“A trembling in the bones may carry a more convincing testimony than the dry documented deductions of the brain.”
“Few of us have lost our minds, but most of us have long ago lost our bodies.”
I recently got a new GPS, and I love it! All I need to do is plug in the destination and follow the step-by-step directions, and I arrive exactly where I want to be. No thought is required, no figuring anything out. No maps, no getting lost. I simply listen and respond, and everything else is taken care of.
It is a big relief to not have to know how to get to where I’m going. I can relax and enjoy the journey.
Listening to the Body
Listening to our inner guidance is kind of like turning on the GPS. When we let go of the mental activity of trying to figure things out, we have the space to become aware of the guidance that is already there. And when we follow the directions that are offered, we stay on track and do not lose our way.
This is easier said than done, I know. But we can start by paying attention to the body. The body is like the voice inside the GPS. Using its own special language in the form of physical sensations, it tells us exactly what we need to know. If we are willing to listen.
In this complex world we inhabit, most of us are consumed with our thoughts. We live in our heads trying to analyze people and situations, sort through input, plan for every possible occurrence. We live by expectations and “shoulds.” If we were to draw the way most of us experience ourselves, it might look like this:
If we are so enamored with our minds, following the thoughts that pull us away from ourselves, how can we possibly be in touch with the messages that our body is trying to send us?
The Physical World Within
The body is extremely sensitive. It is the perfect barometer that tells us when our thoughts and actions are aligned with our inner wisdom and when we have turned away. If we carefully observe the reactions of the body, a whole world opens up. We notice subtle changes in heart rate, breathing, muscular tension, and digestion. We feel tightness, softness, vibration, heaviness, space.
When we begin to observe the body, what we might notice is a veritable orchestra of experiences not necessarily playing in tune. There are physical urges and desires that propel us in a given direction as well as habitual contractions of the muscles and constricted breathing. It may seem impossible to find the inner navigation.
But underneath the pressures and tugs is the whisper of truth waiting for our kind attention.
Just as we develop mental and emotional habits, the body has learned how to protect us with a physical armor. These patterns evolved in response to fearful experiences in the past. When we perceive a lack of safety in our environment, the body pulls in to prepare for attack or defense, fight or flight. And these patterns in the body may last well beyond the original threat itself. This leaves us living in a state of heightened tension borne of fear.
Listening to the intelligence of the body asks us to wend our way through the forest of our long-standing habits to discover the place of natural wisdom and clear seeing that has been there all along.
Learning the Language
For some of us, we need to learn the language of the body. The body speaks in physical sensations, illness, and injury. Everything that happens in our bodies is an opportunity to see what hidden treasures we haven’t yet become aware of.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with colitis. At the time, I prided myself on already having let go of many old patterns. But life had more in store for me. Since then, I have become so much more kind to myself. I don’t push myself nearly so much, and I take the time (usually) to relax. Even though my yoga practice is challenging, it comes from within rather than from me imposing it on myself – more a being than a doing. And when the symptoms flare up, which doesn’t happen too often these days, I’ve learned to stop, rest, eat the foods that help, and say no to requests for my time.
These symptoms became my navigation, and they have guided me beautifully.
Discerning the Whisper of Truth
Just as we know the feeling of “rightness” and certainty, we know when we are off – the sinking feeling, clenching in the gut, too much tension to sleep. But sometimes our experience is not so clear. The inner guidance whispers while the conditioned habits are screaming.
Then you “start where you are” by befriending the patterns so they begin to soften. Fighting them will only make things worse.
Being open to our inner intelligence is like a prayer. We put down our need to control and know, and we ask for help and direction. This is where the GPS metaphor breaks down. We can’t program in our destination because we don’t know what it is until we get there. All we need to do is listen, follow, and appreciate the richness of the journey.
What do you notice about the language of the body in your own life? What happens when you listen – or when you ignore it? Is there anything that your body is telling you now that you haven’t yet heard? I’d love to hear….