Being in the Body

Each one of us comes to life with, and operates in, a body. What that body looks like, feels like, and does or does not do varies. Our bodies may not always feel right or aligned with our other elements like our brains / thoughts or our hearts / emotions, though each of us does have a body that we can work with. The body when examined closely is a magical thing. It’s programmed to do so much for us without needing to interact with our consciousness. All bodies follow hundreds of natural cycles — like growing, breathing, circulating our blood, sending electric messages, healing, shedding old material, digesting, and much more (though not always all of these) — without needing to ask permission.

It’s a privilege in this world to have a body that easily performs all of those functions, and another privilege altogether to live in a body that feels completely in sync with your identity, but what does not need to be a privilege is the practice of connecting to the messages of your body and working with the places your body is speaking to you. Listening to our bodies is important, because they can tell us so much about what we have and are experiencing, what we need to work through for healing, and how we are meant to grow.

Queen of Pentacles: Water & Earth. Mud & Salt. Mother Earth.  - Lindsey Mack

Queen of Pentacles: Water & Earth. Mud & Salt. Mother Earth. - Lindsey Mack

Science is now showing what people have known for time immemorial, but has been lost (sometimes intentionally) in the last few hundred years — that the energy of our emotions and experiences lives physically in our body. It lives in our literal scar tissue as well as our physically unscarred fascia. It lives in our adipose and nervous system. It lives in the muscle and organs inside us. It modifies our hormones and development. It physically remembers what feels good, what has felt bad, and what we are unsure about, and adapts our physicality to these events. This begins in the womb, and our bodies never stop adapting to the stories we create about what we go through. They then constantly communicate with us based on this knowledge, with tightness or flexibility, with pain and pleasure, pointing us to the places we need to work on, emotionally and physically.

We all once lived in a world in which this body-knowledge and body-memory was honored; where this understanding was the highest Truth. We lived in that world because our bodies are what we had the most of, in terms of information to receive. We lived in a time once where the other sources of information were the other natural elements around us, which lined up exactly with our bodies because our bodies are nature. While the world around us has changed, the way we relate to our bodies does not have to.

Today, nature is not our only teacher.

We have a huge amount of information that, while it may be rooted in a natural principle, has so often been framed so outside that context that we don’t know how to relate it back to our bodies. We have a world that has changed the meaning of “material resource” into strictly currency, and has then exploited the process of exchange to use natural processes for a monetary benefit. For example, we’ve turned natural cycles of hunger, nourishment, comfort, and digestion into a multi-billion dollar diet industry backed by skewed facts that convince people that their bodies can’t be trusted to regulate themselves. There’s simply no benefit to this message, and others like it, except the profit received by that those who propagate it.

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We’ve stepped away from really listening to the messages we get from our hearts, our guts, and our muscles and have been taught to either take them for granted or that we have to control our bodies so completely that we leave no room for this feedback. While food is a huge example, this mentality extends to nearly every function of our bodies — how it grows, how it wants to move or rest, how it experiences stress or pleasure, and so much more.

Today our brains dominate so much of the messaging we allow ourselves to hear and respond to, instead of keeping our brain functions in balance with our bodies. Our brains, while they are truly wonderful and designed to keep us safe, often rely on outdated messaging and fear tactics to do so. They program themselves with stories of safety from earlier years in our lives, when we may not have been able to really process our experiences. This isn’t itself a problematic function, but when we are taught that our brains are more trustworthy than our bodies, and in fact to fear the rawness of our bodies, the true knowing of ourself is skewed. It’s time to rebalance the communication we receive. Even modern talk therapy begins with with examining the stories our brain has, and determining if those stories are true. When we examine our brains more closely and ask if those strategies are always in our highest and best good, we open the door to healthy alternatives.

Reconnecting to Our Bodies

So, what can we do to come back into our bodies and allow them to prove to us that they know what to do? How, after so long relying only on our brains, can we drop back into the heart and intuition? Well, we do it slowly, and with support, knowing that we’ve stored enough in our many years of life that both joyous and difficult experiences will surface as we undertake this process.

There are many simple strategies for beginning; the more you practice them and listen to the tiny messages of your body, the louder they will get and the more in tune you will be. It starts slow and then becomes rapid. Here are some tactics:

Try connecting to natural cycles, especially those of Rest and Activity. For some, this is as simple as actually going to bed when you are tired and not getting up until rested, or taking a walk when you have extra energy, or leaving work early on days when you feel exhausted. For others, we’ve gotten so far out of our bodies that we can’t yet hear or trust those signals, or we have demands from the world — such as new babies or strict jobs — that keep us from doing these things. If this is you, one strategy is to try syncing with the moon, or, if you are menstruating person, your hormonal cycle. Start by canceling plans with others during the dark and new moon days (or when you are bleeding); stay home, get extra sleep, read a book or zone out. Add more activity as the moon builds toward fullness (or your body moves toward ovulation), and decrease plans and activity as the moon wanes. It may feel forced, because we aren’t used to valuing rest, but if you look around to the natural world, including seasons, growth cycles, or how a flower opens and closes, you’ll see that pretty much everything follows a similar cycle of rest and activity. When we are so programmed out of what rest our bodies need (including overriding our body’s messages of tiredness with caffeine), we sometimes need to practice the cycle without it feeling natural at first, to build up the habit. As you do this, you’ll be better able to notice your own unique cycles of rest and activity, which you can then rely on to know when you need more care or stimulation; when to exert yourself and when to say no.

Create ritual around purposefully tuning into your body, physically and mentally. This includes touching all parts of your body more, which can be done in a variety of ways. One way many people I know practice this is moisturizing head to toe on a daily or weekly basis, or just regularly laying a hand on their skin from toes to crown. As you apply lotion to or touch your skin, send your focus to each connection point; check in and name how that part feels. Is there a pang of tension, a dull ache, or another sensation? Do you get a chill or a specific feeling in your gut when you touch a certain spot? You don’t have to know what it all means, it’s enough to just notice the feeling. If touching is too much, you might try a mental body scan instead, by closing your eyes and focusing your mind on different parts of your body at a time. Some people benefit from writing down what they notice with this practice and coming back to it over time. For others, the more they do this, the more naturally they start to understand what each sensation tells them about their emotional self, and where they may need to focus more attention. Other ways to do this include Yin Yoga, which holds each position in a supported way for several minutes, to allow the stretch to get into the fascia of the body. Acupuncture or massage are good methods as well, as they both work with physical and energetic elements of the body.

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You can be as intentional about these practices as you want — the simple act of doing them more frequently will start to repair the connection with the body. Through this strengthened connection, you will naturally begin to hear more information from yourself. Your body will begin to communicate with you in ways you weren’t aware of before, and you will feel more confident in your sensations and what they mean.

You can use tools like astrology and tarot as a guide. There are very simple ways that I use both of these as reminders to connect more with my body. Tarot and Astrology both strongly rely on the four natural elements — earth (pentacles), fire (wands), water (cups), air (swords). Anytime a major moon or planetary aspect or transit is in an earth sign (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), or I pull a card from the Pentacle suit, it is a reminder to ground myself and reconnect physically with my body; to turn toward how my body actually feels, in real physical sensations, for information on what to work through in my mind and heart. There is so much value in all of the elements — air signs and swords guide me through the wonders of the mind, water and cups exalt my heart and emotions as an intuitive light, and fire and wands remind me of the energy I naturally hold and utilize. All of these in a balance, even imperfectly, is what we can strive for, instead of most heavily relying on any one specifically.

What are your strategies for tuning into and listening to your body? Have you had any specific experiences or breakthroughs where you felt connected to your body in a new way? I’d love to hear in the comments or on Instagram.

I want to leave you with the Queen of Pentacles card — pictured above — as a reminder to truly caretake yourself and your body through this process. Reconnecting to ourselves is rarely easy; most of us have decades of wounding and misalignment to repair, and it can be a very difficult journey to undertake. It is not important to force yourself through this all at once, only that you begin with what little pieces you can. Through this process, and the many repeat processes to come as we oscillate between connection and distance, your need to truly care for yourself should take center stage. The good news is that the more we tune into our bodies, the better we’ll know how to do this. A practice of nourishment, of pulling back when you get close to trauma, of asking for and expecting support, is crucial. Even if you don’t know how to do these perfectly yet, the only important thing is that you try. From there, we all heal and grow and get better at coming back to ourselves and our unique Truth. As a result of living in this modern world, we are all on some version of this path. I’m wishing you well on this journey, and packing your bag full of so much love in the process.