“The body knows things about which the mind is ignorant.” – Jacques Lecoq
When I was taking improv acting classes, the only real success I had was when we did some activity or game that involved moving first and talking second. My words couldn’t flow, it seemed, unless my body was in some form of movement.
A while ago, I wrote about how a dance routine has been teaching me what I need to know about myself and relationships. Here, I want to write about how I have become more aware of the messages my body has for me.
I’m pretty balanced between right-brain and left-brain function, with a slight tilt to the right/creative. But that’s not the way I lived for most of my life. Nope, I lived in my left brain – (over)thinking, (over)analyzing. Through that activity, I unconsciously built a web of neural pathways that covered up and drowned out the messages my body sent me. Trying improv taught me the extent of the damage that had been done – I couldn’t act for overthinking.
Are most of us are like this? We rely more on our brains than our bodies, despite that making no logical sense. Think about it: our bodies are first responders. Every thought begins as a sensory experience – pressure, temperature, light, vibration, etc. Every moment, our bodies send innumerable sensory inputs to the brain to “process” and make meaning of. That meaning is coloured by past experiences, assumptions, and labels we’ve learned from others. The translation happens in milliseconds and is just as quickly taken for truth.
My brain’s interpretations of what my body sends it have messed me up more often than they’ve served me.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my mind. It comes up with weird, creative ideas that often turn into really cool things. But I must consciously change the order of operations to match reality, i.e. body first, brain second. I must bypass the messy, imperfect process of analysis to hear what my body is feeling/sensing. Next, I need to ask my body questions about that. Only THEN should I consult my brain about what to do with the information.
As a dancer and dance teacher, I understand what Martha Graham meant when she said that “Movement never lies. It is a barometer telling the state of the soul’s weather to all who can read it.” People carry everything with them in their bodies – every strain, every mood, every belief about themselves and the world. I can SEE it in others, but I needed to become an expert at reading my own body’s messages. I’m getting better at it.
What do you think?
Sit down, close your eyes, and breathe slowly. Ask your body what it has to tell you, then listen. The answer(s) you’re looking for come in the form of physical sensations.
You’ll be compelled to put labels on the sensations, such as “I have a stomach ache”, or, “my heart is racing”, or, “I’m anxious”. Resist that temptation and instead, just sit and experience the sensations as they exist in your body.
Give it 10 minutes, then open your eyes and reflect on what you learned or discovered. Write it down. This is an especially good exercise when you feel very emotional.
The Adult Chair Podcast episodes:
- Mindfulness and Sitting in Our Negative Emotions
- How Do I Feel My Emotions?
- What do I do with my Feelings and Emotions?
- What do I do with my Anger?