on, that would be worth talking about a little bit, is the cultural and societal influences that we have on this idea… taking care of yourself first, not being the right thing to do. I think most of us have sort of grown up with this idea that, you know, we should be putting others before ourselves. I’m not sure that’s right to begin with, but I know it doesn’t work when you have a body that needs extra love.

[50:28] JF — Yes. If your body is suffering, how can the love that you’re trying to manufacture for somebody else actually be authentic? Because there’s suffering in it. Your experience of yourself, even when you’re saying the things or doing the things, but you’re in pain, then it’s a painful experience, on some level.

[50:50] JF — Yes, that social, cultural expectation… I come from a line of German Protestant missionaries.

[50:56] TS — Oh Lord!

[50:59] JF — Exactly! “There is no greater expression of your higher self than to suffer.” Right? I mean really. Literally. I mean that’s like, it’s a thing. I think it’s steeped in our culture, right? That kind of quiet respect we have for the person who has, you know, starved themselves to feed the masses or worked until he [collapses with] fatigue. We have this deep cultural attachment to, somehow, the sanctity of suffering.

[51:31] TS — Right?

[51:33] JF — How are we doing on all that? You know, it’s like mmmmmmm, okay? There’s something in that.

You know, for me, I think it took me… I’m 53, and I think I only started to really get this a few years ago. As somebody who has spent their life wanting to be of service — like I said, I come from missionaries. It’s in my bones, right? I started as a children’s and family therapist, then I was a social worker and a clinician. You know, I love people. I really, really do. Love is the highest value to me. Love, however you define that thing, is my highest value.

[52:15] JF — It’s only been the last few years that I finally started to understand that for me to give love and to be connected to love, that love was coming from a place that I could actually identify as “me”, and if I’m not included in that big, beautiful desire for the world, then I’m not really loving. I’m not actually loving completely, because I’ve taken myself out of my compassion. It’s, wait… I’m in there. I’m on the planet too.

[53:04] JF — That’s why, to me, this practice of loving our body is like the first step, to be comfortable with the *you* that is here right now on the planet. You’re the holder for all of the ideas, aspirations, and the dreams. All of the things that you see, and that you want, and that you desire, and that you’re creating, that comes from a source that’s you. It’s YOU. If you’re not loving on that, and caring about it, and being interested in it, and curious about it, then you’re not really practicing love. You know, you can’t be.

[53:45] JF — That’s as somebody who really thought I was, and I did a nice job of loving a lot of people. I have beautiful children. I have a happy ex-husband.

[54:00] TS — That means you did something right!

[54:00] JF — I did something right. I hope I have a couple of people I’ve helped over the years. That’s real and it’s good and it’s true. Yes, of course. And… And… I’m so glad you said that, because it’s such a thing, you know, to allow the space to actually care about ourselves and prioritize ourselves.

[54:21] TS — From a practical standpoint, we can’t. I mean, living in a body that has limitations, that only has so much energy, that only has maybe so much “good” time. Right? Good days? If we’re spending all of that taking care of somebody else, those amount of good days actually get smaller. We’ve got to be refilling the well. We’ve got to be taking care of ourselves to the point that we have something to give. We have to start with ourselves, just from a very practical standpoint. If you’re a mom with kiddos, if you are a wife, if you’re a grandmother, whatever it is, you can’t take care of those people if you are flat on your back because you’ve used up all your energy and you’re in pain.

[55:13] JF — Well, yes. That reminds me, actually, what you started talking about, about how you now you can discriminate out, in a way that you couldn’t before, the intelligence of your need. That you can discriminate out, which comes back around to how you probably now are living a fuller life, because of that experience of having to fine tune the “selfish” curiosity. Now you’re living this fuller experience because you’ve done that thing. Which brings it very nicely around to where we began, which is kind of nice.

[55:49] JF — Oh, I so respect that struggle, you know? I think, especially as women — although I think men have a different kind of pull on their resources to do and to provide, and we all suffer from it. I do think that women have a particular brand of it. 

Now, remember, I come from missionaries. I have a religious background, so I don’t say this with snarky-ism, but with quite sobriety. I think about, you know, Mother Mary. That image of, you know, in the stable and the manger. I don’t want to have my baby on straw. I thank her for doing it, but I would rather bring my sweet baby into the world in a nice, warm, safe, clean environment. Anyway, that’s sort of maybe out in left field, but that’s maybe because I’m invoking all of my ancestors here.

[55:59] TS — Right, right, exactly. I think, you know, as women — setting aside the fact that this is the Fibromyalgia Podcast, and those of you listening are by far going to have fibromyalgia — just as a woman in this world, it is tough to love your body. We are shown pictures that aren’t even with those women actually look like, as we’re looking at magazines that have been photo-shopped.

[57:28] JF — Oh, well, we’re going to go down that path. Oh yeah. We can totally go there. 

Here’s the deal about that one. I’ll just say this. I’ll just say this from my particular perspective. I used to be anorexic. I was a tall, thin blonde living in New York City. I was recruited to model and be in Broadway shows. True story. Fast forward 40 years later, probably around 60 pounds heavier. I am way happier now than I was then. The myth of what the body looks like is just pure myth.

[58:09] JF — That, to me, is one of the gifts of what we were talking about, about the challenge of pain, or the challenge of what we are experiencing in ourselves, is the gateway into your brilliant truth. You get to know, because you’re uncomfortable, What do you need?

[58:29] JF — I was checked out of my body like nobody’s business when I was tall and… Well, hopefully I’m still tall. I’m definitely a little shorter. What we look like having less to do with how we feel. Okay? Similarly, you know, well, that’s just… It’s just an illusion. That’s just an idea, right? This thing of actually caring about how we feel is everything.

[59:04] TS — I think the other part of that isn’t just this message of “you have to look a certain way” isn’t just about feeling good in your body. It’s also tied to what the picture is for being healthy. You do not have to be a certain size to be healthy.

[59:26] JF — Thank you. Yes, yes, yes. It’s interesting, I heard you say even the concept of what healthy is, that I would like to feel and believe that one can have a chronic condition and be healthy.

[59:39] TS — Amen. Yeah.

[59:42] JF — That you can still be vital and vibrant and be forward moving and evolving and … in the ways that you can do. Because our bodies are always aging. Even those super fit models that are in the Teen Shape commercials, or whatever it is, even they are aging. Their body is changing. That’s a fact. We’re all… Sorry, but we’re all decaying.

[1:00:14] TS — True story.

[1:00:14] JF — That’s that sag and drag thing. In a more sober way, we are all completely unique, and we all have… We both had this, I think, on our websites or in our books, and I was so excited when I saw this. Our skin — when it’s cut, it will close. The cut will close. The bone is broken. It will knit. We have in us so many resources to repair and to get healthy, even when we have certain aspects of ourselves that are challenged and taxed.

[1:00:48] JF — Sheila, with no arms, she helped me, absolutely, in her way and her unique experience. She is vital, as vital as any mother I have ever known. It’s not just about how you look, but also even what the concept is of how you’re supposed to look, the vision of being healthy.

[1:01:12] TS — Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Well, as much as I would love to keep talking to you about this, you have a class to teach, and we’re about at the end of our time, so we probably should wrap this up. It has been such a joy chatting with you about this, and digging into more of how you think about all of this. I love it.

[1:01:38] JF — I love talking about all of this. Thank you so much for inviting me. I love that I can be on your *love* episode. Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy love day. Happy love your body, love yourself. I love you, and I am so grateful to have been able to talk.

[1:01:55] TS — Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. This was exactly what I was hoping we would do.

Everyone who is listening, make sure you go to today’s show notes. It’s FibromyalgiaPodcast.com/29, and you will find all of today’s notes. You’ll find the link to Janet’s book. If there are any other goodies you want us to put on there, Janet, just let me know. Happy to do that.

[1:02:20] JF — Yes. Yes. I’ve got a nice webinar… Actually, nope. It will be out by the time this comes out. It will be done. Can’t offer that, but I’ll offer another one, so just stay in touch.

[1:02:33] TS — Yes. Yes. Perfect. Alright you guys, thank you all so much for listening in this week. Love to all of you. Have a great Valentine’s Day. Make a date with yourself. Best date ever, right?

[1:02:50] JF — Totally. Yes.

[1:02:52] TS — Alright, you guys. Catch you next time. Bye!

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