You speak at least two languages. Most of us only consciously speak one. First, we speak our native “verbal” language, like English, or Spanish, or Chinese. Second, we all speak body language. The interesting part about body language is not what we communicate to others, but how often we don’t listen to ourselves.
Body language is, for most of us, unconscious. It’s not deliberately practiced or interpreted. We rely on a few million years of evolution to carry us through our day.
With those two million years of practice wired into our brain, we’re all pretty good at communicating with other people via body language. I cross my arms and look away, you see “he’s closed off”. I smile at you and tilt my head, you read “he’s interested in what I’m saying.”
When it comes to body language, what many of us are not so good at is listening to ourselves. Sure, you get the cues for “I’m tired” or “I’m hungry”, or even “Whoops, that was too much sugar at one time.”
Still, those aren’t subtle cues, they’re more like emergency signals. Being proud of reading those correctly is like being proud you notice an ambulance going full lights n’ sirens in the lane next to you.
Tuning in to the rest of what your body is constantly whispering to you is a little like being able to look away from that ambulance and notice the time on your watch. It’s not hard, it can be very useful, and it takes just a little practice.
How can you tune in to your body? Where should you listen? What should you expect? I like to break it down into three connected categories: Intuition, sensory integration, and focused practice.
First, intuition. Intuition is the constant stream of information your body is feeding you, and it usually comes in the form of feelings. If we pay attention, we can translate those to words, which makes it more understandable. You may think that connecting to your intuition is too “woo woo” for you, so let me show you a practical use for it.
Take a minute right now and pay attention to your gut area. How does it feel? Stressed or happy? If it’s stressed, ask your gut why. If it’s happy, again, ask your gut why it’s happy.
Those answers will almost immediately make clear to you what your body has been trying to tell you lately. Maybe you ate something you shouldn’t have, maybe you’re unhappy about the way you’ve treated someone or they’ve treated you, maybe you’re ultra stoked to be learning something new.
Whatever answer came through, you just used your body to give you a new set of information. Just tuning in to what your body is (constantly) saying can help illuminate why you feel the way you do. From here, you can use the conscious brain to figure out the best course of action, or you can turn back to your body and see if it has anything else to tell you.
The second category of tuning in to your body is sensory integration. Most of us have all five of our senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell.) Unfortunately, we usually only use them one at a time, and most of us focus our attention on our vision. Sensory integration is the practice of taking in information from all our senses simultaneously to enrich our experience.
It’s easily practiced anywhere, from the desk you sit at to the shower you stand in, or digging your toes into the soil while gardening. By paying attention to the five channels we have, we begin to re-wire our brain to use more of our capacity and through that expansive use we experience more joy.
Finally, to tune in to our body we use focused practice. Focused practice builds on paying attention to our intuition and expanding our senses to experience as much input as possible, but in a directed way. When you did the intuition and the sensory integration exercises, you were looking for any message being broadcasted; you were just “listening” in general.
Focused practice goes beyond tuning in and listening, and it asks specific questions. An example of focused practice is building in a “body scan” to your daily routine. Set aside time in a quiet place to go through your entire body, from head to toe, asking each time you stop and pay attention to something what it might be saying, and interpreting the response by the way that part feels.
As you consciously connect your verbal questions to your non-verbal responses, you’ll begin to understand and tune in to the power of using your entire body as a mechanism of communication, and not just your mouth and ears to talk and listen.
Now that you’ve brought your attention to tuning in to your body and your “second” language, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Maybe you’re doing something I’ve never thought of and we can both become better “body listeners” because of it. Please share any experiences you’ve had in the Comments section below.
Nik @ PT
Too much reading...
How about dessert?