“Just listen to your body. It will tell you what is the right thing to do.”
I bet you've heard that before, right?
Frankly, I get a little annoyed by statements like that. First of all, my body may not intend to lie, but since I have had my share of trauma and other side effects of being alive, sometimes my body's sirens go off at times when it wouldn't serve my life overall to back away from the supposed “danger.” If I simply listen to my body without regard for other factors, because of various scary life experiences, I would actually no longer: drive a car, ride a bicycle, eat pickles (that was one loooong night), camp in the woods, or get on any stage again, ever.
Our bodies can be confusing guides for behavior. Mine sure can be, anyway.
In some ways, because I am trying to live out loud and take risks in service of sharing my message, I have had to ignore my body's signals. There are just too many times that my body says, “Danger!” when the alternative is playing it so safe that I never get to really make a difference in the world.
Yet I'm attracted to Body Exercises
In spite of my subconscious somewhat dismissive stance on my body's messages, I am attracted to exercises that help me tune into my body. I'm searching for ways I can use my body's wisdom without having it's wisdom take me down too much. When I was reading Martha Beck's Finding Your Own North Star this weekend, I was pretty amazed to learn that my body has a much larger vocabulary than I was giving it credit for.
Making Myself Feel Horrible
With Martha's guidance in her book, I got myself all riled up over a horrible situation that would totally suck to be in. Basically, she has you call to mind all of your worst skills and the people it would be most awful for you to be aroun, then she hands you this scenario where you are stuck in a job doing that stuff you are terrible at being supervised by these people who make you feel terrible about yourself. Wow, did my body react when she slammed me into that scenario. My throat got tight, my chest squeezed, I felt nauseous and my brain was hazy. It was really uncomfortable.
Making Myself Feel Awesome
Then, she takes you through a very similar process where you answer a bunch of questions about all your strengths and brilliance, people who light you up and make you feel amazing about yourself. She blossoms a scenario where you get to spend all day doing this work that feeds your soul and makes you feel brilliant and alive, surrounded by the people who bring out the best in you and you enjoy immensely. Ooh, did I love that exercise! I got so excited that my throat tingled, my heart danced in my chest and my tummy had a whole bouquet of butterflies fluttering in it. I felt awesome.
Holy moly – did you notice that?!
I was astounded at the similarity in my body's signals of “awesome” and “awful.”
I've been so confused by my body in large part because my body's “excited” signals are so wildly similar to my “fear” signals. In both cases, my throat has a leading role – as does my tummy and my chest. Hello?! No wonder I am so annoyed by those “your body always knows” comments.
Turns out – my body does know
…but I didn't know how to listen to my body.
I didn't realize how intricate my body's communication system really is. Even in the five days since I did that exercise I have become far more in tune with my body's signals. As a result…
I made some really fabulous decisions this week, thanks to my body
- Walking away from the computer and going for a walk when I was really stuck in my writing. It totally unstuck me! I would have “pushed through” before not realizing that my body was saying “no” to the computer right now. My fluttering heart on that sunny, tree-blossom-filled walk sure did reinforce the “yes”, too.
- Declining a meeting request that was simply not part of my Beautiful Living agenda right now, even though I knew it would disappoint the meeting organizer. That was hard for me (tightened throat for a moment) but noticing how that tightened throat shifted to a tickly one was a great lesson in the wisdom of my brilliant throat.
- Driving my daughter to school this morning with my husband, even though we were running late and Grammy was there to do it for us. You should have seen her 4-year-old giddy, happy face as she walked into school with Mama on one hand and Daddy on the other. I thought the butterflies in my tummy might escape through my mouth, they were so excited.
It's going to take more practice, but I am totally hooked. My decision-time on stuff just substantially decreased. I can also report that I will be doing way more stuff that makes my throat flutter and way less stuff that makes it tight – now that I know the difference! I am absolutely certain that this new body listening thing is going to make sharing my message powerfully even easier, now that I know how to hear the nuances. I wonder if you've got a signaling system in your body that could use some fine-listening? Something to consider.
Michelle! This article really resonated with me as I am too learning to listen to my body more and it’s signals. And like you, I have begun to make choices that feel great based upon the feedback I am receiving. It is very affirming to know that you are practicing the same thing right now… and I appreciate the book recommendation, I will be sure to pick up “finding your own north star”. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you so much for sharing your similar experience. I love that we are learning this same thing at this same time. Please tell me what you think of Finding Your Own North Star once you read it. I’d love to hear your reflections. Even better, let’s continue to share notes on the body wisdom. Be well. So happy to hear from you.
Thanks, Michelle, for sharing your refreshingly real experiences with phrases that imply ease and yet are so difficult to carry out! It is so easy in this fast paced culture to believe we don’t have the time to pause, listen, and move through. Push through (dismiss) seems to be the prevailing message in our culture. Perhaps the phrase could say, “Pause, take a breath, and decipher the messages of the body with love and acceptance.”
Hi Liesl :-). Yes, this!: “Pause, take a breath, and decipher the message of the body with love and acceptance.” In order to listen, we have to be open to hearing the message without judgement, to let it truly guide us. Thank you so much for your thoughts, dear friend. I love hearing from you, especially on a topic in which you really are so well-experienced and trained.