All month we have been talking about listening: gaining tools and insight into being an active listener; learning the importance of listening to understand; and getting a boost on how to best model and teach our children vital active listening skills.
That is a lot to put into action in your toolbox. If you are feeling a need to start back at ground level, consider taking a turn toward yourself first. As parents and caregivers, we have been subject to believing that taking time for ourselves is nothing short of being selfish. However, listening to yourself, honoring what your body does and doesn’t need brings you back to your roots-your innermost being. Using the powerful tool of listening to yourself will clear your mind, feed your spirit, and guide you to a new level of understanding and loving yourself. There is nothing selfish about learning who you are and how you operate. Plus, when you deeply know and honor yourself, you bring your best to the people and the world around you.
So, how do you listen to yourself? Deepak Chopra, a leader in teaching us to listen to our bodies, says this:
Feel what you feel. Don’t talk yourself into denial.
Accept what you feel. Don’t judge what’s actually there.
Be open to your body. It’s always speaking. Be willing to listen.
Trust your body. Every cell is on your side, which means you have hundreds of billions of allies.
Value spontaneity. Emotions change, cells change, the brain changes. Don’t be the policeman who stops the river of change by blocking it with frozen, fixed beliefs.
Enjoy what your body wants to do. Bodies like to rest, but they also like to be active. Bodies like different kinds of food that are eaten with enjoyment. Bodies like pleasure in general.
Our bodies and our minds are in constant communication. Our bodies tell us when something is dangerous or safe. When it is ready to rest or be active. It tells us what it needs and what is in excess. Not every body is the same so this won’t feel the same for every person. Learning to figure out how your body feels when it wants activity instead of sleep or more food instead of less is a process that takes honesty and patience. Being honest with ourselves without editing is a tough skill to master. However, don’t get frustrated; the more you own up to what is really going on, the better at listening to yourself you will become. Simply recognizing that you are frustrated can be very informative. And if you follow that sense of frustration through the course of the body, you may stumble upon something your body or mind is telling you. Chopra defines steps toward wholeness here, and is a nice place to start on the path toward mind body connection.
Connecting to your inner scientist is another way to begin. Keeping a notebook will heighten this practice as you may begin to see themes. Putting words to the sensations you are experiencing in your body gives you a way to understand the signals your body sends to you and makes it less of a mystery. You are decoding the language your body uses to connect with you.
- Begin by Noticing
Pick an activity in which you regularly participate. Maybe it is eating dinner, making lunches for your kids, or playing on an adult league soccer team.
Notice how your body feels before you do it: Does the activity feel easy and obtainable or is it causing you anxiety and stress? Be honest with yourself even when difficult. Be sure to take note of your frustrations, difficulties, any joyfulness or excitement. These feelings are telling you something.
Notice in the middle of the activity: Has the activity become easier once you started? Do you feel a rhythm or are you still at odds? What has shifted? Are you surprised by how you feel?
Now notice how you feel as you end the activity: Are you energized and ready to do it all again? Or perhaps you feel depleted? Maybe you are just relieved that it’s over.
- Take Time Away
Take time away and come back to your notes when you have had a chance to rest and make space for your body and mind to integrate what happened.
When ready, look at the words you used to describe your experience. You may notice obvious connections. You may find some surprises. As you begin to understand sources of joy, strength, happiness, guilt, anxiety, and sadness, you become more knowledgeable about how your choices affect you. Here is where the common phrase “knowledge is power” really rings true. Recognizing when your body is over-fatigued or your stomach is full can lead you away from excessive eating or stress-related activities. Moreover, knowing what brings you joy or strength can be powerful in moments of difficulty.
How does this “Knowledge is Power” idea play out?
Possibly you sign up for fewer volunteering events at your child’s school because you notice that it negatively affects your regular schedule.
Maybe you notice that your mood is lighter after a brisk walk or after completing a physically challenging workout so you begin to include activity throughout your day at the office.
Perhaps that ¼ lb burger you have been craving all day could mean that you’ve had a stressful day and want some comfort food. But is that what your body is really asking for? Or is it asking for self-care and fresh local produce that feeds the body with useable nutrients thus taking care of yourself on a very deep and restorative cellular level?
Asking yourself questions about what your body is saying throughout the day allows you to understand and make decisions based on what your body really needs. Not just a quick fix to relieve yourself of that uncomfortable mysterious feeling.
- Moving Beyond
Once you begin labeling your feelings and making body mind connections, you can begin to apply conscious decision-making to areas of your life. Being honest with the answers, ask yourself questions.
“What would make this less exhausting?”
“Would more information help or hinder at this moment?”
“What can I do to make this easier?”
“Is this giving me what my body needs right now?”
“How do I make this more fulfilling?”
Listening to yourself in this honest, unedited way brings connection to your being, your space, and the people in your life. It connects you to the larger picture and lets your mind not have to work so hard to get you to listen to what is happening within you. Your mind, then, gets a much-needed rest, making you so much more actively available. Even more so, you will be sitting in the front row of your mind as it reveals to you all the wonderful amazing qualities about yourself that you may have forgotten over the years, or maybe never even knew existed.
- Listening to yourself and being honest is hard work. The practice self-compassion is powerful.
- Read more about the mind-body connection here:
- Deepak Chopra: Are you listening to your body? How do you feel right now? Do you feel aware to what your body is telling you?Read more: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/how-to-start-listening-to-your-body/all#ixzz5g0UkaZKF
- The Importance of Listening to Yourself (And Saying the Right Thing)
Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
The untethered soul by Michael A. Singer
A Handful of Quiet by Thich Nhat Hanh
Listening to My Body by Gabi Garcia
In My Heart: A book of Feelings by Jo Witek
The Color Monster: A pop-up book of feelings by Anna Llenas
Image: © Aaron Gil| Dreamstime.com