Monthly Archives: July 2013

Body Wisdom

“Nothing is as close to us as our body, but there is nothing else that is close to us and about which we know so little.”  Gunther von Hagens, creator of the “Body Worlds” exhibits.

All of us walking around on this great big revolving ball of dirt orbiting around the universe schlepp around a fairly significant load every day, most of us a hundred pounds or more.  Some of us, lots more.  Yet what do we know about these bodies that we live in and what is our relationship with our bodies?  I would venture a guess that the vast majority of us don’t reap the benefits of the rich value that our bodies offer.  Even worse, many of us are pretty darn annoyed about almost everything body related and, quite honestly, pretty ticked off that the body we got wasn’t quite what we had in mind.

Or is it?  Maybe your body is EXACTLY what you have in mind.  You just don’t know it, consciously anyway.  According to Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., author of The Biology of Belief, “It is not gene-directed hormones and neurotransmitters that control our bodies and our minds, our beliefs control our bodies, our minds and thus our lives.”  Pair this with the teaching of Abraham-Hicks, “A belief is just a thought you keep thinking,” and you have sort of a mind-blowing idea.  Your life, which includes your body, your circumstances, your relationships, your finances, the whole shebang, are all a product of your beliefs, which are a product of your habits of thought.

If this is true, and let’s just say it is for the sake of exploration, this body you’re schlepping around and complaining about is really nobody’s fault but your own.  Yeah, I know I alienated a wad of you right there.  Understandable.  My pointing out the fact that your reality really kind of stinks right now, and then proceeding to tell you that you created it is not likely to win me many friends.  Until they realize it’s true.

Back to this body of yours.  You created it:  it is an expression of your life experience on this planet thus far.  So how can you make that advantageous for yourself?  Instead of complaining and moaning about what a pain in the back side your body is and how you got ripped off in the body department, start to partner with it.  Learn it.  Explore it.  Listen closely to it.  For goodness’ sake, try being nice to it.  Find out what messages your body has for you.  If you actually do this, brace yourself for amazement.

I don’t remember learning much about my body in school, much less from my parents.  Of course, there was that science class that mentioned anatomy and then there was that horrible, embarrassing junior high school film about the birds and the bees.  That’s not really the angle about body messages that I’m trying to hone in on here.  Don’t get me wrong, my parents and my schoolteachers were awesome.  They were teaching the very best they knew to teach, and taught me some great stuff.  But “body awareness” is a huge body (couldn’t help myself!) of information that is massively valuable, and it’s just not taught in mainstream society.  At least not in the U.S. Midwest culture that I grew up in.

Whether you love your body or hate it, or something in between, it has incredibly valuable information for you just for the listening.  That tightness in your tummy when you think about your upcoming presentation at work, that is a clue to a belief that you have about your abilities or lack thereof; a belief that really has very little to do with your actual abilities.  It has more to do with what you picked up about your worth and value when you were just a little kid.  It might indicate a belief that goes something like, “What I have to say is not valuable; I should be seen and not heard,” and it’s been tripping you up your whole adult life.

But if you were to stop and listen, your body can give you clues to uncover those somewhat subconscious beliefs and help bring them to the light.  In my search for knowledge about how we humans function, what works well and what works not quite as well, I have stumbled across several leading edge thinkers that have spent their lives studying this.  For example, Eugene Gendlin, Ph.D., who developed the philosophy of Focusing, teaches that “your body knows more about situations than you are explicitly aware of.  For example, your body picks up more about another person than you consciously know. With a little training, you can get a bodily feel for the ‘more’ that is happening in any situation.”  I have personally experienced this, have helped others experience it, and it is quite amazing.

Another teacher, Steve Sisgold, has written an entire book:  “What’s Your Body Telling You?”  He has found that, “the happiest, healthiest, most successful people are those who integrate IQ (cognitive intelligence) with BQ (body intelligence).”  Sisgold calls this unique state “whole-body consciousness”.  There is an entire field dedicated to this topic.  According to Wikipedia, Somatic Psychology is an interdisciplinary field involving the study of the body, somatic experience, and the embodied self, including therapeutic and holistic approaches to body.

These are just a couple of examples of folks who have noticed the great advantage of embracing the wisdom of your body and intentionally tapping into it for a whole new level of guidance, effectiveness and enjoyment in life.  Your body is a product of your thoughts and beliefs, and for that very reason it is a powerful tool to help you become more aware of your thought patterns and the effects of those thoughts.  When your body tightens up, whether in the neck area, around the throat or in your stomach, it is telling you that there is something that it feels the need to defend against.  When you feel an openness and lightness within your body, that is a clear signal that you are in alignment with your inner, eternal self and your body feels safe to open up.

This might be old news for you, or it might be a whole new, crazy way of approaching life.  Either way, it is worth investigating further.  It can have huge payoffs in all areas of your life, not just your physical body.  Heck, even if it was just a benefit to your physical body, that is worth the price of admission, because regardless of how you feel about your body, you take it with you everywhere you go.

The Power of Words

“Pay attention to what has your attention.”  David Allen

When I was growing up, there was a familiar, and honestly kind of annoying, phrase that we used:  “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  I, being the smart-alec that I was, liked to reply, “Words can hurt you if I whack you with a big dictionary!”  Of course, technically speaking, it wasn’t the words that would hurt, it was the weight of the stack of printed and bound paper slamming into the person’s body that did the damage.

The power of words is much like that.  It’s not the actual words that have power.   They are just the triggers that launch the concepts, ideas and emotions that have the true impact.  This is a fun experiment to play with.  Years ago, when I was struggling to claw my way back up out of a dark emotional hole that I had dug myself into, I ran across a book that had a simple, yet very powerful suggestion in it.  The author asked that you read a list of words and notice the emotional impact.  I was skeptical, but being desperate for relief, I played around with it.  I was shocked at the shift this particular list of words had upon my emotions.

Before turning my attention to the list of words, I was feeling depressed and disempowered, lethargic and melancholy.  On the emotional scale, I was hovering around two on a scale of one to ten, with one being utterly miserable and ten being on top of the world.  I swear, just by reading the list of words, I moved up at least two or three points on that scale.  It wasn’t just seeing black marks on white paper that did it.  It was that the black marks on white paper represented letters that formed words that conjured concepts that now had my attention.  The words in the list were powerful and uplifting.  Although I didn’t experiment with a list of negative words, I assume it would work the same way, knocking me down a notch or two on the same scale.  I just really didn’t need that kind of movement.

The attention factor is very critical.  The concepts represented in that list were not new to me:  they were in my mental file cabinet all along.  The difference is that I had tossed them aside to the dusty corners of my brain, most definitely outside my zone of awareness.  I simply was not in the habit of focusing my attention on empowering thoughts – quite the opposite.  No surprise I was in that dark, suffocating emotional place.  However, when I turned my attention to the concepts triggered by the list of positive words, I began to experience the essence of them.  They triggered related thoughts and ideas that then resulted in corresponding emotions.

It is interesting to note also that thoughts are not loners.  They do not like to travel alone.  They’re pack animals, and move in herds.  Or trains.  One thought triggers a similar thought, which triggers another similar thought, and all of this triggering forms trains of thought which gain in momentum and clarity and specificity.  For example, someone says “dog”.  That reminds me of my dog Kona, who is very specifically a chocolate lab.  Who is getting old.  Which reminds me that she won’t live forever.  That reminds me of another dog of mine, Callie, who didn’t live forever.  It was incredibly difficult for me to watch her decline with age and then die, and that reminds me of the specific day she died and how I felt when she breathed her last breath.  That, of course, reminds me of all the other dogs I have loved dearly and lost and I have now heaped every pain-related dog memory in a huge pile like I’m building the mother of all bonfires.  If I don’t find something to derail the momentum (and darn quickly), a can of gasoline and a huge box of matches is on the way.   The next thing you know, the neutral concept of “dog” has me in a heap on the floor in a pile of used Kleenex, makeup running everywhere in a most unflattering way.

Now, most everyone knows this, or if challenged they could figure it out, but for some crazy reason it is frequently not consciously put to use in the average schmoe’s everyday life.  Even though it is a really, really good idea to purposely make use of this information.  If you’re aware of the mechanism, you can stop the train before it flattens you on the track.  You can stop the momentum before it gets so darn hard to manage.  You get to decide to stop digging before you find yourself at the bottom of that deep, dark, emotional hole.  It saves all that pesky clawing to get back out.

In fact, you get to decide any ole time you want, to create an upward spiral using the same dynamic as the downward spiral.  You can point it in the direction you want to go, then knock yourself out shoveling heaps of coal in the engine of the train (of thought) and experience glorious upward momentum.  Go ahead, purposely focus your attention on those thoughts that have an upward pull on your emotions.  Instead of thinking “dog” and ruminating on the negative memories, I can purposely place my attention on all the happy memories associated with “dog” – and there are plenty of them to choose from.

This world is a place of extreme abundance.  There is a boundless abundance of what is wanted, and there is an equally boundless abundance of what is unwanted.  Your experience of life is a direct result of which flavor, wanted or unwanted, you most often turn your attention to.

It’s a real no-brainer choice, but it’s not always so easy to do.  It takes intention, attention and a quality decision.  It is harder at first to change the momentum, but it gets easier and easier as you notice your thoughts, notice the emotional result, and deliberately choose your train’s direction.  Good to know – and remember – and apply.

Enjoying Creating as Much as the Creation

Everybody needs a good redefining every now and then.  That doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with the old definition, but there really is no such thing as staying put, and since you’re constantly changing and evolving and experiencing life anew each day, doesn’t it make sense to put some thought into the direction you’re moving rather than leaving it all up to chance – and entropy.

If I considered myself to be an expert on anything, I believe I would have to pick entropy as my most-known subject.  You stop paying attention to your diet and nutrition, and it “tends to disorder” in a blinding hurry!  If only it would tend back to order so quickly.

Organization is another hot entropic topic.  I can walk into my office, file everything, put everything away, even clean out my email inbox – then turn my back, and bam, it all jumps back out of place before I can boot up my computer.

What about cooking dinner?  You plan a meal, go grocery shopping, bring everything home, put it away neatly, clean the kitchen.  Then you’re ready to begin.  Hang onto your butt with both hands, because that baby’s going entropic in a big way.  When I am done cooking, every single dishy in the kitchen is dirty, food is splattered on every surface, and me personally?  Hair is a mess and makeup is melted.  Then you sit down with your guests, exhausted, not that hungry because you smelled it the whole time it was cooking – and oh, all right, I taste-tested everything at least three times – and then the meal is eaten in 15 minutes.  Seriously, how fair is that?  All things considered, shopping, cleaning, preparing, cooking, serving, cleaning up again, it took like nine hours to create the meal and then it is gone in 15 minutes!  Where is the equity in that?????

But even though the preparation far outweighs the actual meal, it is still worth it.  If you just measure it in black and white, time spent preparing versus time spent consuming the meal, it wouldn’t weigh out.  However, that doesn’t paint the whole picture.  There is so much to be gained from the experience of planning, executing, adjusting, imagining, and projecting, that the actual consumption of the meal is almost overshadowed.  The act of creation is the main thing.  The joy of imagining, planning, beginning to take action steps, seeing the image come into focus and begin to take shape – that’s the true joy.  Having your guests over and sitting down to a meal is just the excuse to get to engage in the creative act.

I’m asking myself how much more I would enjoy my life overall, minute to minute and not just the occasional highlights, if I really understood this more and slowed down enough to notice it, instead of trudging and striving and curmudgeoning my way through one task, agenda item, or to-do after another.  How much more fun would the simple things in life be?  How much more joy would I experience in the ordinary days of my life?