I always thought that I was sensitive to my feelings, and it’s true; I am. However when I look back, I can remember numerous times when I reacted to my feelings and acted inappropriately rather than listening to them and responding in a more calm, relaxed and confident way.
I still recall my first experience of doing a ‘Body Scan’ and the realisation that I had so often ‘pushed down’ my feelings rather than listening to them.
It doesn’t help that today’s society encourages us to stay in our heads, with more and more access to technology, phones, computers, ipads etc.
There are many ways to stop reacting to the stories in our heads and we each have our own journey. My path has been to remember the ability that I already have and yet had disconnected from: the art of listening to my own body.
Some of the benefits I have experienced are feeling more calm, focused and relaxed and having more energy and more confidence in myself. I also now enjoy more fulfilling relationships.
So, I’m going to tell you more about the process that has helped me immensely.
‘Get out of your head and into your body’ – but why?
Well, it’s your body that’s ‘running the show’ so it helps if you are connected to what it’s trying to tell you and respond in the moment, rather than react to the stories in your head.
You can access a deeper sense of calm and more confidence in yourself.
What you are feeling is transmitted to everyone around you (whether you realise it or not!) and so when you are more calm and confident then that impacts others in a helpful way.
How are you feeling?
Stressed, happy, overwhelmed, excited, stuck, calm, depressed? How do you know that? What does it feel like in your body?
When you begin to listen you may notice that your body is tingling, aching, warm, soft, painful or maybe you have calm and relaxed or rapid or shallow breathing.
Your body sensations are constantly changing, in relation to what is going on in your environment at any one time:
a) the wider environment i.e. where you are in the world, the weather, the political situation, the landscape etc.
b) your immediate environment i.e. the space that you are in; is it an office, a field, a theatre? and who you are sharing the space with; are you on your own, with a group of people, with animals?
c) your internal environment i.e. what is going on in your life right now, what’s in your thoughts, what did you do yesterday, what’s going on for you tomorrow.
Your body sensations are there for a reason – to communicate with you! So take the time to stop and listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
How horses help
Horses respond to their body sensations and simply by observing them and being in their presence, we can learn from them and become more aware of our own innate ability.
Horses survive in the wild by listening to and responding to the slightest changes in their bodies. That’s how they communicate; e.g. they sense in their bodies that a storm is brewing and they roll in the mud to form a coat to protect themselves, then move towards shelter. They eat when they are hungry, drink when they are thirsty and sleep when they want to rest. In the wild they sense the difference between a lion who is passing through and one who is looking for his next meal. In the first instance, they may be alert and ready to flee but in the latter they would gallop away.
As humans, many of us have learnt to suppress or disconnect from what our bodies are telling us. We get caught up in our heads, in our thinking, in our stories, on our phones, reading and talking. We pay little attention to what our bodies are trying to tell us.
We have become more stressed, stuck, anxious and often physically ill. Listening to what our body is telling us is the first step towards feeling more calm, relaxed and focused and to being able to take responsibility and have more confidence in ourselves.
As Linda Kohanov of Eponaquest (author of The Tao of Equus) writes: “our body is our horse that our mind rides around on”. In other words, we are just as sensitive and intuitive as a horse – we simply need to tune in and listen.
What is your body saying?
Our body sensations are always there to be felt once we stop and notice. They are there for a reason; to give us information, so that we can take care of ourselves. Body sensations have a message.
E.g. If we put our hand on a hotplate we feel the burning sensation on our hand and we get the message to withdraw our hand.
E.g. If we feel a heaviness in our chest the message might be to slow down and take a break.
The same body sensation may have a different message at different times, so keep listening. One time your stomach churning might be excitement before a competition and on another it might be vulnerability about trying something new. The same body sensation might have different information for different people.
E.g. One person who has cold hands might get the message to put on some gloves, whilst another might sense that they just need to get on with the task in hand.
If you don’t listen to a body sensation or you intentionally ignore it, it will intensify. A mild headache can turn into a migraine, a slight twinge in your ankle can turn into a strain, being thirsty can escalate into dehydration.
Because some of us are conditioned to ‘keep going’ we often overlook the first signs of a physical sensation and so we may only notice it once it has escalated. That’s fine, the message will be the same, even though the need to take notice might be somewhat more urgent!
Sometimes the information is subtle, but by taking the time to stop and bring awareness to our body sensations, we can tap into our subconscious and intuitive wisdom. This information may come in the form of a word, a colour, a memory, the tune of a song, an image, a TV programme or a sentence or group of words. We often can’t make sense of it, (e.g. We have a tingly sensation in our right hand and when we bring awareness to that sensation we have an image of a red watering can!) even though on receiving the message our body sensation softens, telling us that our body is satisfied with the received information.
How to listen to your body
So how do you listen to your body? You can do a Body Scan. If you would like to get started, here is a link to my script. It’s probably best if you read it onto your phone and then listen back to it when you have a quiet ten minutes to spare. Alternatively here is a link to the audio version.
When to do a Body Scan
You are doing body scans all day long, you simply don’t bring your conscious awareness to them.
I recommend that you do at least 3 a day.
- When you wake up in the morning
- Before you go into one new situation in your day
- At the end of the day
Of course, you can choose to pay attention at any time of the day and before long it will become more natural. When your awareness is drawn to your body you will take the time to check in and get the information.
How do you know if the message is the right one?
Your body will tell you! Once you have received the ‘right’ information your body sensation will soften. E.g. if you feel your heart rate escalating and the information from your body scan is ‘to breathe’, if this is the ‘right’ message for you, when you go back to the sensation you will notice that your heart rate has slowed down or softened. If it hasn’t softened, you ask for more information and it could be to ‘move away’ and so you take some steps away from the current situation and notice your heart rate returning to normal. As you practise it becomes a conversation between your body and your mind.
When learning anything new, like riding a bike, it takes practice. During those early stages you might need support to listen to your body; I know that I did. I had several 1:1 sessions with a facilitator and some phone coaching sessions. When I experienced such huge benefits, I signed up for a workshop and next thing I knew I was flying off to Arizona to learn how to ‘teach this stuff’!
If you practise the body scan and want support to integrate it into your life, or you would like to come and experience a session with me you have two options:
- For the privacy of a 1:1 experience then you could book an individual coaching session.
- To have an introduction in a group experience, with the additional opportunity of interaction with horses then consider my Connect workshop.
So, to recap, taking the time to listen to your body can help you respond rather than react and feel more calm, focused, confident in yourself and enable you to enjoy more fulfilling relationships.