When Your Mind Gets Dizzy, Remember: Your Body is Wise
Last weekend, I was talking with my soon-to-be mother-in-law about dancing growing up... and I started remembering how deeply I loved it.
Ballet was arguably my first love. Granted, as a four-year-old, most of the appeal was in the tutus and the pretty shoes, and getting to skip around the room. (I was known to badger my poor, sweet French ballet teacher Miss Selena no less than 12 times per class about when we were gonna get to the skipping part. I was nothing if not persistent.)
As I got older and watched most of my friends outgrow ballet class, trading in those leather slippers for soccer cleats or tennis rackets – I stuck with it. I’d found my thing.
For the next fifteen-ish years, ballet and dance would go on to consume a good chunk of my life. There were my weekly classes at the studio, dance team practices, weekend rehearsals, auditions, competitions, pre-professional summer intensive programs, performances, workshops… and I loved it all.
If you’d asked me back then what I loved about it so much, I probably would’ve had trouble finding the words. Sure, there were things I knew I enjoyed: I loved performing, and the artistic expression. There was also something my type-A brain loved about being a student and a technician. I loved getting to hone my craft, and perfect a skill.
But there was something else there, that was hard to put into words.
Now that it’s been a few years since dance has been at the center of my life, I have the benefit of hindsight and separation to help me see things more clearly.
Beyond the obvious perks – having something active to do after school, opportunities to perform, and exposure to the arts – ballet gave me this huge gift when I was growing up, that I would then go on to really miss for most of my post-college 20s. And man, did I feel that void.
Whether I knew it or not, ballet became the tool I used to find and foster mind-body connection.
Especially as I got older and more focused on mastery, I loved how it felt to be fully in the zone. The way it demanded this intense mental focus, and challenged me to be incredibly aware of what every muscle in my body was supposed to be doing. With more practice, the more I understood how it all worked together to create something full and beautiful.
Because I had this regular physical practice, I felt connected to and deeply in sync with my whole self – mind, body, and soul – even if I didn’t fully recognize it at the time.
When we talk about being self-aware or in-tune with ourselves, I think we tend to think of it mostly as a mental and emotional thing.
Personally, I’ve always felt like a pretty self-aware person – and most of that work feels like it happens in my mind. Sorting out our feelings, dissecting them, making decisions, finding our boundaries, trying to decide what feels ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in a relationship or at a job … it’s all very cerebral.
Meanwhile, the messages we hear about taking care of our bodies are usually more tied to ‘being healthy’, ‘getting in shape,’ or even ‘losing weight’.
We like to keep those two parts of our lives compartmentalized. We rarely look for (let alone, leverage) the connection between our intuition and our physical bodies.
So when I was listening to Danielle LaPorte talking on a podcast recently about how to make decisions, and she posed the question, “How does it feel in your body?” – I could feel my eyes get wide.
Immediately I knew that question would have set off alarms in me if I’d heard it during a specific tough chapter of my life when I felt especially confused about what I really wanted. It was a time when I’d really lost my grip on what I believed in, and what was right for me. I was having a hard time knowing if I was on the ‘wrong’ path or if I just needed time to settle in before things would just get better.
It was incredibly stressful - and frantically digging around in every corner of my mind trying to find those answers was mentally and emotionally exhausting.
Meanwhile, at the time, I had nothing in my life that kept me plugged into my physical self. I wasn’t dancing, I hadn’t found another form of physical activity that really stuck, and I wasn’t really interested in having a relationship with my body. I was so consumed with what was going on mentally and emotionally in my life, my physical self was on the (figurative) back burner.
So when I heard Danielle raise that question, I nodded vigorously in a room by myself. Because I knew If I’d been more in touch with how things felt in my body at that time, the fog would have started to lift much earlier.
We like to task our minds with finding the answers - but your body is wise. And if you pay attention, it’s almost always a clear interpreter for what your intuition is trying to tell you.
Finding a way to regularly tune into our physical selves is a crucial part of the bigger-picture, when it comes to things like self-care, self-understanding, and self-trust. The better you know your body, the better you’ll get at noticing how things show up in your body – things like stress, apprehension, joy, fear, and ease.
And from there, the more confidence you’ll start to build around your decision-making.
So, how can you get more in touch with your physical body today?
The world we live in has made us real good at noticing how our body looks – but how can you focus instead on noticing how it feels, and how to interpret that information? And better yet, what are some small ways you can develop that relationship with your physical self regularly, not just when you’re in crisis mode?
A few ideas to get you started, that you can literally try today:
Go on a long-ish walk alone through your neighborhood.
Find a workout video on YouTube to try – maybe one you’ve never tried before, that might surprise you. (I like Jessica Smith, and she offers a ton of variety!)
If you’d rather ease in, try some gentle yoga.
Focus on filling your body with vibrant, fresh food the next time you make yourself a meal. Notice how it feels.
Devote some time to slow, gentle stretching – maybe that’s when you wake up, or when you need a break from your desk, or even before bed.
Next time you’re falling asleep, try this: start at your toes. Bring your awareness there, and focus on just relaxing them. Then move up to the arches of your feet, and do the same. Then your ankles, then your calves… etc. Not only can this help you bring some simple awareness into your body, but if you’re like me, you’ll be asleep before you make it to your kneecaps!
Above all, see what works for you, and don’t be afraid to try a few different things – or even branch out to some other ideas that didn’t make it onto this list. And bear in mind that different techniques might be more effective on different days.
The point? Carving out some space in your life on purpose to check in with, nurture, and tune into your body is a surprisingly powerful tool for cultivating your intuition and finding more clarity when it’s time to make decisions. Not only that, but it’s a critical piece of the bigger picture when it comes to feeling fully in-sync with yourself.