What is Whole Body Learning?
|I've lived most
of my life from my neck up. It felt safer to escape into my head with
my thoughts and ideals of how things "should be", rather than to face
and accept the reality of the current situation. I grew up thinking that
my body had to be controlled and disciplined so that it didn't interfere
with my spiritual path.
Fortunately, I've been learning some new tools from Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, authors of books such as: 10 Second Miracles and Conscious Relationships, for developing a "whole body learning" approach to living. I'm making friends with my body again and discovering a spirituality which integrates my body, emotions, mind and spirit.
The first part of my new spiritual journey included making a commitment to start listening to my body and to stop ignoring or judging what I felt. I began paying attention to my physical sensations and where they were located in my body. Next, I discovered which body sensations were connected to my core emotions of anger, sadness/longing, fear, joy and sexuality.
For example, I often experienced a tightness in my neck and shoulders as the way my body expressed anger. I was surprised when I realized that prior to feeling the tightness in my neck and shoulders, I also felt a fluttery sensation in my belly-which is how my body expressed fear. It had become easier for me to access my anger (after many years of therapy to even recognize and accept that I was angry) but more difficult to feel the fear beneath the anger. By paying more attention to my physical sensations I learned how to consult my body for a more accurate foundation of how I was feeling.
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Working With Emotional Intelligence, described "emotional literacy" as being able to recognize one's emotions and their effects and being able to manage one's internal states, impulses and resources. As much as I appreciated his listings of personal and social competencies, I found it difficult to know how to develop these skills. I needed some new tools.
One of the new tools I've learned through the Hendricks Institute is called, "Quantum Coaching". It differs from other styles of personal coaching because it integrates breathing and body movements into the coaching process. Frankly, I was surprised at how fast and how easily I could move from feeling stuck, to welling up with tears as I named a core issue, to feeling a release and a sense of flow and inner calm as I was being coached. And the process often took only 30-45 minutes, complete with a practical action-step plan.
An additional tool was learning how to breathe more fully from my belly. At first, I thought that this was truly a waste of my expensive training time. I mean, really, how difficult is it to breathe? However, I soon learned some new breathing techniques and body movements to re-center me when I'm stressed. By focusing on breathing slowly from my belly, I created a space to re-connect with my physical sensations, core feelings and thoughts. It helped me to slow down, clarify what I really wanted and to accept what "is". I've noticed that the more I can accept without judgment what "is", the easier it is for me to shift and move through the experience to regain a state of ease.
Now, whenever I feel stuck, or upset, I have a choice. I can choose to rant and rave about the situation (and sometimes I do choose this because it's an old, yet familiar pattern). Or, I can trust that I'm only a few breaths away from choosing to embrace life's lessons and to reclaim a sense of ease and well-being in my life. I am thankful to be making friends with my body again and discovering how it can be an ally, not a hindrance, in my spiritual journey.