What Does "Listen To Your Body" Actually Mean?
We hear this all the time: Listen to your body! We should follow how we feel, right? But what does this really mean? And how do we do it?
Maybe I feel like eating cookies instead of going for a run right now. Good, this is a plan I can follow! But I thought this was supposed to get me healthy. And as much as I love cookies, I'm pretty sure my cookie-tarian diet isn't going to get me there.
So now what? To what kinds of feelings am I listening? Maybe physical feelings, like stomach pain and tired feet? Or emotional feelings, like worry, doubt, or indecision?
There are two layers of feeling at work here. One is feeling in your body, your core, your nature. The other is your surface psychology, imprinted on top of it all. Following our psychology—our mind—can certainly keep us busy. We run about collecting all kinds of information and advice. We think it's critical to proper decision-making! But sometimes, the decisions don't come. We get trapped in worry, self-doubt, second-guessing. And if we do make decisions, we don't believe in them enough to let them live.
Luckily, there's this other kind of feeling. It's not paralyzing, it's activating. And strangely enough, it's a bit closer to the pain in your belly! Have you heard of trusting your gut? It's good advice! But how do you know when your gut is talking to you? How can you tell the difference between your intuition—the part of you that creates an avalanche of healthy and inspired acts—and the part of you thinking about how to find that part of you?
Stop thinking about it, for a moment. You need to get quiet. You need to get sensitive, to you. That feeling in your body is where you'll find your intuition, and your capability to act. You already know it's not on your shelves of how-to books, or waiting for you in the next guru-convention. So it's time to look somewhere else. Your body is sending you messages, core, gut feelings, all the time. You don't need to reason them, logic them, or intellectualize them. You just need to act on them.
When your foot hurts, you pick it up and give it a squeeze. Stomach ache? Rest your hands on your belly. Unsure what to eat, say, work on, or create? Take a very deep breath, relax, feel, and then do it. Just like giving your foot a squeeze: don't think it, just do it.
Your body pays attention to you. It thinks you're important! If you've spent a whole lot of time ignoring how you feel, just bulldozing along - your body has probably decided you're not interested in listening to these lines of communication. It hits the mute button. That's okay, you can turn your volume back on.
Here are 3 steps to get you listening and moving easy in your body and life:
1. Slow it down.
When a submarine is running all ahead full, it can ping away with sonar, but it won't hear much of anything. It's making too much of its own noise! We're about the same.
Don't worry, you'll still be able to pick up the pace when you want. We all have plenty of practice in this department. If we want to slow down enough to hear something, we need to practice this, too.
2. Relax and breathe deep.
When you breathe normally, you don't create unusual sensations in your body, so this readily translates to virtually no sensation at all. Breathe as deep as you possibly can, even when you're not running up a mountain, and you'll have something new. You'll feel. It will be interesting!
Remember to relax. When you're stiff and tense, you'll just feel stiff and tense. You want something more than that. Use your inhales to expand and feel into everything you've got. Use your exhales to soften everything you can feel.
3. Move without thinking or deciding.
Let your breath do this for you, and practice first in your body. When you're relaxed, your inhales will give you a lift, and your exhales will make you more movable. So let it move. No decisions required, just breathe and go along for the ride.
Practice this with your body at first, and then try practicing it with everything! Just breathe, give it time, and watch what happens. Your body is already re-wiring itself, based on exactly what you're doing, right now. You're making you!