Listening to our Bodies



This last week for me has been a week of needing to make some choices. Choices and commitments that will impact the rest of my year. Do I say yes to this or no to that, choose this over that, commit to that but not this? And running under all those choices is an incredible demand “to get it right”. Yet, how do I know? What if I am wrong? What even is right?

Our head tends to be the part of us in charge of decision-making. Yet our minds only know black and white, either-or. Our heads crave certainty and control. They push us to get it right, choose carefully, weigh things up. Write down pros and cons, assess all the data, we are taught.

And maybe some of that can be useful. But for me, my mental faculties can only take it so far. My mind wants to tell me it knows best, but I increasingly suspect its wisdom may be limited.

Now I follow a different approach.

I seek to listen to my body, to how I feel when I contemplate a new choice. Rather than focusing solely on my thought process, I pay attention to what happens to my energy as I consider different options.

This week I had a meeting with a potential work connection. My body is relaxed, our conversation animated. I leave our meeting sparking with ideas and possibilities. My energy is a yes, even whilst my head may tell me a yes to this may distract me from what I have been thinking my work in 2018 is all about.

This week I have also been considering a nine-month business development program. A program that seems ideally designed to support one of my bigger professional hopes for 2018. The commitment makes perfect sense, the dates work with my schedule; and yet each time I feel into how my body feels about doing it, I feel a clear constriction in my chest, a sinking in my body, and no leap of joy in my heart.

Listening to my body and making choices from that wisdom, requires a trust in not knowing.

It demands a faith in the mystery of our own life’s unfolding, in contrast to how our minds need to know and seek to control.

A coaching client comes to her second call in January. The first had been all about a workshop she was planning to run next month. On this call, she tells me that she has decided to cancel the workshop, that she can feel no flow or energy around its execution.

As I listen to her process of choosing, I am only proud of her. Her old self, who learnt to work hard and do it all perfectly, would have pushed her to stick to the original plan and put on that workshop regardless of the efforting required.

The new her has learnt to deeply trust herself and life.

She has learnt to know the difference between struggle versus focused work; to know when to let things go for the sake of a larger, as yet unknown plan. I knew her decision was not about fear, or playing small. I knew her choice had been made from a place of deep listening to her body, feelings and life itself . And who knows what will emerge for her in the space created from her no.

So, if you are struggling to choose something or facing a decision, big or small, I invite you to pause for a moment and pay attention to all the intelligences that guide your living. Let your head have its opinion and even write it’s list. And then experiment with a different way, by feeling your body and the energies and responses running through it.

Test Your Decision with this Visualization

If you have a few minutes, try it now: sit or lie down somewhere comfortable and, if it’s safe to do so, close your eyes. Start by noticing your breath, simply putting your attention on the rhythm of your breath. Take a few moments to just enjoy the sensation of your in-hale and ex-hale.

Allow each breath to relax your being, feel gratitude for how easily and effortlessly the breath comes in and out, keeping you alive without you needing to try at all. Breathe deeply into your belly, and perhaps let your breath ease and slow down a little. Take a moment to simply enjoy the sensation of noticing your breath filling your body.

Then, place one hand on your heart. Feel your heart’s steady rhythm beating beneath your hand. Again feel gratitude for how easily and effortlessly your heart works to keep you alive. Take a minute to breathe into your heart, not trying to do or be anything, just enjoying the sensation of putting your attention and breath towards your heart.

Then turn your attention to the chair or floor you are sitting or lying on. Feel how the surface of the chair or floor touches your body. Notice how it holds and supports you with absolutely no effort on your part. Take a moment to simply breathe deeply into the sensation of being held and supported. Allow yourself to enjoy that for a moment.

Then take three more deep breaths and ask yourself the question or dilemma you have been sitting in. Before the head rushes back in with its opinion, see if you can feel anything in your body?

Don’t try to interpret what you feel, just notice the physical sensations as you feel into the question. It could be really clear or very subtle. Perhaps it’s a jump in your heart, or a tightening in your chest. Maybe you feel a heaviness and sinking; or the opposite. Perhaps you see colors or feel temperatures. Simply notice without judgment; and be willing to feel or hear what you may not have wanted.

Learning to Trust is a Skill

Learning to feel and notice the information in our bodies is a skill. Interpreting that wisdom and then acting on it another. And trusting ourselves another. Like learning any skill, it takes practice and commitment – after all, none of us learnt to read overnight. Getting skillful in reading our bodies involves making mistakes and sometimes getting it wrong. But the rewards of fluency are immense.

If you were to listen to your body without needing a particular answer, what do you sense your body is telling you about this particular question? And, what would it take to trust that?

The body never lies. Feeling our truthful responses, interpreting these and then building our choices and communication from those responses take courage and authenticity. But it also brings freedom, empowerment and great joy.

Truly trusting ourselves and what we feel is one of the biggest acts of self-love we can give ourselves. Learning to do so comes first, committing to do it second, reveling in it, third.

Like my courageous client, I invite you to try. Start small, with the things that may not matter so much, perhaps feeling into an automatic yes to a social engagement or work commitment. Listen to your body. Are those things you really want to do, or are you saying yes without feeling in? What happens if you do feel in, would your decision be different?

Are you willing to risk a different choice?

For me this week, and contrary to what my head would ask, I am a yes to the new work connection and a no to the program. What about you? I’d love to hear about your choices and whether listening to your body led you some place unexpected.

And, if you liked this short exercise in listening to your body, and would like more resources on how to listen more deeply to your feelings and body please follow my weekly blog CLICK HERE. And, if you haven’t already, please join my Facebook page and add your comments and reflections there.

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