The idea of listening to our bodies, or what experts in the field call somatic intelligence, has been so conditioned out of us that even the mere mention of it has most professional, smart minded women place it in the category of “woo”. I get it. I too, have lived most of my life overriding my innate wisdom and letting my logic and reason lead.
But the somatic intelligence, what I call body soul wisdom, is always there, whether we choose to listen to it or not. It’s always giving us a nudge, whispering to us about what’s right and guiding us to the truth for ourselves. But because mental intelligence is prized above all in our culture, we’ve turned down the volume on listening to our body soul wisdom. It’s available to you at anytime, and when you tune into it, be it at work, with your kids, during exercise, sex or eating, you tap into your greatest power source.
For must of us, its not that we don’t notice the nudges, feel the intuition or hear the small still voice of our soul whispering “go for that” or “avoid that”, its just that we over-ride it.
And then we wonder why we feel so dis-satisfied with the choices we’ve made for our life, how we feel about our bodies, our relationships, our work, our sex life. The key is that most of us aren’t following what’s true for us in our heart, we’re following what our minds, i.e our conditioning, has told us is the right thing.
I’m not suggesting that women can’t think for themselves and that all thoughts we have are a product of our conditioning and enculturation. What I am suggesting is that solely relying on our minds’ reasoning and rationale is the product of our conditioning and enculturation.
For centuries, we’ve been taught to whittle down our appetites, our voices, our expression, our desire; in essence, to whittle down our basic life force energy. From corsets to waxing, hysteria to botox, chastity, dieting, and the dirtiness of our periods, women have been systemically told to turn away from embracing the wisdom of their body and soul, which is the root of our power, in exchange for earning points of social and cultural appropriateness.
But likely, if you’re here reading, you know that something is amiss in doing that. Trading our power, our expression and our satisfaction for the finite game of social approval isn’t returning the results of a deeply satisfying life that you’ve believed it would.
The good news is, turning the volume back up on the voice of your body soul wisdom is actually easier than you think and will guide you back to a life and career that is satisfying and leaves you feeling powerful, connected and joyful.
I had a teacher who shared how we’ve all been essentially been cut off from the neck down, but our bodies are always still there, speaking, listening, receiving and nudging us, even when we are ignoring them. Our work is merely to take all that mental energy and drop, even a portion of it, down into our body so that we can fully use all the power that is available to us as women- mind, body and spirit. This is how we’re built as human animals, as nature intended this human experience to work. You’re not meant to be a mental machine, but a fully integrated woman connected to all parts of your human experience.
To think of it another way, we listen more to our egos, to what we think should happen and how our lives should look (meaning the partners we choose, the parts of our personality we share, the way we choose our careers and how we advance in them) than we do listening to the wisdom of our body and soul, following what will *actually* light us up, have us feel fulfilled and create meaningful lives and work that we truly love.
Our body soul wisdom speaks to us in 6 main ways:
Physical Experience: Pain, Illness, Pleasure
Pain: The most obvious and most pronounced way our body soul wisdom speaks is through the signals of pain- be it a headache, menstrual cramps, or ongoing chronic pain, our body is signaling to us that something isn’t right, something needs our attention, care and nurturance. Our modern day healthcare system is built to treat pain as a problem to be numbed and pushed aside rather than as a signal to be heeded, which is one of the many reasons we are so disconnected from our body. Sometimes our pain is easy to figure out- headaches are often a result of stress, tension or dehydration. Other pain, like digestive upset, menstrual cramps and especially chronic pain, hold a deeper, more nuanced signal for us to give our attention to. If you’ve been someone who has taken pain killers, than you know that numbing out the pain is only good for so long. Body Soul Wisdom invites you to understand the root cause, rather than merely drown out the signaling symptoms.
Illness: From a simple head cold to a major sickness, being ill is a way that our body and soul is asking us to slow down. Sure, virus, bacteria or even malignancy are happening in the body, born of our physiology, but in all cases, our body needs to be tended to in ways that is what not receiving previously. Rather than blame yourself for the illness you’re experiencing, take this chance to do something different, listen deeper, care for yourself more, give yourself love, compassion and kindness during this time. Along with the physiological challenges you’re experiencing, there is always another layer of body and soul wisdom waiting to be known and heard through it all, too.
Pleasure: Oh, pleasure, you vexing creature. Pleasure gets a bad rap in our culture. Deeply tied into a woman’s appetite, the pleasure a woman’s body is inherently built to experience have been shamed out of us: think about what we’ve been taught about sexuality, food, emotions or simply just having fun. Women are taught to tamp down these essential elements and only experience them in the ways deemed appropriate by religion, culture and the resulting familial expectations from religion and culture. Needless to say, pleasure is one tough cookie for most of us to incorporate or listen to in our daily lives. Because of our cultural narrative around pleasure, it becomes our most challenging physical signal to heed; pleasure invites us out of the day to day hum-drum of our lives and into the sensual delights of being human. We override the need for pleasure by over giving, overworking and ignoring the fact that pleasure is what recharges and refuels us, it gives us a vibrancy and vitality for all the other parts of our lives to function well.
We think pleasure is extra, unnecessary or at best, an indulgence. I am no stranger to thinking this way about pleasure.
In fact, the first time I heard someone talk about the importance of pleasure, I couldn’t even compute what she meant. I didn’t know pleasure as something to be sought out, but rather, something that was an after effect, or a nice result that spontaneously came about- but to purposely go after pleasure? I rolled my eyes. That seemed a little far fetched, to me.
As a woman raised with hard working midwestern values, pleasure seemed superfluous to me. It took me many years of struggle and dissatisfaction to realize that one didn’t have to cancel out the other, that in fact I could ( and needed) to honor my need for pleasure, for actually seeking it out, as much as I did my ability to achieve and perform in my career well. That in fact, sustainable performance in my career was fueled by my willingness to fill up on pleasure, to let it recharge and refuel me. It didn’t make me lazy, selfish or self involved, it made me more fun to be around and more engaged in my work once I wasn’t trying to run on an empty battery.
Sensations: Energy, Senses, Intuition
Energy: We all know the feeling of walking into a room where it feels tense and congested, only to find out later that the people in the room had just had a big argument. Or maybe you’ve started to approach someone on the street and got an immediate hit that it wasn’t safe for you there, that you needed to cross the street. Whether we all it as such, that is our limbic system picking up on the energy of a situation. Energy often gets tossed aside as snake oil, or “woo” but that’s only because the tools needed to cultivate and honor the energetic side of our humanity have been lost in our production oriented, capitalistic culture. Energy, or your “felt sense” of something is one of the main ways our body soul wisdom speaks to us, but it is the easiest one for us to ignore and override, much easier to ignore than say pain. And yet, our energetic awareness provides all sorts of information if we are really to sense and feel what is happening. The challenge with energy is that it is fully in the present moment, you have to paying attention to the here and now to pick up on it. But so many of us are in our heads, in the future, or in the past, that we skate right past the energy of this moment.
Senses: We experience the world through our 5 senses ( or 6 senses if you’re willing to consider your energetic or felt sense) and our brain makes meaning out of those sensory experiences. We think our brain runs the show, but really, it is our body that is picking up the signals and information in the world around us. Second to our energetic senses, our ability to sense and feel has been tamped down in favor of the mind and the meaning it makes of our experience. We are challenged to slow down and savor food. We are in a rush to get to the finish line in sex, rushing through all the nuanced, sensation filled aspects that lead up to climax. We minimize the power of sensual experiences like good art, live music or the aroma of spices, oils and the rich pleasure of cooking and eating.
Intuition: Our energetic sense and our intuition can work hand in hand, but are not the same. Our intuition is something I would call a felt sense that is hard to name or describe but nonetheless gives you a very clear answer on what is or isn’t right for you. It’s that inner voice or “gut feeling” that we hear women report- that they had a gut feeling they shouldn’t let their child go to that party and sure enough, the cops busted that party for underage drinking. Or how your inner voice urged you to speak up in a meeting when your voice would be the only dissenting one, but you couldn’t NOT say what felt right to you.
Maybe it’s a nagging feeling that the relationship you’re in is over, or that it’s time look for a different job- maybe none of the outward evidence matches the feeling you’re having, but you simply can feel it in your bones- it’s time to move on. Our intuition is hardest to follow when it doesn’t make any sense with the outward reality and yet, when we look back, we always can pinpoint where our intuition was usually right.
Several years ago, I had just moved to a new state with my partner, we’d moved in together and were both planning on putting down roots and building our lives in this new place. As I was commuting to a consulting gig, there was a voice inside that got really loud “you’ve got to go. This is done, you can’t stay.” The voice made me so anxious, I had just moved, I wasn’t ready to break up, move out and upend my entire life again. And yet, week after week as I made this commute, that voice took the opportunity to tap me on the shoulder and urge me to go. So I did the brave thing and told my partner the voice I was hearing. Turns out, he was hearing a similar voice. Despite having no good outward reason- we weren’t fighting, our sex life was still good, we’d just moved and started a new chapter- the feeling of being together wasn’t right. It was scary, but ending it was the right thing to do. We wouldn’t have been happy together in the long run as it turns out- his path led him to a very different place than mine did. Holding on to that relationship would have only made traveling our own paths that much harder.
This is the thing with our inner voice or gut intuition- it often doesn’t align with reality, so we have a tendency to ignore it. But when we do follow it, our lives open up in ways that we could have never expected or predicted had we simply used our logical, rational minds to make decisions.
That’s the power of your body soul wisdom, it will lead you to places that your small, ego based personality mind couldn’t conceive of.
Listening to (and heeding) the voice of our body soul wisdom isn’t hard, its not really a new skill you have to learn at all- because it’s always there speaking to you, it’s just that most of us haven’t been listening. Or if we are listening, we choose to ignore it and follow our heads, instead of our heart, as they say.
But I promise, following your heart, or your body soul wisdom as the case may be, will pay dividends toward embodying the power, confidence and satisfying life you really want for yourself.
In Part 2 of this series, I’ll give you real life scenarios in which you can begin to start practicing making a connection with your body soul wisdom and the daily events that we all encounter.