July 30, 2020
I drive down the road after dropping the kids at their respective schools. My mind spins with a long list of things to-do. With family arriving tonight at our new home in Maui, there’s plenty to do, and not enough time, it seems.
I’m eager to make some headway. But, my body has a different agenda. It beckons for a few moments of quiet – freedom from responsibilities and incessant activity.
I lean in closer, curious about what it needs. Yoga? Not quite.
No sooner, I drive past a long stretch of beach.
“Yessss,” it urges.
I park the car, and head toward the beach.
As I walk slowly and deliberately near the water, taking in the array of beautiful sights and sounds, it occurs to me that saying yes to myself has never felt so good. I return to my car renewed and re-centered, replete with confidence about managing my to-do’s.
Self-Care & Listening to the Wisdom of the Body
In a noisy, fragile, demanding world, it can be hard to prioritize self-care, let alone understand what type of self-care would be most beneficial. How do you know what type of self-care is needed, and what exactly is self-care?
I think of self-care as saying yes to something your body, mind, or spirit needs. By saying yes, I mean doing – or not doing – something that would help you feel better. Taking a break from your computer, spending time outdoors, reading a story to your children, are just a few examples. Keep in mind, your needs will change throughout the week(s) and day(s), so this is a fluid, ongoing practice!
This is one of the reasons learning to listen to your body and its impulses, is foundational in any self-care practice.
What does it mean to listen to your body?
Our bodies send us messages all the time. I’m hungry, I’m tired, I’m thirsty, I need a hug.
As simple as it seems to honor the body’s needs, it’s not necessarily easy. Most of us have been programmed to follow other’s expectations, guidance and rules over our own. For example, since Westernized societies tend to put more emphasis on productivity than health or connection, you might be inclined to work yourself to the bones without taking a break, thereby overriding your body’s real need for fresh air, looking around, even going to the bathroom. This isn’t your fault, it’s merely conditioning that many of us have to practice becoming aware of, in order not to default to over and over again.
I’m not suggesting it’s bad or wrong to be productive, it’s just that it’s important to learn to balance “the doing” with other needs, desires, and life goals. Even though we may have been taught otherwise, the body isn’t a machine. Most importantly, it’s not meant to work as hard as it does without providing it periods of rest and rejuvenation. Consider athletes, for example. Rest days are just as important as training days for the mind and body to perform optimally, and health to be preserved.
Reconnecting with the Wisdom of Your Body
It’s helpful to go back to the basics when you consider how to develop the ability to tune into what the body needs.
1. Connecting to your body is an innate capacity. As a mother of two small children, I’m amazed at the way a child naturally connects with his or herself. From tasting the first bites of real food (and being astonished at the capability of her fingers!) to feeling – and fumbling – her way to crawling, none of these early developmental milestones would’ve been possible without an innate connection to her body.
Do you remember what it was like to experience – and appreciate – the world this way? What if you could periodically slow down to listen to the impulses arising from your body and engage them without thinking twice, just as you did as a small child? What will you rediscover about yourself in this process?
2. Refamiliarize yourself with your environment. Connecting with the environment through your senses, a term Steve Hoskinson, founder of Organic Intelligence, calls orientation, is a fabulous way to become more present. As the nervous system and body become more connected to what’s true right now, it’s easier to hear the impulses arising from within. What do you see, hear, notice right now? Can you name 2-3 things around you that the eyes or ears are drawn toward?
3. Discover when connection feels right, inside and out. When do you naturally feel a deeper connection to yourself and/or the world around you? Are there certain activities or circumstances that help you feel more alive, or connected to yourself?
Perhaps you notice a greater connection while spending time in nature, or while engaging in a performing art (even if it’s just dancing and singing in your living room!). Creating art is another way you might naturally access your natural wisdom or intelligence.
One of the places I most naturally inhabit a connection to myself and the world around me – sensing our interconnectedness – is while meandering in nature or holding my children.
Ultimately, if you make a point to tend and befriend yourself and your environment, being curious about where you are physically and what the body is communicating, you’ll develop greater fluency with identifying what you need and coming home to yourself. It’s a fluid process of noticing, paying attention to when it feels good, and being willing to begin again in your own time and way. Have fun exploring what works – your body will show you the way!