Summer vacation is over, and it's time to shift gears. Traditionally, this time of year is associated with a return to school and renewed commitment to learning. Why not use the momentum to get out of your head and learn something new about your body?
Like most people, your mind is probably full of word thoughts all the time and you only notice your body when it's hungry, hurting, or horny. But, when the head dominates the scene, it's easy to overlook the subtle yet powerful potential of the smart body. Valuing the analytical, verbal over the sensual, non-verbal can result in an assessment that your body is numb or dumb. Not so. Your body has an innate intelligence and unique mode of communication. In order to change your mind about your body, all you need to do is pay attention and learn a little body talk.
Imagine that you're sitting in a class listed in the syllabus as Body Lab 101. But, rather than studying random bodies, you're going to learn about your own. Your sensory awareness is the teacher, your body is the subject, and everyday life is the laboratory. Your first assignment is to tune in right now and feel what's happening. Don't adjust or change a thing. Just pay attention to the interior space and sensations of your body.
• Is your body hunched or scrunched in a way that impedes your full breath?
• Are you tensed up, squeezed off, or tucked under?
• Do you feel more familiar with some parts than you do with others?
Shift around so your whole body feels supported and comfortable. Let go of any excess tension and adjust your position aligning from head to foot. Feel the space you have for a full breath and use it. Doing this quick survey is a good way to awaken body consciousness.
Now, you're ready to experiment and see what your body has to offer. Depending on your interest and situation, you might invite your smart body to help you evaluate relationships, make good decisions, or find inspiration. But, in order to understand its input, you'll need to know a bit of body talk. Your body speaks to you through symbol, sensation and metaphor. When your stomach flutters, it's not necessarily about your stomach... it could be your inner knowing telling you to be cautious. When your neck or shoulders are uncomfortable they might be telling you that something is a pain in the neck or you're carrying too much responsibility. When you're presented with a choice: easy breathing means yes, restricted breathing means no. See how straight forward the body is?
Here are some ways to listen to your smart body and access your intuition or inner knowing:
• Observe your body's smart feedback when you pitch an idea. If your muscles are relaxed, you're getting through. If they tighten up, try a different tack.
• Listen to your gut when you look at a menu. Does it feel good with the salad or the protein shake or a roast beef sandwich?
• Focus on your nonverbal body to by-pass your overly verbal mind when you want to find inspirational solutions, clarity, and artistic direction.
Learning how to listen to and understand the ways of your smart body takes time and practice. As you get more body savvy, you'll find that body talk both informs you and informs others about you. For instance: when you're balanced on your feet, you feel and look grounded; when you breathe easily, you feel and look receptive; and when your chest is open, you feel and look compassionate. Once you get adept at being body conscious, you can expand your exploration to just about any aspect of your life. Studies have shown that simple body awareness correlates directly with self-esteem, clear communication, intuition, inspiration, emotional intelligence, success and happiness. See if you can tune in and tap in to all these goodies.
So, remember to shift gears and drop out of the thought-dominant, virtual reality, chatty mind space every once in a while. Do a quick body check to make sure you're not compressing/compacting and return to your full volume of space/ breath. You can do this without dropping a beat as you relate to a friend, spend time with a lover, walk in the woods, or seek an interlude of peaceful serenity. Including your smart body in any activity improves the quality and success of everything you do.
Why not set an intention at the beginning of your day? At the first nudge of consciousness, tune in to your sensory awareness and hear the morning sounds, smell the air, feel your fingers and toes wiggle. Move your arms and legs through their range. Roll gently from side to side and swing your feet to the floor. Stand up and shake out your shoulders and neck, hips and legs ... and then walk into your body-full day!
Note: For further instruction and a demonstration of how to wake up before you get up, check out my Wake Up, Loosen Up video.