What does your body say?

Slow down and listen.

What’s the difference between sensations and feelings/emotions in our bodies?

Sensations are physical feelings: a cramp, muscle soreness, tingling, an itch, a stiff neck, hunger, thirst, a bruise, or anything that could be called “painful” is a sensation in the body. Sensations in the body travel to our brain and we recognize them as physical sensations, like pain, discomfort, cold, hot, etc.

Feelings and emotions (I use these interchangeably) are vibrations in the body that are caused by our thoughts. For example, happy, sad, anxious, excited, overwhelmed, worried, scared. Our brains create these vibrations by thinking thoughts.

The way these both work together sometimes goes like this:

We feel a sensation in our body that is “a little painful” and a thought might be, “That feels weird” and then the feeling/emotion it creates could be anxious, worried, or scared. And because we don’t want to feel that way, we might dismiss the emotion along with the sensation. We return to whatever we’re doing or working on, and if we feel the sensation again, we continue to dismiss it as something we’re too busy to be concerned about.

Eventually, our body is like, “Hey, I was trying to get your attention earlier, but you didn’t listen. Now I’m going to shout at you so you really hear me and pay attention.” This is when the pain or sensation gets very intense to the point where we can’t ignore it and may even need a trip to the emergency department to handle it. 

What often is more likely for most of us is that we’re so unaccustomed to listening to our bodies that we don’t hear the smaller signals at all. Until they’re big signals. 

Before it gets to that point–and sometimes it may be unavoidable because our bodies remain mostly miraculous mysteries, even to most doctors–we can learn to listen to and attend to our bodies. But first, we have to be willing to attend and feel and listen.

I’ll offer what I do and it may feel strange or “woo-woo” at first, so feel free to adjust to what feels comfortable for you, if you’d like to start connecting with your body more:

When I feel a sensation that I label as uncomfortable or even painful in my body, I check-in with it. I’ll put my attention on the area, breathe, and silently inquire,”Hi my dear, I feel that and I hear you. What message do you have for me?” And just be with that area of my body for a bit. 

Maybe the pain or discomfort will subside or maybe it will remain. I just attend to that area for a few moments and see what there is to see. And then later at night before I go to sleep, I’ll spend more time with it, if needed. I’m also open to calling my doctor, acupuncturist, or massage therapist, depending on what I think I need. 

This is not to say that we need to be overly worried about every sensation in our body. But we can be open to attending to and connecting with our bodies more. To listen with care. 

When we feel pain or discomfort in our body, we usually turn away from it, dismiss it, ignore it, disregard it. Or we “put it off” until we have time to “deal” with it. 

Our bodies are our allies and companions. We wouldn’t be able to do almost all of what we do in our lives without our bodies. They are our partners and deserve our care and attention, just like we’d give to a companion or partner we love.

When we can start to attend to our bodily sensations even more, we’ll strengthen our connection with our body and be able to “hear” its messages to us. Not only will we feel more connected, but we may also decide that taking actions to feel healthy and good in our bodies are priorities in our lives. And engaging in those actions become joyful habits instead of dreaded chores. 

We’ll have our ever-changing bodies for as long as we’re alive. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a loving, respectful relationship with it?

Your turn: Are you open to “hearing” what your body has to say to you? What might happen if you started seeing your body as a companion, partner, friend, ally in this glorious life you’ve been given? What is one thing you can do today to slow down and connect with your body? Maybe even give it some love and attention by acknowledging all that it has done and does for you?

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What’s on your mind? It can be powerful to learn from each other and our common struggles when it comes to our practice of self-care–or just being a human being. If you have something you’re struggling with and would like some perspective, share it here. Your issue may be chosen and addressed in the next post–it’ll be totally anonymous.

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