Do you know how to let your body lead?

If you’re like most of us the relationship you have with your body is one of domination and control. You likely learned early on that you could override most body signals. You could put off eating, drinking water, moving your bowels, sleeping, exercising, resting, and expressing emotion. You could also override your body’s stop signals and eat, drink, party, watch too much TV or play too many video games. Of course at some point your body says: “Enough” and you may end up with physical or mental illness or worse. In Japan executives so regularly die from overwork that cause of mortality has it’s own name – “Karoshi”.

If you see yourself in any of the above descriptions, no blame! Dominating bodies is a worldwide problem. We have not been educated about the importance of listening to and cooperating with our bodies. And we’ve certainly not been taught how to let our bodies lead.

Affective neuroscience is now the focusing on the centrality of the living body and its emotional responses as a foundation for the neurobiological core self. Overriding body and emotional responses leads to a separation from the very core of our being.

But what’s a body to do? Dump anger at boss, spouse, child because you feel the anger rising? Dissolve into dysfunctional grief at the loss of love? Avoid a challenging new job, relocation because you can feel fear rising? Obviously the answer is not to trade one dominator (your mind) for another (your body.)

The solution is to create a new paradigm for body mind cooperation based in a particular kind of mindfulness. That is awareness that is at once fully Immanent (present in body experience) and Transcendent (distinct but not separate from body experience). Let’s call this I/T awareness for short.*

Learning to focus your attention on the blood, sweat and tears of your human experience while simultaneously staying connected to your ‘distinct’ awareness, puts you in position to make strategic choices for well being. You note your clenched teeth as the boss tells you to stay late, & make a plan to take Emotional Medicine later when you can do so safely and responsibly. With I/T awareness, you notice when you cry that your body is done in three minutes or less. And if you heed your body’s signals and stop when it is done, you feel confident and ready to take whatever action is required to restore well being.

Learning to let your body lead is a mindfulness practice. As such it brings benefits: increased grey matter and connections between brain cells, increased sense of calm and mastery. Like any mindfulness practice even a few moments of I/T awareness is infinitely greater than none. More importantly, letting your body lead enables you to embrace and cooperate with your core self as a vital, purposeful, integrated being connected to the body of the world.

*I am indebted to John Firman for his writing and clarity about the I/T Self.

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