Listen to your body!
The body is an extension of our being, not just a vessel for it. This article is about the relationship between mind & body, and seeking to train both
I believe one of the greatest misconceptions when it comes to our relationship with the world is thinking ourselves detached from our bodies and their experience. It is not uncommon to hear the body referred to as a vessel, much like a boat or an airplane. However, I want to challenge that idea and hopefully support anyone who reads this in creating a stronger and more unified experience with their bodies.
Our bodies are filled with information, whether it is: (1) in the form of our genetic makeup, which gave us our basic framework to relate to the world, (2) in the form of learned protection as our body learns to fend off microscopic invaders, and (3) accommodates to our underlying internal processes.
I know most people will agree with the first two statements, but struggle with the third one. The idea that our bodies have an agency of their own, escapes our usual understanding of the mind-body relationship. Like I mentioned we would often think of the body as a vessel for our being, but rarely do we think of it as a part of our body and an extension to what we perceive as a separated mind.
The reason I am stressing this notion is that in my experience in coaching, I have met many individuals including myself who then realize the disparity between an increasingly understanding mind and an immobile unshakable body.
Just to get an idea of what this would look like in your life. Here are some hypothetical scenarios.
At one point in your life someone you loved greatly disappointed you and you started carrying a grudge against them for years. Fast-forward to present day you. You realize this person never truly wanted to cause you harm and from your compassion you choose to forgive them and after that you decide that you want to reestablish a relationship with them, which they are very excited for. Not much time goes by before you start noticing that even though you forgave them and your mind is at rest, you do not feel comfortable seating next to them or shaking hands. And you wonder why that is happening even when you are sure you have forgiven them and you really want to rekindle a friendship. The mind has shifted to forgiveness. The body probably still carries the rejection for this person.
You grew up in a very emotionally distant family and you learned to grow up by your own means. Fast-forward to present day you. You fathered a child recently and you promised yourself you would be different from your parents and show this child the love you did not receive. However, even though you understand this concept and you want to be there for your child, you find your body struggling to showcase that love in the form of physical contact such as a hug or a soft caress. Your mind opened up to the possibility of sharing your love, but your body did not have the skill to convey it.
And we could think of countless scenarios as old as recorded history where our bodies and our minds digress. That is why our focus need to be to understand how our body learns and how to listen to what it needs.
Our body learns as much as our mind does and in a very distinct way, so it follows that our mind and our body will have a different way to relearn behaviors.
In that sense, it is not about forcing our body to learn through our the tunnel of our body, but rather treat our body as an extension of our being and venturing to relearn from the body’s perspective. So, let’s think about it. How does the body learn?
How did we learn to walk? …to write? …to ride a bike? How do we learn to dance? Play an instrument? I can keep on going, but I think you probably already guessed it. Our body learns through repetition and movement. Our minds learn by understanding. Some emotional or physical experiences escape understanding, which is why only relying on this channel for learning can limit the possibilities available to you.
If my body does not understand how to be loving, we must train it to create a habit. For instance, you can start by caressing yourself, hugging yourself and demonstrating this love to your body, so it knows how to produce it on the people we love.
If my body does not understand how to feel safe with this person after being hurt, I train it to challenge this lack of proximity. Maybe instead of being twelve feet apart, I choose to be six feet apart, etc.
IMPORTANT: Please do be mindful of our current world situation and always take each and every precaution to stay safe. (Wear a mask, social distancing, wash your hands.)
Listen to your body in this time. How does it feel? What does it need? How can we relearn with it? If I live alone and need to feel someone else’s touch, but there is no safe way to do so. Wash your hands for 20 seconds and try hugging yourself, being soft and caring through a caress.