There has been a lot written about the notion of listening to our bodies. Many people (including me) have written volumes about how our bodies have wisdom that can answer questions like:
1. What does my body need right now?
2. What do I need to eat?
3. What sounds delicious to me right now?
4. How does my body need or want to move right now?
5. Do I need to rest right now?
Our bodies do have wisdom. And we can learn a lot by learning to ask our bodies what our bodies need. But a lot of people that I work with say that they have a hard time hearing the answer. And I invariably reply, “I’m not surprised.” In my experience, we are taught from a young age how to talk. We are taught to perform and demand and emote and share. What we are not taught, is how to listen. Sadly, our culture does not seem to place sufficient value on listening. And I think a lot of the problems in our world stem from the lack of emphasis placed on this important skill.
One of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett, writes about this in one of his Discworld novels called Pyramids. In this novel, our hero wanders off to Ephebe, where we find a whole lot of philosophers all talking at once. Except for one character known as Endos. You see, Endos is a professional listener. His job is to sit quietly and absorb what other philosophers have to say. From time to time he encourages them by saying things like “you don’t say” or “please, continue”. For this service, Endos is paid handsomely. Because you can’t toss a grape in Ephebe without hitting a philosopher, but a good listener is worth their weight in wine and gold.
So if we want to learn to listen to what our bodies have to say, it often helps to start by learning to listen, period. As Endos would tell you, listening is a skill like any other. It has specific techniques that can be learned. With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the listening techniques I’ve gathered and share with you how I feel they can be applied to listening to our bodies.
1. Be Quiet. It’s kind of obvious, but if we want to listen to somebody talk, we first need to stop talking. In the case of listening to our bodies, that means that we should sit quietly and without distraction from television or radios or computers. And then we need to stop talking to our bodies. We need to stop telling it what we think it SHOULD want or it SHOULD need. This is step one, but it is often the very most difficult.
2. Be Encouraging. My body is not going to talk to me if my body is sure I am going to scoff or treat it with disdain for the things it has to say. If my body says, “I’m hungry,” and then I tell it, “You can’t be hungry because it isn’t noon yet,” we’ve got a problem. Next time I ask my body what’s up, will it answer? If I want my body to tell me things, I need to take a cue from Endos and be encouraging. I need to say things like, “Fascinating! Do continue.”
3. Be Patient. Our bodies are used to being ignored. It might take a while for our bodies to communicate with us again. We need to give it time and space. We need to accept that we won’t always get answers the moment we ask for them. We need to treat our bodies with respect and patience.
4. Be Impartial. If our bodies are convinced that we will judge it and treat it harshly for letting us know what it needs, it will stop telling us. We need to listen to our bodies without judging.
5. Be Responsive. If we constantly respond to our bodies needs by denying those needs, our bodies will stop talking. If our bodies learn that they are rewarded for telling us what they need by GETTING WHAT THEY NEED they will become more communicative.
I have lots more I could say about this, but I’d like to practice some active listening with you right now. Do you have some thoughts about your experiences in learning to listen to your body? I’d love to hear them. Please share in the comments section below.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. Want to listen to me talk at YOUR group, classroom or organization? Click HERE to learn more about my speaking programs.
Like you, I am often guiding my clients to begin listening to their bodies. I love how you’ve made the process so clear here. Thanks for the post!
Thanks Tiana! Glad you liked it! oxoxo Jeanette
Hi Glenys, I’m so glad this resonates with you. Seriously it’s something that sounds so simple in principle, but can be very challenging in practice. Thanks for sharing with us. Sending love and good wishes. Jeanette
I love this too, I love the wisdom & I also love discovering yet another Terry Pratchett fan.
Thanks Patsy! (I like the witches the best…) oxoxoxo J
Well, that didn’t work. I was trying to attach a photo of a poem I just wrote inspired by your post. So here’s the photobucket link.
Awww Helena, I’m in tears. What a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL thing you’ve made. Thank you for sharing. oxoxoo Jeanette
Well, thank YOU! 🙂 I’m glad you like it.
Also, feel free to use it anytime.
Jeanette I LOVE THIS! This is at the core of Intuitive Eating, but even I have trouble sometimes shutting up sometimes and listening to and feeling what my body wants. I find I’ll get annoyed with my body for wanting to eat when I felt (IMO) that I had fed it enough earlier. I consider myself a pretty practiced intuitive eating but it’s a great reminder that eating like this *is* a skill that needs to be practiced from time to time (and which is still 100% easier than dieting ever was).