Our bodies are always giving us signals, cues and information. It’s time we re-learnt that the body and the mind are connected and draw all the benefits of creating a relationship with our bodies and understanding this empowering communication channel.
Listening to the body when it talks.
There’s a well known saying that goes: “If you don’t listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream”. Well, discomfort is your body whispering to you.
In our world, our society, we are seldom educated in how to listen to the body, what it means, what to learn. It is often regarded as nonsense that the body and the mind are connected in such a way, or that the body has any real intelligence at all. And in a world where we are so busy, so distracted, where we look outside of ourselves for all the answers, is it any wonder that we are getting more and more sick?
When our bodies do talk to us- a headache for example, or an aching back, we usually block that off with pain killers or other drugs and by doing so, we literally tell our body to shut up. We completely ignore the whisper.
When we move in a way that feels slightly uncomfortable, or sit in a way that isn’t comfortable, what do we do? We move, to get comfortable. We ignore the whisper.
But what if those repeat headaches are the result of an allergy that then builds up to cause something more serious later in life just because you didn’t learn how to listen and remove that allergen. Secondly, if you only sat and moved in a way that felt most comfortable then you avoid using and stretching so many small and important muscles in your body, over time they get weak and/or very stiff and we learn to move and hold our bodies in an unbalanced way that can later cause serious pain and injury.
So, what if, instead, we didn’t ignore our bodies and we listened instead?
What if, we listened to the discomfort and worked through it until it went?
I’m not the kind of person to tell anybody to shut up, so to think that I’ve ever done that to my body actually makes me feel really bad! I wouldn’t do that to you and I wouldn’t do that to me, yet I have done that to myself in the past, so much so that I lost over four years of my life to being ill. Six months of those I could hardly walk. I had to listen, or I would not get better, I would not get my life back.
In all the rehab work I’ve done with my clients, I won’t treat anyone who comes to me on painkillers. A huge part of rehab is learning how to listen to the body’s whispers, it’s those whispers that tell me where healing is really needed. I need to know where these whispers are to treat you!
Sometimes it’s a delicate whisper, and sometimes it feels more like a stern word. However, it is all communication. Does it make any sense, as an adult, to ignore communication that comes from the only thing is this whole world thats primary job is you keep you alive, and it’s second job is to maintain your own, personal, individual homeostasis.
I don’t think so and how we came to learn to think so, baffles me. Knowledge is power and it all comes down to education. Educate yourself and decide what feels right to you.
So, how do we learn how to listen?
The two ‘M’s’ my friends!
-Meditation and Mindfulness.
The more mindful we can be, the more we can hear what’s going on now and the more we meditate, the more we can understand what’s going on.
Anyone that meditates- Yoga Gurus, academics, monks, business minds, mothers, children, sons and uncles- anyone that truly meditates will tell you that connecting to yourself in such a way has a huge positive impact on your physical health. I believe this is because the meditator has finally listened to the body, understood messages and then the body responds by releasing the discomfort.
There are many ways to learn mindfulness and meditation, my tips are:
- Leave your phone at home and go for a walk. Try to focus only on what you can see around you at that moment, if the future or the past comes into your mind, draw your attention back to what you can see/ smell/ feel. I do this every morning before I see anyone, open my phone or even clean my teeth, it’s my meditation.
- Join Yin yoga or restorative yoga classes. (You can join me in the Tunbridge Wells, Kent area and private retreats, go to my website for details http://www.pommepy.com).
- Take part in a sport that you love. You’ll be so focused that you’ll be mindful without having to learn how.
- Join a meditation group or class.
- Download a meditation app and get your practise on. My two suggestions are Headspace and Insight Timer.
- Put down the stimulants. Anything with caffeine or alcohol and some drugs too, affect the way the brain is used. Suppressing the intuitive side of the brain that understands the communication in the body, and overstimulating the rational, thinking side of the brain (the monkey brain). Ever heard of any one that drinks a coffee to prepare for meditation? I don’t think so. Infact, when we drink coffee it’s quite often to ‘get us going’ or to give us a lift to get something done. If we actually stopped and didn’t grab that stimulant, I’m sure we’d realise how much we really didn’t want to do that thing. That’s the inner communication that we are telling to ‘shut up’. It means you’re not doing something that serves you… More on that another time.
What does is ‘sound’ like when the body is talking to us?
It’s usually an ache, a tingle, an uncomfortable feeling but a feeling that doesn’t make you jump. You could hold yourself in this feeling for a while if you had to and you would move because your mind tells you you should, not because your body reacts and ‘jumps’ (like a twisted ankle for example or a stubbed toe).
Other times, it can be a positive feeling. We all know what it implies when someone says they feel ‘butterflies in their stomach’.
This is the same concept.
What is life like when we are connected with and listening to our bodies in this intuitive way?
When we start to understand that the body has messages for us and that we can learn something about ourselves from this amazing communication system, we can start to realise that we have a power within. This is confidence building, we are less likely to turn to external advice or help. We know that we can answer our own questions. We can support ourselves and give ourselves strength. We can feel more in control and less lost or less needing of support from others.
By calmly being aware and open to receive such messages, we can learn not to run from discomfort, not to be scared or to avoid it but to be grateful for it’s lesson and welcome these messages.
Viewing discomfort as messages of communication from something that wants us to be fully well, to thrive, makes it a much more friendly concept- a safer home to be in. Afterall, we have this one body our entire life, wouldn’t it be a better life if we weren’t scared of it, scared of using it. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful life if we embraced our bodies and allowed ourselves to feel safe in them, to move in the way that children do, with no fear of leaps and tumbles?
Often when we do listen, we find that as fast as the discomfort arises, it floats away. Showing us there is nothing to be scared of, nothing to push away and actually just a moment of consciousness was required. Sometimes, all our body is saying is ‘stop, slow down, or you will hurt yourself’.
The most common message is: ‘stop, listen, you’re doing something you don’t want to do, it doesn’t serve you. Stop doing it’.
I know that I personally got ill because I was in a relationship that wasn’t serving me, I was in a job that wasn’t serving me and I pushed my body through exercise because it was the only thing that made me feel alive. I kept going, ignoring all the signals until my body stopped me. I then spent the next year unable to do anything other than listen. Nothing worked and we didn’t know why. No doctors could work out why. I would meditate to help me to sleep, because I couldn’t sleep properly. But it’s there, in meditation that I learnt to listen to why- this thing hurt, that didn’t work, why my skin was bad and why those hormones didn’t function. It took a further four years of listening and breaking it all down to be fully well and able, now.
It does take time and it does take practise, but it brings healing and confidence, and freedom is on the other side.
You know a lot more than I ever will about your body, I can say with full confidence that you have the answer to everything you ever need to know, you just have to learn how to listen. The answer is not outside of yourself, people are only your guide.
Next time: The difference between feelings and emotions