The Language of The Body

There are so many ways to be with the information your body is giving you. For instance, you can ignore a sensation or a recent change; denying what it is you are experiencing. You can drop into the grips of fear as you imagine worst-case scenarios. You can choose to medicate yourself with all kinds of things from food to pharmaceuticals so that you don’t have to feel what you’re feeling.

Or, you can be willing to learn the language of your own body. In order to do this though, you must be willing to recognize the Intelligence that resides within it. This includes seeing the symptoms and the sensations of your body as an essential language. Communications that offer you important information about your life. This is vastly different from seeing symptoms and sensations as beyond you, inconvenient, or as punishment and evidence of wrongdoing.

I once heard a physician say that if you spent enough time with someone, they could tell you what was wrong, how they got there, and what they needed to heal. Wow! Can you imagine that level of connection with yourself? A kind of intimate alignment with the truth of what was happening for you, while also serving as guidance in every facet of your life. For that is the beauty of being with the body in this way. What you figure out here, you take with you into the rest of your life. 

Believe it or not, it is possible for you to know yourself at this level. But it takes effort. And commitment. A commitment to learn how to choose to stay in your body and to hear what it has to say. No matter what. This means allowing yourself to be wherever you are, and to begin wherever you find yourself with the symptoms, physical states and sensations that are present.

This will not be easy to do, especially initially. As a culture, we love to pathologize, catastrophize, commodify and vilify the body and what it is doing. We make our bodies wrong and tell ourselves that every physical problem we have will lead to dire consequences. Or we commodify the body, believing that health is the same as looking young according to some fantasized and unachievable technological image of perfection. 

But if you’re looking for something else, listening to what your body is saying requires, first and foremost, that you are actually in your body. Otherwise, how will you know what it is communicating? How will you accurately decipher the messages it is sending you? Learning to locate yourself within your own body can be as simple as asking, “Where am I? Am I here?” I know many of us would say, “Of course I’m here!” But are you? Too often our bodies are in one place and our minds in another. Split in this way, we live separate from ourselves and from the very body that is offering us a way to be here and experience the living of our lives.

Once you’re in your body, you have access to a language that is different from the thoughts, beliefs and conditioning of the rational mind. This language is a continuous stream of information in the form of urges, needs, sensations, states and symptoms that speak to you every moment of every day. Taken together, they offer the framework of a necessary and adaptive approach to life that allows you to adjust, stop, do something, not do something, know something, survive, and ultimately thrive. A true gold standard for navigating the world beyond the prejudices of the times and the restraints of our past conditioning.

Does it make any sense to you then that you would want to ignore or medicate these messages away?

If this resonates, consider getting into the habit of pausing once a day. Take a long, deep breath and ask yourself “What am I feeling right now in my body?” Pay attention to things like the body parts involved and the quality of the sensations. Forget about trying to fix it or even figure it out. This is not about imposing worries or preconceived ideas on top of what is happening. Instead, it is about allowing the body the right to express what it is expressing while you listen as deeply as you can. 

This one simple practice alone helps you begin to build a framework based on the reality of the signs and signals of your body, as opposed to the fears, the worries, the Internet searches and the tyrannies of a mind that just can’t stop itself from generating a disconnected and disturbed relationship to the body. Don’t fight this. Let the mind be, while you turn your attention to what it is that is actually happening in your body. Give yourself the gift of being with yourself as is. From there you will kno exactly how to proceed.

Adapted from my book Trusting Your Body: The Embodied Journey of Claiming Sacred Responsibility for Your Health & Well-Being