“Your body has a story to tell you. In order to take better care of your body, you have to find out about its needs. And the best way of discovering what will nourish and nurture you is to simply ask yourself.” – Cigdem Kobu
If you’ve never asked yourself this type of question, you might be surprised at how your body responds, how willing it is to communicate.
Your body has a story to tell. Your job is to listen.
Listening to your body is about letting its messages come through; messages you’ve ignored or avoided, messages overshadowed by the busyness of life.
Not listening has a significant cost to your well-being as I remember so well.
A few years ago I would have these sudden bouts of laryngitis, sometimes two or three a year. They would come out of nowhere and I would wake up without my voice.
There were plenty of warnings, messages from my body that I had shrugged off, pushing through to get things done. I was like a child who sticks their fingers in their ears singing “lalalalalalalalalalalala” refusing to listen!
How often do you push through pain, discomfort and urgent messages from your body in order to get things done?
For me it had become a default mode that kicked in without any conscious choice on my part.
“The body never lies.” – Martha Graham
At some point I began to dig deeper into the laryngitis.
I thought it was interesting given my work as a coach that my throat (and voice) was the only part of my body that shut down; I very rarely got sick and was generally pretty healthy. And even then, I wasn’t really sick. . .I just had no voice.
No sore throat, no cough, nada.
Just. No. Voice.
Made it tough to do my work when I couldn’t speak to my clients!
One day the epiphany struck. . .
I pushed myself through tiredness, busyness, too many commitments, etc. ignoring most physical aches and warning signs. But. . .my body had found a way to get me to slow down, even grind to a halt. Without my voice I couldn’t do my work and if THAT didn’t get my attention, nothing would.
But it did. I finally got the message loud and clear, and I began to watch for early warning signs: feeling extra tired, a slight scratchiness in my throat (remember, so slight I’d previously ignored it!) and more sensitivity than usual.
These messages had been there all along. I just hadn’t paid any attention to them. As soon as I began to respect the messages the laryngitis stopped. I know, kind of woo woo, but I’m really not kidding. In the years since that realization I’ve only had it come up once or twice, and looking back at the month or two prior I realized the messages had been there as before.
Your body has a story to tell. Are you listening?
As you begin to consciously listen, your body’s wisdom will surface and help you discover better ways to take care of yourself.
The following reflective process will help you learn how to listen to your body. The more you use it the more effective your internal communication will become.
The first few times you do this I suggest using paper and pen to jot down your thoughts. After some time, you’ll be able to use the process more as a meditation.
Speaking directly to your body, ask the following questions and listen for the answers:
1. What do you need?
2. What do you need more of?
3. What do you need a break from?
4. What do you want me to do less of, or even stop doing?
5. What would be most nourishing right now?
6. Is there anything else I should know?
You might be surprised by what comes out of this exercise. Allow yourself to do this without judgment; be curious about what your body has to share. You’ll more than likely notice needs that have been ignored or denied in some way.
When I first did this exercise I realized more deeply than ever before how much I needed the restorative nature of the silent retreat. It was one of the few environments that cared for all of me, mind, body and spirit and I began to schedule them more often.
Because of the many challenges this year, this need has been on the back-burner, and the cost has been great. This week I restore the balance with four days of silence at my favourite retreat centre.
You are a unique human being with unique needs. You may not need or love the silence as I do. That’s what so effective about this exercise.