Our bodies hold the clues to what we are really feeling. They harbor the answers to the tough questions we often struggle to answer. The problem is, this world is a “thinking world” and we’ve learned to dismiss our bodies entirely figuring what they have to say doesn’t hold a candle in credibility to thoughts, facts, rationalizations, and other people’s opinions. The problem with dismissing our bodies however is that we actually have to LIVE in then for our duration here on the planet and if you’re not listening to its messages you can rest assured that it will rebel.
As someone who has made some incongruent choices in my life, I have firsthand experience with ignoring my body’s signals. As a result over the years I’ve had the distinct pleasure of experiencing bouts of nagging illness, chronic pain, anxiety, panic attacks, and injuries that could have easily been prevented. And I got whacked with these gems as a result of just persevering, making the best of it, listening to others, rationalizing, and following the stupid mantra of ‘no pain/no gain’.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the gift of these experiences has been learning more about how to listen to my body’s messages while it is whispering to me rather than waiting for it to drop a brick on my head.
I got to thinking about this topic today as I was catching up on my podcast listening. Pam Slim at Escape from Cubicle Nation recently had a podcast interview with Martha Beck to talk about getting in touch with the work you’re meant to do. Martha Beck is a leading expert life coach, author, and therapist. She wrote one of my favorite books Finding Your Own North Star and is a regular contributor to O Magazine. She has such a way with words and I love the humor she brings to both everyday and complex topics.
In this interview Martha talks about how our bodies contract when placed in negative environments. Even if it is subtle, the body contracts when faced with something that is negative or doesn’t “fit” with who we really are. This explains why we tend to tense up and experience incredible chronic pain when we work in cubicles and repetitive jobs that we don’t like. We don’t notice our body’s whisper, so over time it manifests itself in health and mood issues as we march along a path that isn’t right for us. I thought this quote from Tim Sanders in his blog sums it up nicely. (While his article is written the context of a company’s leadership, it is a GREAT question to ask yourself each and every day to determine if your body is trying to tell you something). In this quote he is referring to people showing up for work in the morning.
“When people show up in the morning, at that moment where they turn off the car and have that second of silence before they grab their security badge and cross the threshold–do they have a song in their heart or a pit in their stomach?”
Here’s a hint — if you answered “pit in your stomach” it is time for a change. People who tell you that “you’ll get used to it” are full of crap. My answer to them has always been “If I bang my head on a cinderblock, I’ll eventually get used to the pain and blood but that doesn’t mean it is good for me.”
How about you? Do you listen to your body regularly or have you been estranged from it since childhood? I do admit that it takes practice to learn to listen to your body. I’ll be the first to admit that I still have a way to go when it comes to being an expert at it and having it come naturally. My nature is to be competitive, to struggle, and to work damn hard at something persevering well past the point of reason. As someone who biked 80 miles in the pouring rain and cold experiencing hypothermia and winding up with 2 torn Achilles tendons all in the name of charity, I can tell you that sometimes the “just suck it up” and “finish at all costs” mentality is simply stupid and destructive. Fortunately for me I have learned these lessons along the way and no longer make such lunkheaded moves (at least not regularly!).
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some hints to help you start getting in touch with the messages your body has for you.
- Get quiet everyday for at least a few minutes through meditation or prayer. Just notice how your body feels (don’t judge it or think about it, just observe it).
- As you’re rushing around anxiously throughout your day, take the time to ground yourself and notice your body in the moment by stopping and touching something in your physical space.
- Stop what you’re doing and just notice your feet on the floor and your breath moving in and out of your body.
- Simply ask yourself — what am I feeling right now? How does my body feel right now? Open your ears and heart to listen to the answer.
Listening to your body isn’t rocket science. The wisdom it holds for you, though is far more valuable than you can imagine. So, why not get started today.