Jon has a client, Marilyn, who never seems to be quite satisfied with her bodywork sessions, even though he is highly successful with other clients in his practice.
When he works on her, Jon feels himself tensing up.
His head often starts to hurt when he works on this client, seemingly for no reason. One day, upon reflection, he realizes Marilyn reminds him of his mom, whose constant anxiety was a never-ending issue when he was growing up.
Jon spent his childhood trying to fix her, to please her, to no avail. The helplessness he felt as a child comes back to haunt him when he treats Marilyn, causing him to feel less present and foggy.
Elizabeth holds the feet of Deborah, her first client of the day, and listens as she shares about the back pain she has lived with for the last month. Elizabeth begins to worry her skill set is not enough to help her client, and she feels herself shrinking and tightening up inside, before her day has even begun.
Valerie has a full practice, yet she constantly feels anxious about the future. She will often overbook her days for fear of some disaster happening tomorrow.
She is so wrapped up in her fear that initially she does not notice how bone-tired she is becoming. She often feels as though she is on a treadmill that won’t stop.
All of these therapists are competent, well-trained professionals. However, they are all on the road to burnout if they don’t start to utilize the tools their bodies naturally offer them.
Yet, it is rare that our basic education teaches us body wisdom tools and skill sets. These fundamentals for success are not difficult to learn, but they do require regular practice in order for them to be available when needed.
There are three basic guidelines for connecting to your body’s wisdom:
- Become aware of your own body sensations as you work. This includes your breath, any areas of excess tension, and any areas of little or no sensation.
- Bring more sensation awareness to the specific wisdom areas that can guide your consciousness beyond the worrying in your head.
- Learn to fill these areas with nurturing sensation, so your energy reservoir stays as full as it can, giving you access to the quiet, deep wisdom that successful, practiced therapists use all the time to work smarter, not harder, when they meet challenges in their lives.
Find a place right now where you can sit quietly for a few minutes, and let’s explore these three points in more depth.
Body sensations can be an asset to creating more presence, such as the sensation of a calming breath.
They can also be an energy drain and cause less presence, such as what happens when we get caught up in feelings of gut-tightening anxiety or worry. The first step is noticing what body sensations are dominating your awareness.
To change energy-draining habits into energy-building assets, the first step is to simply become aware of them, with as little judgment as possible, so you can make a new choice.
Are any of the following on your awareness list: warmth in your belly; tightness in your solar plexus; pain, stiffness or fluidity in your joints or muscles; a sense of steadiness in your feet; lightness or heaviness in your chest; fogginess or clear headedness?
You may be operating from one or more of these sensations on a daily basis and not even be conscious of it.
You may actually be surprised to notice how certain sensations affect your overall energy level as you work.
Next, let’s take a quick tour of the energy-building areas of our bodies and why we may want to start living from them more regularly. Remember that our body systems are meant to work as a team, so while this tour will name certain strengths characteristic of each area, they are not meant to work alone.
Heart: Most of us recognize that this area is about love, gratitude, compassion and deep inspiration. When we feel the open-hearted, warm sensations in our chest, this generates energy. There are many levels of open-heartedness and inspiration to explore throughout your life.
Gut: Recent research has shown the enteric brain to be a vital part of our navigational system, giving us clear signals beyond what our brains know, about the rightness or wrongness of actions we are taking in our lives. Most people override what their guts tell them, usually to their detriment.
Bones: These deepest recesses of who we are give us a feeling of steadiness and clarity. They are our most dense tissues and they house and produce immune cells under the right conditions. When I have a lot of emotion swirling through me, I like to drop into my bones to let the mud settle and allow clear, wise thoughts and decisions to emerge.
Feet and legs: In one word, these amazing areas of our bodies help us digest our world. When you are troubled about something, get your legs and feet moving. Take a walk or a run and watch how you return with your issue solved, even if you did not think about it as you moved.
Brain: This is the great synthesizer of it all. The latest research tells us how particular areas of the brain receive information from the rest of the body and put it all together for good decision making.
Take a moment now and drop inside yourself to explore what happens experientially when these areas are full and stimulated.
Find a comfortable, safe space. While resting both feet on the floor, with your back supported comfortably, close your eyes and allow your breath to slow and deepen gently.
When you are ready, allow your awareness to rest in the area of your heart. You may want to place a hand lightly on your heart.
As you breathe in nourishing air, ask your heart what sensation would nurture it mostly deeply and simply notice what shows up in your chest thereafter: perhaps a feeling of warmth or coolness; a sense of spreading or softening; or a visual sense of a particular color or texture.
Allow your heart to receive this nourishment at a pace that works for you, and note changes as it fills up.
Next, allow your awareness to drop down into your gut. Again, you can place a hand there to augment your awareness if you like.
Then ask your gut what sensation would nurture it most: what temperature, texture, color, smell or taste.
Allow yourself to notice what flows in there as you breathe, or through your hand or from the ground underneath you. Again, notice the sensation of nourishment in this area and changes that occur as it fills up.
Moving on, allow your awareness to drop deep into the recesses of your bone marrow, into the core of who you are physically. Again, breathing effortlessly, allow nurturing sensations to soak deep into the airspaces of the bone marrow, like a dry sponge placed in clean water.
Notice any changes as the reservoir of your bones fills. Notice how this process is different from or similar to the filling that happened in your heart and gut.
When you are ready, allow your awareness to drop down into your legs and feet. Feel your feet resting on the floor. Feel your legs connected to them.
Ask what sensation would nurture this part of you, and notice what shows up when you allow the rich energy field of the earth beneath you to feed your feet and legs. What temperature, texture, color or movement are you experiencing?
Allow your legs and feet to receive this nourishing sensation at a pace that works for you, noticing how your sense of yourself changes as your feet and legs fill.
Next, allow your awareness to travel from your legs and feet, including the bones, up to connect with your gut, pelvis and lower spine.
From there, allow this flow of nurturing energy to connect to your upper back, chest and heart, arms and hands. Once all areas feel connected and full, allow this sense of nourishment to easily flow into your neck and head, connecting all the body’s signals and wisdom to your brain.
Connect & Communicate
We know our systems work best when everything is connected and communicating with everything else. The navigational system of the body runs optimally when every cell has access to the rest of the system to give and receive what it needs to be nourished, to heal and grow.
Now that your system is all connected as best as you can right now, what signals, deep inner whispers and communication are going on that can better inform you?
Take some time to journal anything that comes to your conscious awareness out of this inner journey.
Treat your system right, and this inner resource will be available to you when you remember to tune in and utilize it.
About the Author
Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, CMT, CST-Dis the author of Reclaiming Your Body, Remembering Your Body’s Wisdom and Full Body Presence. Her Healing from the Core curriculum combined with CranioSacral therapy and other bodywork modalities creates a complete, body-centered guide to awareness, healing, and joy. She teaches around the world and lives in Reston, Virginia. This article is an excerpt from book, Remembering Your Body’s Wisdom.