The fascinating wisdom of the body
Wisdom and intelligence is something we often times associate with our mind. Our head, our brain, our ratio. But did you know that your body also holds a great deal of wisdom? It has so much to tell you. Your feelings, desires, values, limits, and your intuition; these great treasures all live within you. These your body communicates with you in various ways. Goosebumps, tingling sensations in your heart area, tension and a knot in your stomach are some examples of the ‘talking’. Do you know how to listen?
For years, I didn’t. I ignored those bodily sensations and was completely disconnected from my body. Because of this disconnect, in combination with an unhealthy and stressful lifestyle, I had been crossing my own boundaries for years – and I wasn’t even aware of it. At some point I was so stressed, yet so exhausted, that one day I couldn’t walk the stairs anymore and had to grab the banister to not fall onto the floor, as I collapsed. This was the start of a severe burn-out, which was accompanied with glandular fever a few months later. I was exhausted in a way I didn’t know exhaustion could exist. For many months I could not work, sometimes could not even read the paper or go for a walk. Physically, cognitively and emotionally, I was unwell. I had ignored my body talking to me, so it eventually had to scream.
This horrible experience of my body shutting down, accompanied with the shame of having to call in sick at work, made me want to recover as quickly as possible. Everyone said I should take a lot of rest. Well, I learned that rest is something that cannot be rushed. And taking rest didn’t come easy to me, as my nervous system was hyper aroused nearly all the time due to the chronic stress that I had been experiencing. In my search for rest and recovery, I often came across the advice to ‘listen to your body’ and ‘not go beyond your limits’. But how could I listen to my body if I wasn’t even hearing it? How could I stay within my limits if I had no idea where they were?
With the help of embodiment practices I learned to feel my body again. It started with paying attention to bodily sensations. What could they tell me? I now know that when my body shivers, that I’m touched in some way – something my mind often times doesn’t realise yet, and figures out later. But the body knew it all along! I started to discover the wisdom that my body holds and connected the dots between physical sensations and emotions and feelings. In this way I also became more aware of my inner world which enabled me to feel and express my emotions. Moreover, I learned to feel when I reached my limit and needed rest, which was invaluable in my road to recovery. Not only did I learn to recognise the signs of having to take a step back, I now also feel when my body craves movement, when I feel like playing, when I want to be sociable or am in need of some me-time. Of course, I cannot always change my schedule to listen to my body 100% of the time, but I’m dancing what I call ‘the dance of balance’.
So, how did I get there? The first steps I took with a psychosomatic therapist, who helped me in becoming aware of my senses. This awareness grew when I started to do a lot of yin yoga, which is a slow practice and thus was a great way to relax and sooth my hyper alert nervous system. However, also in yin yoga you can go beyond your limits. Luckily I came across a yoga teacher who encourages her students to feel, and to honour those bodily sensations. This helped me greatly in reconnecting with my senses, and in acting wisely upon them. And that reconnection with my body, and the ability to listen to her, were crucial in my recovery and still is key in staying healthy and living a life that is aligned with my values.
To end this blog post, I would like to invite you to tap into your sensory intelligence. Everybody is different, so every body is different. I cannot tell you the language of your body; that’s for you to discover. Through embodiment meditation, yoga, dance, conscious movement or any other embodiment practice that works for you. Your body holds so much wisdom, and presents you its knowledge every day. You only need to offer your ear, and listen.
Julia met Veerle 2014 on a solo trip through South America, in a small Pacific Surf town called Arica, Chille. The two young women instantly connected and stayed friends over the years.