By Robin Arnett - September 2, 2021
When it comes to mindfulness, it’s easy to think that it’s all in your mind. Makes sense given the name, right? But the fact is, your thoughts are only a small part of the mindfulness picture. Awareness of what’s going on in your body provides powerful information, and is an important skill to cultivate for better mental health. Think of this as “bodyfulness.”
Bodyfulness means connecting with physical sensation and tapping into that sensation as a trusted messenger. Our bodies are conduits for our emotions, and are deeply connected with our intuition. This intuition is our most powerful tool when it comes to making decisions and living our lives in ways that feel both safe and authentic to us. Our intuition sends us messages through physical sensation about what is safe, what feels good, what feels off, and what we want to do.
In the Western World, we live in a culture that prizes the cognitive intellect above intuitive intelligence. Because of this, we have been systematically taught to ignore or quiet our intuition in favor of “logic.” But when it comes to making personal decisions, we often favor another person’s version of logic while ignoring our own gut instincts. What’s right for one person may be completely different than for another depending on their preferences, temperament, history, and goals. What we think and feel matters, particularly when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Decisions that we make because they are right on paper but wrong in our bodies will not be sustainable.
In Glennon Doyle’s essential book, Untamed, she talks about using her body to tap into her “knowing,” and using this knowing to make decisions in every aspect of her life. She describes considering various options and checking it to see what feels warm to her, what feels neutral, and what feels cold or icky. Even when making decisions about her business, Glennon’s team is asked to check in with their bodies to see what feels right. What may seem like a radical or illogical approach has resulted in a powerful global movement that continues to grow.
Many people struggle with body awareness. People who have experienced trauma, especially trauma involving the body, may have had to create separation from their bodies in order to get through the day without being triggered. The best approach for anyone who struggles with body awareness is to start small. Babette Rothschild talks about this concept in her compassionate and practical book, 8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery. She suggests starting with small decisions like what to wear in the morning or what to eat for a snack. This practice may even help you realize that you’ve been checking in with your body all along without realizing that’s what you were doing.As an experiement, try checking in with your body next time you have a decision to make. This could be how to respond to a text, what to do after work, or what you would like to read next. Something simple. After making a decision like this, pay attention to how it plays out. You may be surprised to learn that your body makes good decisions for you that play out well and have beneficial results. If you are pleased with the results, allow this to become a practice. This approach will help you to be rooted in the knowledge that you are making the right decisions for you, and that you assert your right to do so. You are wiser, deeper, and more intelligent than you know.