Updated February 2020
Our bodies are amazing things – they have so much rich information for us, if we choose to listen. We are all very familiar with feelings of physical discomfort, pain, hunger or thirst. Accidentally bang your shin on the edge of a table, or skip a meal, and your body will be very quick to communicate that to you. In many ways these signals are not at all subtle, yet I am as accomplished as anyone at ignoring them if the message that is being sent doesn’t suit my packed schedule (Body: “Hey! A granola bar isn’t lunch!”). According to many health care experts, we in North America are ignoring a lot of the obvious messages our bodies are sending us. From a near-chronic lack of sleep to unhealthy eating habits, many of us are moving along in our days, intent and focused on “what’s next”, actively sidelining our most basic physical needs. Our bodies are practically shouting at us all the time, if only we would hear them.
...our bodies hold onto other experiences as well, things that are less obvious, things that are subtle...
There are more subtle ways our bodies communicate with us, ways that allow us to tune in to the most nuanced and complex messages that are important for us to attend to. However, getting in touch with these messages requires us to do something extraordinary…it requires us to sit quietly and listen to ourselves. Our bodies are the physical warehouses for all our experiences, and the signals our bodies send to us are loosely prioritized along the lines of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. Hunger, thirst and physical pain are the most overt, as these are the signals required to keep this complex human machinery we encompass healthy and alive. But our bodies hold onto other experiences as well, things that are less obvious, things that are subtle; like disappointment, anxiety, shame, well-being, hope and joy. Beyond being expressions that may grace our face, these are experiences stored within us, quietly living bodily in ways we are not wholly aware of, until we give ourselves the space and time to listen to them. Is giving ourselves a few minutes of peacefulness to reflect, to check in, to listen to our bodies, so foreign? The time and space to hear ourselves takes many forms; mindfulness, meditation, prayer, just sitting for a moments rest. Time to think quietly of ourselves - our needs and what will sustain us as we look to sustain others (through our love and/or our work). Want to try it?
Like a note just waiting to be released from a piano string, our bodies hold onto these things.
Most of us are aware of the need to slow down, even for just a few minutes, giving ourselves quiet time to reflect and synthesize what we have experienced in our busy day…being compassionate with ourselves. Still, it feels like a foreign concept in this day and age to take time to do…well…nothing. To sit quietly and let the spaciousness of time support you for a few moments, allowing you to listen to yourself, reminding you that the option to do nothing is always there, a constant caring companion, allowing you to feel held within the predictable rhythm of nature that provides sunrises and sunsets, everyday, all for you. Take a moment to sit quietly and reflect; you may feel the comfortable weight of your surroundings as they settle around you, like an old friend, not disturbing you in any way, letting you know what is here for you, always. It is not until we give way to this safe space that we may understand there is tension unknowingly carried in our muscles, a worry that is making our stomach tight; an intangible but solid yearning to fold into ourselves (making us visibly smaller) because we’ve had enough life coming at us for one day. Like a note just waiting to be released from a piano string, our bodies hold onto these things. Perhaps this is what we are avoiding and so we choose not to sit, not to check in, but then we also lose the ability to deeply feel emotions like anticipation and joy; looking forward to being with our children later in the day, or savoring a good book in the evening. By listening to ourselves we know we will enjoy holding, and being held, by our loved ones. Being “busy” keeps us from hearing ourselves and from being fully present to the joy that is in our lives.
It is worth it because it has the potential to provide you with so much rich information...
To quiet your mind, letting go of “to do lists”, “shoulds”, “what’s nexts” and “what ifs”…laying it all down (even if just for a moment), listening to the cadence of your own heart (beating just for you) is an accomplishment. It takes practice. It is worth it because it has the potential to provide you with so much rich information, a prelude to both joy and care. It gives you a way to support yourself that you may not remember you have, always there, ever-present, waiting for you to tap into it, allowing you to acknowledge, maybe even accept, what “comes next” with openness. It allows you to proceed gently from this point in your day with your eyes wide open, and a soft, compassionate heart. It allows you to know that you will enjoy reading your book tonight, as you relax, going to bed a little earlier (because you listened and found your body telling you that you were tired), giving yourself more of what you need.
You are worth listening to.