Mind over body. This is the message I inadvertently learned growing up. Every source seemed to convey that the mind was to be valued more than the body. Even more, the body’s purpose was to fulfill the mind’s agenda.
Personally, the swim team and track teams taught me that pushing beyond pain was what it takes to be a winner. At home, I became skilled at stuffing emotions down with ice cream when they were too big and complicated to face. At university and in the workplace, fatigue became code for drink more coffee in order to buy more hours in the day.
Mind over body clichés like “It’s all about attitude” and the slogan “Just Do It” were meant to be inspiring and push us beyond our limited belief in ourselves. But for many they do just the opposite. They become an unhealthy message to override the body, if that’s what it takes to rise to the top, achieve excellence and soak up all life has to offer.
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As a psychotherapist and leadership coach, I’ve realized that much of our psychological and physical suffering is a result of learning to stop listening to our bodies. The consequences compound over time and are significant, ranging from stress, depression, anxiety, burnout, damaged relationships, unhappiness and even chronic diseases.
Being Present in Our Bodies Is Essential to Living Our Lives Fully
We all want to be our best and most effective selves. But it’s difficult when our bodies are constantly processing information as we engage with the world around us, others and even with ourselves.
This wealth of information comes to us through sensations, intuition, emotions, and thoughts – letting us know whether we can trust someone, if a business opportunity is right for us, or if it is physical or emotional hunger we’re feeling.
Learning to be present in our bodies and leverage this awareness enables us to navigate complex situations with greater clarity, have happier and more collaborative relationships, and experience more robust resilience and wellbeing. Valuing body and mind together gives us an added edge in every area of life.
The Importance of Balanced Awareness
In my work with clients, I’ve witnessed how re-inhabiting the body is often insightful, liberating and terrifying. With awareness comes a new dilemma — we have this new body-awareness but no clue what to do with it. What is our responsibility to ourselves now that we were listening to our bodies?
What if our mind has an agenda that is contradicting what our body is telling us? What happens if we make choices based on the body? Will we lose our ambition and excellence? If we tune into our emotions will it be overwhelming, causing our lives to unravel?
Unlearning mind over body is an education in attending to what our body is telling us so we can be even better versions of ourselves. It doesn’t mean that we have no choice and always have to “do” what the body wants and ignore the mind. Instead, we’re equipped to make choices based on a balanced and conscious awareness.
For me, practicing mindfulness became a catalyst for unlearning mind over body. Practicing mindfulness trained me to tune into my body; leverage it’s wisdom and most importantly, to respect my body’s needs and limits.
Try this Mindfulness Practice to be Present in Your Body and Life
- Body Scan – Take a couple of relaxing breaths, and then bring your attention into your body. Starting with the top of your head and moving all the way down to your feet, bring a curious attention to sensing into each part of the body. It’s almost like you’re scanning your body, picking up on each sensation, emotion, intuition, and impulse.
- Feel in – As you tune into “how it is” in your body right now, see if you can shift from thinking about the body to feeling, or sensing, into the body. What is your body telling you right now?
- True needs – Become curious about what you’re needing right now. Is your body communicating a need or a limit that’s been reached? Is it rest, reassurance, to say “No,” connection?
- Body + Mind – Notice the powerful potential for your life as your mind and body are working together.
Interested in re-inhabiting your body and leveraging the wisdom and power of a mind and body working together? Log on to eM Life and Practice a Mindful Daily with us today!
Written by eM Life Teacher Jennifer Davis.