Listening to the Body

The body says what words cannot.
-Martha Graham

“My head is spinning”, “stand on your own two feet”, “bite your tongue”, “pain in the neck” – These are but a few turn of phrases in our language in which we use body parts to describe an emotion. It is no coincidence that we use these body-related phrases to express our emotional state.  As ground-breaking body-centered therapist Christine Caldwell writes, “The body is a symbol for all experience. We know that the body is constantly speaking to us in the language of sensation, and that this speech, though not in words, is a vital and rich source of information and intuition.”

Using the body consciously and unconsciously is something we are already doing. Body-based therapy encourages more awareness of the body for healing and growth. Simply learning to be aware of one’s body sensations, needs and desires provides raw and truthful information. Are we listening?

Often we listen to our body when it provides our most basic or strong cues; a grumbling in the stomach to tell us we are hungry, tightening in the shoulders when we are stressed. These are basic functions of our body, but what about the sensations that are happening moment to moment? What value is in this information from our bodies?

Here is a simple exercise to encourage yourself to start to pay attention to your body:
Pick a couple minutes in your day to simply give attention to your body. Maybe you take a walk, maybe take a couple minutes in your work day to be still. When you have defined those minutes and come to those minutes, gently pay attention.  Invite yourself to simply label what you notice and without judgment.

Taking a couple minutes to try this myself in both walking and stillness I noticed: Shoulders held and tense, legs feeling free and light, slight sinus pressure, freeness in my ankles, tightness in my toes.  An urge in my legs to hop, feeling held in my chest. Upon noticing these things, I want to take a break from sitting at the computer.

After trying the exercise yourself, how does it affect you? Does it make you feel differently about where you are in this moment or how you would like to proceed with the rest of your day? Your experience may be underwhelming, overwhelming, surprising or confusing. There is no right or wrong.

To schedule an appointment with body psychotherapist Kimberly Schmidt email kimberlylmhc@gmail.com or call 617-651-0996.

Reference: Christine Caldwell, Getting Our Bodies Back.

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