The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Listening to Your Body

 To listen to your body and respect how it feels is a powerful act of self-love.
-Sonia Choquette

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Your body is the vehicle for your soul’s expression, the map of your inner landscape and a guide for navigating your journey through life. Listening to your body is key to reading your map and hearing your guide.  By bringing awareness to your sensations and feelings the map of your inner landscape gets revealed. 
 
Like most of us, you probably have certain places in your body where you tend to tighten in response to stress. Identifying where these places are, is a simple way to read your map.

Habitually constricting these muscles or stiffening your joints can cause your body to ache. The aches and pains you feel are your body’s way of alerting you that attention and care are needed.

If your back hurts from constantly pushing and pressing onward, you may need to ease up and rest. If you clench your jaw to suppress verbal and emotional expression you may need to find ways to safely express yourself.  If you have become frozen in fear, physical and emotional warmth can help melt the frozen places.
                                                   
By listening to your body you can also locate your strengths and resiliencies.  You have navigated life thus far. You have resources; a strong backbone, clear vision, or a knowing gut are some likely possibilities.  Determining your resources will help you to draw upon them.
                                                             
As you turn your attention inward you can soften the blocks of tension, build upon your strengths and get more comfortable in your own skin.  Each listening experience becomes an exploration to discover something new about you. The discoveries are limitless. This is how the gift of listening keeps on giving.
 
To help you listen to your body, I have outlined an eight-step process. Read through the steps. Then find a quiet place to sit, locate the place in your body where you often feel stress and move through the steps.  Then locate a place in your body that you rely on and move through the steps again. Close your eyes as you listen.  Doing so will help you to focus. 

You can use this process for any area of your body. A regular practice of listening will help you to foster a better relationship with your body and your Self. Here are the eight steps:

  1. Be Curious-The word ‘curious’ comes from the same root word as ‘cure’ meaning to care for and pay attention to.  Being genuinely curious instead of judgmental (e.g., “What’s wrong with me?”) promotes a caring relationship with your body and your being.  As you listen to your body with care and curiosity (e.g., “What are you trying to tell me?”) you open the door to not only knowing your physical self, but also your emotional, mental and spiritual self.
  2. Notice-The body has a language of its own. Your body "speaks" through sensations and feelings that are both painful and pleasurable. It is important to notice both.  Pain, whether physical or emotional, is your body’s alarm to care for yourself. Discomfort may be a signal to leave a harmful situation. While pleasurable feelings, such as joy, comfort and ease indicate what to move toward.
  3. Touch-Gently contact the place in your body that is calling to you.  Touch focuses your attention and heightens your awareness. If you cannot reach the place that is calling to you, imagine placing your hand there. Touch is a form of communication.  Through touch you can communicate care, support, love, reassurance, etc.  As you contact a place in your body say, “I am listening to you.”
  4. Describe-Using your senses describe what you are experiencing.  Does this place feel heavy, tight, hard, soft, warm, compressed, etc.?  Expand on the sensation by using a simile. Here are two examples: “The heaviness across my chest feels like a steel plate pressing down on me.” or “The warmth in my hip feels like a ray of sunshine.”
  5. Give Your Body a Voice-Imagine that this place could speak.  What message does it have for you? Let this place speak in the first person.  In Step 4 the chest might say, “I can’t breathe.” or “Get off me.”
  6. Allow-Allow any feelings to emerge.  E-motion is energy in motion, like a river it needs to flow.  Use your breath to support the flow. When you continually suppress an emotion, it can show up as an ache, pain or tension in the body.  For example, someone suppressing tears may experience a "lump" in the throat.  If your emotions feel too intense, you may need to consider working with a Synergist, therapist or counselor.
  7. Ask-Your body know what it needs. Ask the place you are listening to what it needs. Visualization is a powerful technique. Imagine providing your body with what it needs. Using the example of the chest in Step 4 you could image a crane lifting off the steel plate and the feeling of relief it brings.
  8. Appreciate Your Body’s Wisdom-The body speaks the truth, it does not lie.  We can easily disregard, discount and/or diminish our experience. Appreciate your body for the wisdom it has given you. Be gentle and kind to yourself.