St. Augustine beach, 2014

Sometimes your body can seem like an enigma. What does it need? What does it want? You might have a difficult time deciphering the scores of sensations.

In yesterday’s post, psychotherapist Ashley Eder, LPC, shared several valuable ways we can learn to decode our body’s cues. Today, she shares two more ideas on figuring out what our bodies are trying to tell us.

Learn more about Ashley Eder at her website

Let it move

Oftentimes body sensations lead to an impulse toward movement. The dull stomach ache [mentioned in part one] might come with a desire to curl forward and grab your knees, almost as if protecting your stomach. Follow your instincts!

When you track your impulse to move and go along with it, you allow incomplete experiences to move toward completion. Sometimes your body will want to move in big ways: twirling, running, punching. Other times the movements will be small, almost imperceptible.

Follow the movement, paying close attention as it may want to change over time. Stay with the movement or posture until you notice you feel satisfied or done.

Movement comes up sometimes as an impulse to eat when you are not hungry. What is it about the impulse that feels particularly compelling? Can you find the place in your body that seeks that relief?

For some, it is the repetition of moving their arm and hand toward the face, almost as if to rub it for soothing. For others, the impulse is for the body to feel full and incapacitated, a way to lie down or skip an event without feeling bad about it.

Becoming aware of the underlying desire doesn’t mean that you have to stop using food to meet your bodies needs. It just means that you have the opportunity to do it with more awareness, which sometimes will include the habitual behaviors, and sometimes may look like meeting the impulse in a more direct way.

Verbalize it

Strongly verbal people may find that their bodies want to speak directly to them. Let the sensation have a personality and try interviewing it. Check in with a sensation by asking it, as if in a conversation, “what do you need me to know today?” or “how can I help?” or even “what are you here to remind me of?”

Let your unconscious answer, and be open to whatever arises. The answer won’t always make sense, and that’s okay. Maybe you’ve noticed that your shoulders feel tense, like they’re pinching together and upward at the same time.

In a moment of quiet connection with your body, after taking time to mindfully explore the sensation, ask your shoulders what they need from you.

Start by getting a sense of your shoulders as an important part of you. See if you can enlarge your sense of them, so that the rest of your body fades into the background and your shoulders come to the forefront.

Asking, “what do you need today?” and listening for the answer, however it shows up, sense the word “space.” Take it. See how you can apply the word “space” to your life in this moment. You might not have an immediate idea, and may need to meditate on this word for a day or two.

Where could you take more space physically or in relationships? If you imagine making that space, how does the sensation in your shoulders respond?

Our bodies carry information about what we want and need that isn’t readily available in our regular state of consciousness or analytic thinking. Being open to learning from your body requires a willingness to engage with it mindfully and experientially, and forego the need for certainty. It only becomes comfortable and automatic with practice, patience, and an open mind.

Thanks so much to Ashley for sharing her wise words!