Modern society has taught us to seek help filling our needs from the outside. With the click of a button, solutions are signed, sealed, and delivered to our doorstep. However, this modern outsourcing ignores our most abundant source of wisdom: ourselves. We have our own personal intuitive guidance system and search engine right within our own bodies. The problem is we’re not listening.
As a body-centered (embodiment) healer, one of the most impactful tools that I teach others, and have integrated into my daily life, is a technique originally taught by renowned philosopher and psychologist Dr. Eugene Glendlin in his bestselling book, Focusing.
In simple terms, focusing is a technique wherein we give our full mental attention and awareness to our body’s sensations, and within those physical sensations, we uncover nuggets of psychological gold about our own lives. We begin an intuitive body dialogue.
The Challenge of Listening
It sounds so simple, but how many of us actually quiet our minds long enough to give our own bodies a chance to speak?
[Read: “17 Affirmations for Focusing Your Attention.”]
For example, I used to have chronic sharp pain in my lower abdomen. One day I sat down in meditation and gave it my full awareness. I said, “Hello, I feel you, I hear you, what are you trying to tell me?”
I then spoke to my body like I was talking to a good friend, listening to its deep insight. My body came to the conclusion that I hadn’t given myself time to grieve the loss of my ovary, which had happened about a year and a half after an emergency surgery. It was a traumatic event, which apparently my body hadn’t fully processed.
On a mental level, I was unaware of this need to grieve, but my body was trying to tell me with this chronic sharp pain that I needed to. I came up with a technique to allow myself to fully heal on a mental and emotional level.
I would allow myself to sink into meditation, put my hands on my lower belly, and visualize my womb and ovaries fully intact. I’d visualize them lit up and glowing with a beautiful white light. After this moment, the sharp pains slowed down, and eventually stopped altogether.
Now, any time I feel discomfort in my body I try to take the time to pause and listen. This practice of listening to the body, and allowing it to answer, penetrates deep into the subconscious, taking you to parts of your psyche you may not have been aware of before. If I had taken the time to slow down and listen to my body in the first place, this practice might have even saved me from the traumatizing emergency surgery.
How to Start an Intuitive Body Dialogue
The best way to start listening to your body is through meditation and body awareness. Not a passive meditation where you simply clear your thoughts but a more active kind where you build a very animated and authentic relationship between you and your inner world.
[Read: “Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain.”]
To determine if you’re speaking to your mind or your body can be simple. Your mind is connected to your brain and your ego, which can often lead to more confusion and talking in circles. Your body is connected to your “intuitive organs,” the throat, heart, gut, and, if born in a biologically female body, your womb. These intuitive centers will always sound more straightforward and will speak with clarity, almost like a loving but firm parent speaking to a child.
Pulling from Glendlin’s focusing method, an intuitive body dialogue can help you develop a deeper understanding with your body and the chronic physical pain you may be experiencing. While not often fully understood by Western medicine, these techniques are growing in popularity and allow us to gain access to the psycho-somatic healing perspective that has been embraced in other cultures for millennia.
This is not to say that Western medicine should be discounted in treating pain or trauma. Rather, both avenues should be seen as complementary.
Intuitive Body Dialogue Instructions:
You can use this script as a guide for practice. I suggest writing down and specifying your intentions before you begin, and finding somewhere quiet and comfortable to give complete attention to the body. Sessions can last anywhere from ~10 - 30 minutes, depending on your level of comfort.
- Find a comfortable meditative posture and begin to breathe and relax your body. Start to mentally speak your intention into your body.
- Once you feel relaxed, bring all of your awareness to the intuitive centers within: your throat, chest/heart, upper belly, and lower belly or womb space. (If a sensation arises in another area, follow it; shoulders are common as well.)
- Now, it becomes like a treasure hunt of discovery. Scan your intuitive centers until a sensation arises. Try not to pay attention to the emotional quality first, but rather focus on the physical sensation. Take your time here; there is no rush.
- When you do land on a sensation, say hello to it, thank it, and let it know that it is safe. It’s important to speak to the sensation as you would a friend with its own complete consciousness. This is an important step.
- Start to describe the sensation as best you can, and remember that human language is limited compared to the expansiveness of feelings and physical sensations, so it does not have to make sense. Your sensation can feel heavy, sticky, sharp, tense, mushy, dark, suffocating, shallow, and so on.
- Once you feel like you’ve properly described the physical sensation, move onto the feelings or emotional quality that it may have. Is there a sad element to it? Is it scared of something? Does it feel angry? Allow yourself to really explore this step.
- Finally, and possibly most importantly, ask questions. Be inquisitive, be kind, and talk to this sensation as you would with a friend. Why is it always there? Why is it feeling heavy? Why is it feeling anxious? How does it feel from its own point of view? Does it have anything it wants you to know? Does it have any advice for you?
- When it feels natural to close the practice, simply thank the sensation for showing up, letting it know it’s been heard and that you will be back.
The emotional element of pain is often completely glossed over, putting mental and emotional health in one category, separate from the physical. This can sometimes create a blind spot in Western medicine. This practice can help you understand what's going on in your body from a more holistic point of view, giving you the emotional and mental support that’s often neglected on your journey through chronic pain.
For more on managing chronic pain, visit our collection page.