Tips for Listening to Your Body

Image: artist unknown

Image: artist unknown

This Saturday, March 14th, will be the 15th anniversary of being diagnosed with diabetes.  Per usual around this time of year, the approaching day has me reflecting on living life with a disease and how it has impacted my life.  I can say the gift diabetes has given me is how it has taught me to be in tune with my body.  In my mind, it seems like having “control” of type 1 diabetes is much like walking a tight rope.  A very fine line, balancing act.  Blood sugars are a little too high and you’re tired, lethargic, and harming your organs.  Let your blood sugars get too low and you get shaky, sweaty, and tunnel vision that makes you want to eat the house down.  Being able to feel the slightest change in my equilibrium is important. Food, sleep, exercise, hormones, stress… pretty much everything about life is a variable to influencing shifts in sugar numbers.

 Zooming out from this scenario in my life to the bigger, universal story of humanity, it seems most of us are in this quest for balance.  Career, family, spirituality, social life, health, fitness, finances, creativity…. How do we do it and can we have it all?  There’s a lot of talk about balance as if it were something we finally achieve once and then we have it forever.  But like living with diabetes, living a fulfilled life is about balance-ing.  It’s an ongoing practice.  

 In my healing practice, I work with clients to create structures and habits to support the practice of balancing all the passions they have in their life and one of the key tools is learning to listen to the body.  Your body has wisdom and the ability to heal itself given the chance.  She knows what she needs.  He can guide you to what’s working and what’s not.  When we don’t listen to our body, she or he will try to get our attention, typically with emotions first and then with physical ailments, if we don’t create the space for change and realignment.  So without the “built in barometer” of a disease like diabetes to give a crash coarse in the balancing act, how does one learn to listen, or as I like to say, come home to the body?  Here are five tips I’ve found valuable:

1) Slow down and quiet.
Constantly being surrounded by electronic devices and the distractions of busyness we tend to get ourselves into, we need to find ways to consciously give ourselves time to go inward.  With so much stimulation around us, it can be hard to just sit and be!  But in the quiet and the calm is where the answers lie.  Some suggestions: meditate, eat your meals mindfully without the TV on or scrolling through social media on your phone or reading blogs on the computer, set your alarm for the middle of your day and take ten conscious deep breaths, attend circles or healing workshops, schedule in time on your calendar each week to do something that brings you joy and peace (even if you have to get a babysitter!), start aligning to the cycles of nature (hibernate in the winter, rest when you are on your moon cycle).

2) Journal.
When I was young, I could never keep a diary because after one day of trying to write step by step what I did that day I was bored to tears.  Now, however, my journal is one of my best healing partners and guides.  Allow yourself to be creative here.  Maybe you just let stream of consciousness flow.  Maybe you start with a gratitude list just to get the pen on paper.  Maybe you write about a dream you had or a situation that happened recently you need to get off your chest.  This is for you to tune in to what’s going on in the deepest part of you.  Some suggestions of prompts to get started: what is new and good in my life right now?  What would I like to see changed?  What am I ready to let go of that’s been holding me back?  What am I feeling in this moment now and where do I feel it in my body?  How can I be more supportive and loving to myself?

3)  Ground into your body.
It’s so easy to get caught up and spend most of our time in our minds.  While our mental capacity is a beautiful, intelligent, essential part of our being that allows us to ponder, analyze, strategize, plan, we also sometimes get caught up in chatter and judgment that isn’t helpful.  We get caught up in worry circuits and old thought programs that no longer serve us.  We get disconnected from our body.  Getting back into the body and grounding to the earth will allow inspiration to come and be able to listen to what’s coming up for you with more ease.  Some suggestions: go outside into nature, exercise, eat root veggies, participate in an activity like shoot hoops or play golf, paint, dance, take a yoga class, get some bodywork/energy healing/acupuncture/massage, sing.  Water can also be grounding so take a shower, wash the dishes, go to your favorite river, lake, stream, ocean view.  

 4)  Foster self-love with self-care.
Ultimately, the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.  By taking time to care for yourself in loving, gentle, and attentive ways, you hold the space for this relationship with you to become intimate and deep in understanding, compassion, and growth.  Self-care is not selfish (you need to fill up your cup so you can live your purpose and give care to others!), so splurge here and really love yourself up.  Suggestions: take a hot salt bath, get enough sleep, cook your favorite meal, slather your skin with the best lotion, get a mani/pedi, say 'yes' when you want to say 'yes', say 'no' when you want to say 'no', get some bodywork/energy healing/acupuncture/massage, do things that bring you pleasure and enjoyment.

 5)  Trust yourself.
When it comes to listening to your body, you know you best.  You’ve been living with yourself longer than with anyone else.  The more you listen and respond in kind, the more clear and strong your body will communicate with you.  Two things about this:
*Honor your individuality.  What’s true for someone else may not be true for you.  Gathering information and resources is always helpful, but at the end of the day, sit with it to see what resonates most for you.  Then try that on for size, trusting the feedback your body will give you.
*Self-trust can be a muscle we have to build.  If we are constantly saying we are going to do something and consistently don’t do it, then we won’t really believe ourselves, will we?  Let’s stop breaking the promises we make to ourselves – they are just as important as the promises we make to others.  So start small:  Today, I’m going to drink one glass of water.  Today I’m going to tell myself in the mirror that I love myself just as I am.  And then DO it!  Set small promises you know you can keep so you can build up that trust for even bigger things:  Today I’m going to launch that new program.  Today I am going to rock that audition.  Today I am going to trust that intuitive thought my body gave me and I’m going to act on it. 

There are many ways and opportunities to come home to our bodies and the beauty is we don’t have to be perfect.  It’s a practice and a process.  It’s a journey.  It's a balancing.  Day by day.  Moment by moment.  This breath and this breath.  Sometimes we fall one way and sometimes we fall off the other side.  And sometimes, we walk that rope of life with ease and grace.  This Saturday, I’m going to celebrate my diabetes by honoring my body's wisdom and love her up with gratitude for all she is.  

Point to ponder: I'd love to hear from you!  What tools or tips have you found useful to listen to your body?  And what techniques do you have to bring balance to your life?  Leave a comment!