How to listen to your body and give it what it needs
An excerpt from ‘Full Body Presence’
Choosing moment to moment to connect to healthy resources requires commitment, courage and kindness; it provides you with a steady foundation and a deep sense of inner peace.
Learning to listen to your body and to tap into healthy resources is an ongoing practice that needs to be embedded in the fabric of your life, into your daily routines and activities. It is important to remember to nourish and nurture yourself, no matter what the situation. The airlines have it right when they tell us to put our own oxygen mask on before assisting those around us. This may require a change in what you pay attention to. If most of your daily attention goes outside of yourself — pleasing and accommodating others or fitting in, even to your detriment — you will need to change this orientation. Balancing your attention inside and outside of yourself will give you a new ability to make healthy decisions. In fact, you may find holding a therapeutic presence for someone else pleasurable and easy when you are listening more to your inner world and nourishing yourself sufficiently.
Take daily steps
To begin practicing, choose something small but honestly doable in your life as it is now. Every person is unique; what is nourishing for you may not be nourishing for someone else. Ultimately, only you can know and choose what is most nourishing for you in any given moment. I am reminded of my mom and dad, who found going to an inspiring film a wonderful way to relax and replenish their energy stores. They had entirely different ideas, however, about what makes for an inspiring film. So, they would go to the multiplex cinema together, but each would attend a different inspiring film. They met afterward for tea and sharing. This is an excellent example of holding a healthy boundary — nourishing oneself and having it work well for others, too.
At the heart of this principle is the fact that it is not enough to know how to connect to your nourishing resources, because it is paramount also to give yourself permission to make healthy choices on a regular basis. Then the habit grows strong enough to support you when things get stressful. Regular practice, daily if possible, is a primary tool for building and maintaining a nourishing energy flow in your body. It is then easier to discern which resources are healthiest and perhaps most pleasurable for you in any given moment. To keep your navigational system fully operational, maintain a solid baseline of energy so you can make better decisions in your life.
Practice healthy habits
It also takes courage to walk your own path of health. Often in our culture, the media bombards us with ways to fill the dreaded emptiness, to numb pain, and to disconnect with a variety of addictions — including excessive shopping, drugs, alcohol, sex, television, Internet surfing. The strategy behind any addiction is avoidance of some part of ourself and the pain or anxiety that comes up with it. Although addictive substances and actions may temporarily ease the pain, ultimately they are life-taking — sucking the energy out of what is healthy, creative and nourishing in our lives.
Having the presence of mind to choose to refill in a healthy manner, so that you can meet and dissolve pain in life-enhancing ways, means that you are generating new energy habits. These new habits will lead to a lifetime of wellness on many levels. Whenever you start feeling doubtful, fearful or empty, let those feelings be a signal to you. Let them remind you to feel your feet, to connect to the rich energy of the earth, to take a slow, deep breath, to say a prayer, to take a walk, or to do whatever nurtures and fills you up in a healthy way.
Choosing healthy resources from moment to moment is our birthright, and it is always an option. There are all kinds of healthy resources. Here are a few to kickstart your exploration: peacefully resting in your favorite chair, reveling in the warm sun at the beach, hiking in the mountains, feeling a breeze blow through your hair, floating in a pool of water, slowing and deepening your breath, meditating, savoring a quiet cup of tea while your child is at preschool, or calling a good friend to catch up.
Choose nurturing touch
One of the most important resources we can choose for ourselves is the nurturing physical touch. Getting bodywork is one of my favorites. Nurturing touch of all kinds fills me up wonderfully. My system needs different kinds of bodywork, depending on where I am in that moment, but a good massage is always great for slowing down and refilling.
The most valuable healing bodywork for me has been CranioSacral therapy, because it enabled me to heal years of chronic pain and feel more of my body’s internal landscape in a pleasurable way. I still return to it regularly to stay clear and healthy in a world full of stress and deadlines. When I forget to schedule regular bodywork sessions or other nurturing experiences, I find myself slipping into working harder than I need to and feeling less energized, with less present moment awareness.
The other most valuable healthy resource in my life has been movement. Whether it is a good daily walk or a retreat with days of internally inspired movement, I come away feeling juicy and more alive.
Brainstorm your own particular list of things that nurture you in a healthy way. One day it might be to take a long soak in bath salts. Another day it might be a long run followed by a sports massage. Another day it might be getting to spend time with good friends, sharing activities that you all enjoy. It could be listening to inspirational music that feeds your soul. Explore new ideas and activities, and keep adding to your list. Be a detective on your own behalf, constantly ferreting out what nurtures you in a healthy, pleasurable way.
And, please don’t criticize yourself when you find yourself feeling disconnected. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a good friend. Explore the place within that feels disconnected, and hold it with unconditional love. Do this as often as necessary until the sense of separation subsides. In some cases, simply remembering what it feels like to be connected and full is enough. Remember your intention to heal, to reclaim your energy and dreams, and remember the practices that restore you. Do one of them, even if only briefly. Full Body Presence is a moment-by-moment process, which becomes more natural the more you practice it. Eventually, it will be as natural to you as breathing. A sense of steadiness and inner peace will become a part of your daily existence, and you will know you have entered into communion with life itself.