Deepa Mahesh takes us through a step-by-step process of getting in touch with our body and understanding the messages it’s trying to give us
The body never lies. This is a belief I hold deep in my bones. Perhaps, it comes from my varied professional practices: expressive arts therapy, facilitation, and leadership coaching. They have instilled in me an inquisitiveness to explore the body-mind connection.
The body always speaks of our past and present experiences—as our mind perceives them—and the way they leave an impression on us. So, it comes as no surprise when experts can determine the mental state of a person from their bodily reactions and postures.
Psychotherapist and yoga trainer Stephen Cope, in his book Yoga and the Quest for True Self expresses, “The memory resides not somewhere in a ‘mind’ split off from the body but rather in the cells and neuropathways throughout the body-mind. The skin, the muscles, and the nervous system all record and hold exact memories of how we were touched, held, and soothed—or traumatised and frightened—from the moment of our birth, and even before birth, according to many.”
This is a superpower we humans can learn to wield—to be able to understand our discomfort, even disease, by tuning into our body. If the body holds memory, then tuning into the body could allow us to access the memory and change the unhealthy patterns.
However, it is no easy feat. It is no wonder that very few cultivate this connection and attunement to the body. Advancement in modern medicine has taken away the need to listen to our body signals. The slightest discomfort can be removed by popping pills. It might be very easy to dismiss the dis-ease away by numbing it in the moment; trusting our own body might have become a rather difficult (even a foreign) concept.
A storehouse of wisdom
In truth, our body has always been a storehouse of wisdom and guidance. It offers a very powerful inner compass to navigate every situation in life. Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, in his New York Times bestseller book The Body Keeps The Score writes: “One of the clearest lessons from contemporary neuroscience is that our sense of ourselves is anchored in a vital connection with our bodies. We do not truly know ourselves unless we can feel and interpret our physical sensations; we need to register and act on these sensations to navigate safely through life. While numbing (or compensatory sensation seeking) may make life tolerable, the price you pay is that you lose awareness of what is going on inside your body and, with that, the sense of being fully, sensually alive.”
Kolk’s observations are groundbreaking to say the least. Tapping into the body and being aware of its state through sensations, responses, and reactions is an opportunity to not only be more aware of who we are but also sculpt who we can be. Cope, in his book, explores how this actually works. According to him, “As we begin to re-experience a visceral reconnection with the needs of our bodies, there is a brand new capacity to warmly love the self. We experience a new quality of authenticity in our caring, which redirects our attention to our health, our diets, our energy, our time management.”
By the very virtue of leading our lives, we all know how imperative paying attention to these areas of life is. But if we can attune ourselves to our body and allow it to guide us through it all, it can make life simpler, if not easier.
There are various ways to tap into the body and let it guide us through what our ‘self’ truly needs in any given moment. Some of the methods are movement therapy, yoga, tai-chi, Pilates, and eurythmy. Of course, all these methods require professional guidance. But to make this simpler for just about anyone, I have devised a method, ‘Dialogue with your body,’ which you can follow with ease. You can tap into your body in these six simple steps:
Prepare your body
Choose a silent and comfortable place.
You may either lie down or sit on a chair.
Set your intention
Relax into the chair or the ground on which you are sitting.
Take normal breaths and ease into your seat.
Have complete clarity on why you want to do this.
Set the intention:
I want answers to the discomfort I am experiencing in a particular body part, or
I want to feel deeply connected with my body, or
Something is bothering me, and I feel overwhelmed. I want to find out what it is about.
Bring your attention to each and every part of the body, starting from the top of your head and ending at the soles of your feet.
As you pay attention to a specific part, breathe in and out deeply. Pay attention to how that part expands and contracts in sync with your inhalation and exhalation.
Focus and sense
With each deep breath, become aware of the pulse (inhalation and exhalation) in that specific part.
If you are unable to sense the pulsation, give it a few minutes. Feeling the pulse is the doorway to attuning to the exact sensation you feel in each part.
Once you feel the pulse, observe the emotion you feel. Stay with the feeling.
Begin the dialogue
Which part of my body feels discomfort or dis-ease?
Which part is calling out for my attention?
Take your palm and place it on that part.
Ask the sensation the following questions:
What brings you (the sensation/pain/discomfort) into my life?
What do you need me to reflect upon?
What is your guidance for me?
How will my life change if I act upon your guidance?
After every question, wait for the answer. It might come as a sound, a colour, or an image. It might come as a word or phrase. It might come as an emotion or a sensation.
Make a mental note of it all.
Once you make sense of the answer you receive, ask yourself “What action can I take to work towards the guidance?”
Commit to the action needed.
Record the process in your journal, and add the actions to your to-do list or calendar to ensure you implement them.
[Note: The answer you receive may seem abstract at times, as it is your intuition guiding you. Upon receiving the guidance, you can enquire further to make the answer more understandable, tangible, and implementable. If you struggle with this, it might be better to seek professional help.]
One thing is certain: your body will draw your attention to it. And when it does, you can engage with it and have that ‘dialogue with your body.’ This way, you can uncover the purpose behind the pain and discover ways to live life with ease. It is a process, one that needs time and practice. Keep at it, and you are bound to get comfortable with the process.
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