Why, in the Body

Our heads sit atop these magnificent bodies. And we think that we do all our thinking high up in the cranium. But what I’m tuning into more and more (and what neuroscience is discovering and what my partner Philip Shepherd is teaching and writing about) is the degree to which knowledge and awareness suffuse our body-being. When we try to cut off from the body and ‘think’ our way through something, relying solely on the cranial brain, it feels like a merry-go-round of swirling thoughts that never reach clarity. But if we can open our awareness to the sensitivities of the body (and the world, through our body), answers often arrive easily and clearly.

An example. I have been trying to get back into running. I used to love running and have done very little of it in the last few years. It has been a struggle to get back at it. The other day I was out for a gentle jog and on the way home, the chatter in my brain was saying “Hey, it’s hot, why don’t you stop now?” “Ow, that hamstring feels tight.” and “Haven’t you gone far enough?” I noticed these thoughts squarely in my head. And then I felt a simple question slide in, “What’s the why? Why are you jogging today?” To my surprise, the question was immediately answered by a little surge of energy in my legs and buttocks reminding me of a yearning to feel strong and flexible again. And that awakening kept me going a bit further. Eventually I did stop and walk the last bit, but it felt like the right time for my body, rather than a decision solely from the cranial brain.

I also now realize that while I can torment myself with some relatively small decisions, other huge decisions have been made in my life without any tossing and turning. Reflecting back on those significant decisions (like, should I drop out of university and move in with a guy living in a shack on an island half-way across the country?), I believe I just knew what to do and that that knowing came from my body and not from my head. If I had tried to make the decisions from the head I would surely have gotten lost in a maze of possibilities rather than finding the clarity needed to guide me home. (Been married to that guy for over 25 years, the shack got rebuilt, and while I never finished that BA I did get an MA a few years ago.)

Sadie and me

Another example. Ten years ago I foolishly took my girls to a kennel to visit the mother of our 3 year old dog. There were loads of new puppies around and I had made the girls promise that they wouldn’t ask for a puppy. We played with the puppies and it was all fine and unemotional. Until we picked up Sadie. She weighed only one pound while the others weighed four and she touched my heartstrings. No, she fused with my heartstrings.  But logically it made no sense to get another dog. For two agonizing and weeks I tossed and turned and went round and round, asking everyone for their opinion. Finally I said no to the breeder. It just wasn’t the right time, I told her. In the days after that call I experienced a sense of loss that racked my being. It came from completely ignoring the bond I felt with her in my body. After a few days of this agony I called the breeder back to see if she still had that little puppy and she said “Oh yes, I knew you’d call back so I saved her for you.” She knew, it just took me a while longer to figure that out.

What happens for you? When do you find clarity in the body that you caouldn’t find in the head? How about you stop reading this right now, and simply sit still for a few moments. What do you notice? What sensations that you might not have been aware of are informing you right now?

Can you think of a time when you’ve experienced knowing, real knowing, in your body? What was going on? What was the thing you knew? How did it feel? Where did you notice that knowing? How can recognizing the body’s energy and intelligence guide you in a decision you’ve got to make today? Feel free to share your comments below or send me a message! I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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