I have found that connecting to my body is as simple as making a choice to stop and do so. I allow myself to become aware of my breath and then to breathe gently, allowing my breath to return to its own natural rhythm. I often find myself focussing on feeling my lungs as they move gently with my breath and then it is easy to feel when events of the day, such as driving my car or pressures at work, have affected this natural rhythm. From here I can start to become aware of other parts of my body – my shoulders, arms, feet, back and how they are feeling – deepening the connection with my body; it is in this connection that the intelligence of the body is revealed.
This is an intelligence that inspires a deep love, care and honouring of myself, my body and others through a way of living that honours what the body knows before what the mind knows. I’ve come to know this as whole body intelligence. What I’ve discovered is that my body feels far more what supports it to be vital and healthy in life and relationships than anything I’ve ever read in books.
But this wasn’t always the case. For most of my life I’ve held the intelligence of the mind as the marker of success, enjoying and excelling in formal study, holding postgraduate degrees and working within academic research for the past twenty years. In the world of academia, intelligence is synonymous with knowledge and is linked to job security, prestige and power. The body comes a distant second to the mind and I have observed over the years the constant pushing of the body to meet deadlines; the vast amounts of coffee and/or caffeinated drinks consumed, often as a meal replacement; and a growing trend of chronic back pain and mental health issues amongst students and staff. I know myself that I gave my body little attention when studying, as I would focus only on getting an assignment finished on time or getting good grades.
You could say I was absent from my body, paying little or no attention to any physical sensations or signs from my body. For example, I can’t count the number of times I would find myself sitting in the same spot for hours, engrossed in some task, only to finally stop, move and then become aware of my numb backside and the tension in my shoulders. Another example would be eating while reading a book or watching TV, only noticing you’ve eaten too much and are feeling bloated when your plate is empty AND you haven’t even tasted the food. It seems that pain and discomfort quickly bring us back to being present in our body.
It has to be asked though, what kind of intelligence is OK with allowing the body to reach such a state of discomfort, pain and disharmony? Is that really intelligent?
To be honest, it’s not always pleasant to feel what’s happening in my body, but I’ve come to understand that any pain or discomfort is my body’s way of communicating to me that I’ve not been connected and, therefore, unaware of how absent or present I am in my daily life. I’m learning that the body knows exactly what it needs to support it to be in life, in complete harmony within, and with others, without stress and tension, moving through each day with ease – this is what I call intelligence.
Our body is in constant communication with us, however we tend to ignore it at the expense of our own health and well-being. I know when I allow myself time to stop, to breathe gently and to reconnect to my body, I have rediscovered a deep stillness, warmth, delicateness, loveliness, lightness and vitality within me. In feeling these qualities, I am inspired to move and act in a way that allows me to maintain them throughout my day, to the best of my ability. These qualities are always present in my body, but if I’m not connected and present with my body, then I can’t feel them and I’m more likely to do things that may cause me pain or discomfort.
Everyone can connect, or reconnect, to the innate whole body intelligence, simply by making a choice to stop and become present with the body, allowing an awareness of how or what the body is feeling at any given moment. Connecting with our breath is a great place to start to connect to the body and its very loving form of intelligence.
By Michelle Sheldrake, Social Science Researcher, Esoteric Massage Therapist, mother