Signs of stress are physiological signals to address with curiosity and care. Your body is a wise messenger.
Every cell in the body holds such important information. This episode guides you in tuning into the body. Learn to ride the emotional waves.
Your body really is a wise messenger. And sad but true, we tend to ignore body signals fairly often. Or, we try to eliminate them entirely through unhealthy habits that take the edge off, distractions, or with medication. It’s part of the paradox in Western culture. No pain, no gain–but god forbid you have some pain. We tend to look for quick fixes.
Tune in to your body
Imagine having an old transistor radio and you are trying to tune into a station. We scan the channels until we hit a clear one and listen for a while. We need to do that with our bodies, too. But if we don’t like what we hear, we’ll keep scanning or just shut the darn thing off.
The truth of the matter is that the body speaks volumes and if we can learn to listen to it, we will find clues that direct us toward optimal health and resilience.
So how do we even listen to the body with curiosity — and without being judgy?
- The minute we get judgmental, we’ve stopped listening.
- If we body shame ourselves, we stop listening.
- If we get worried or obsessed by appearance or health fears, we’ve stopped listening.
Senses as Signals
Sensations are the language of the body.
Your body is a sensitive instrument capable of responding skillfully to inner and outer perception, including your ability to feel, see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.
Your senses provide you with a constant stream of information and, whether you realize it or not, you reflexively assess each piece of information as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. This determines how you remember the past, experience the present, and move into the future.
Your senses are a key not only to surviving but to thriving.
I treat my body like a temple. A temple of doom, but a temple nonetheless.
Jim Gaffigan, Comedian
So today’s invitation is to tune in.
Expanding your body awareness takes time and practice, and it is a key skill in emotion regulation. So let’s practice tuning into the body in some very simple ways to get to know it better, and with some sense of caretaking. It’s best to be somewhere where you can sit still for 5 minutes or walk slowly, but not driving.
This meditation is one of many ways to connect with your sensory intelligence. (Listen to the podcast to experience it.)
- Take a few moments to sense your surroundings. Feel the ground supporting you.
- Let’s first bring our hands to cover the eyes, with the middle fingers touching at the bridge of your nose, like a mask. Inhale. We are simply beginning to calm the nervous system and removing distractions.
- You may keep your eyes closed if you like.
- As you exhale pull your hands apart and drag slowly to the temple, resting your finger gently.
- Inhale as you slowly trace your fingers over top of the ears, then behind the ears, and down the sides of the neck.
- Exhale and rest your hands at the top of the shoulder. Let your hands hang there with a nice tug from gravity.
- And give a little pull or rub on the shoulders.
- With the next Inhale, bring your hands to the heart area. You may rest them on your chest or at your sides.
- Breathe a few rounds, in a very natural way.
- At any time you may open your eyes if they are closed. Whatever feels comfortable in this moment.
- Begin to tune in to your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
- Wherever you are right now, begin to look around as if for the first time. Turn your head to each side, peek behind you. What do you notice about your environment?
- Notice some details: light… shadows…colors…shapes…movement…texture.
- Notice the sounds around you…behind you…in front of you…all around you. Hear the different tones and rhythms. Perhaps there is a breeze or the hum of traffic.
- Maybe you notice a smell; maybe it is fragrant, evocative, strong, or even unpleasant. No matter. Simply notice the sensation of smell.
- Perhaps you are chewing gum or sipping coffee. If you are, notice the sensation. Maybe you are experiencing something new about the taste. Just notice what that may be.
- Now notice yourself in your world. Imagine yourself as a friendly observer who is watching you.
- Notice how your body is right now. What are you feeling?
- Notice the sensations in your body: tension, discomfort, vibrations, tickles, or subtle movements.
- Feel your feet on the floor or surface or grass;
- Notice the texture of clothes on your body.
- Tune in to both inner and outer realities by noticing what’s happening inside as you sense the world outside. How do they relate? Simply be aware.
- Tune in. If there are signs of stress or other physiological signals , simply notice with curiosity and care. Get grounded.
- If you notice thoughts, memories, feelings, or find your mind wandering as it will do naturally, keep being curious.
- Take in a relaxing, deep breath and soak up all these sensations. Notice how you are part of a very alive and connected world. We will now release this mini-meditation.
Tara Cousineau: The Little Deck of Kindfulness