You would think that given that our bodies are the external, tangible, physical parts of us, that we would all know our bodies super well.
However, as someone who experienced extensive medical trauma as a child, lived with chronic pain and fatigue issues for most of my life, and grew up in a religious community that devalued the body, I realized a few years ago that I didn’t really know, listen to, understand or respond to my body … at all!
But why does that matter?
If you’re like me and dealing with disability, pain or fatigue, you know that a lot of the time what the body has to say isn’t very interesting.
I mean, who wants to hear at 10:00 am for the 49th time since you woke up that your feet hurt? Really??
Who wants to know that you’re tired at 11:00 am when you’re responsible for meeting a deadline by lunchtime?
Who has time to notice that the caffeine you’re mainlining may be part of what’s causing the jitters and shakes you’re dealing with at 2:00 in the afternoon?
And when your teenager comes and wants to (finally) have that most important of heart-to-heart chats with you at 11:00 pm, the fact that you’re tired is only vaguely relevant.
And yet …
Our compassionate curiosity tells us that we need to listen to our whole self to get to wholeness.
And just like with the other parts of ourself, our body has things to tell us, if only we’re willing to take the time to listen.
According to people like Gabor Maté and Besel van der Kolk, the body holds onto and communicates all sorts of information to us that we need to be able to understand ourselves, the world around us and our experiences.
And because our heart, soul, mind and body are all interconnected, listening to the body often not only benefits the body, but benefits the rest of us as well.
For example, if we listen well to what our body needs in terms of food (instead of just eating whatever is quick and easy) we might be able to move better, think better, regulate our emotions better and be able to find our grounding, regardless of the chaos going on around us.
Or if we recognize that we are in pain – allow ourselves to feel that – then we might make different choices about our energy outputs so that we are less likely to snap at our children on the way home from school or shut out our partner when they get home from work. Often the simple act of acknowledging our pain – to ourself and those we love – takes a burden off of our shoulders and allows us to engage more fully in what is going on.
Listening to the body might lead us to having more sleep, helping us to treat the people we’re in relationship with better – especially first thing in the morning!
It might lead us to doing some of the integration practices, such as yoga or tai chi or breath work to help us lower the amount of stress we carry inherently in our bodies.
It might encourage us to get outside during the middle of the day to get some vitamin D from the sunshine – especially in the winter months – helping us to avoid mental and physical health challenges.
Or it might help us to realize that it’s time to get the support and help we need to make the life changes that we know we want to make.
Whatever your body is telling you, though, if you want to get to wholeness and integration, getting to know your body is not a step you can skip!
And whether you feel mostly integrated and are just looking for a ‘tune up’ or whether you have resonated with this series on getting to know your whole self, I would love to chat more with you! Hope to hear from you soon!