Listening to my Body

by Carmel Reid, Somerset UK

My body has been speaking to me all my life. Sometimes I’ve listened, and when I haven’t it has had to shout louder. Occasionally, when I’ve ignored it completely, it’s brought me to a complete stop so I had no choice but to listen.

I recently did an exercise writing an A to Z of all the things I’ve had go wrong in my body and I was amazed to see just how much my body has been speaking with me all my life.  

I really have been rough with it, from roller skating as a child and forever bashing my knees, to smoking as a teenager and causing a possible stroke risk in my later years. I am forever getting bruises as I move quickly and bump into things, and cuts on my hands or broken nails from doing hard work without gloves.

Some things are obvious, and some things are more subtle. Some results are immediate and some take a little longer to manifest.

Putting on weight, for example, developing arthritis, a hyperactive thyroid and a serious heart condition took twenty years before I paid it any attention.

As I’ve started to listen to my body, I’ve learned to treat it more gently, making better choices about what to eat and how to be, and many of the symptoms have disappeared.

The weight has reduced considerably, the arthritis is less painful, the thyroid is back to normal, and my heart is beating strongly, but is still out of rhythm. Thanks to medical advice from my GP and the local cardiologist, I am on medication to reduce the risk of a clot that could lead to a stroke. I’ve seen how badly a stroke can affect people and I’d rather not have one, so this time I am truly listening; my body doesn’t have to shout at me any more.

I’ve come to appreciate that my body naturally knows how to be in harmony with itself, and that it’s truly the best source of information I have. I realise that all these symptoms are my body reflecting back to me how I am living, how all the daily choices I make about how to be, what to eat, when to rest etc., are truly affecting me.

I’m no longer propping myself up with caffeine, sugar and alcohol, and now I can feel how exhausted I am most of the time.

I eat well, I exercise, my work is pretty simple, so what’s going on?

It’s very subtle, but what’s tiring me is how I am choosing to be with other people in my day. I have been putting a lot of energy into looking for acknowledgement from them, trying to please, to get things ‘right’. I have been getting involved in their emotional issues rather than dealing with my own. When a child cries, or when an adult is hurt by something someone else has said, instead of staying detached and observing what’s going on, I have wanted to make it all better. As a child, I wanted to help my parents resolve their arguments, and there has been a part of me that always wanted to ‘fix the world’.

All the while I’ve been ignoring the me that is me.

Maybe if I listen more to my own heart, learn to trust how I am feeling, instead of looking outside all the time, my heart can begin to beat with a more regular rhythm… my own true rhythm?

It’s lovely – the more gentle I am with and in my body, the more present I am with ME first, the lovelier it feels and the more I can feel what my body is telling me.

Now it doesn’t have to shout so loud, the merest whisper will do.

I’m listening.

871 thoughts on “Listening to my Body

  1. I know this feeling of wanting to find a way to stop the arguments within the family or with friends and wanting to ‘fix’ the world. It comes from a deep sense that we should not be bickering or abusive towards each other but working together to dismantle the illusion that we have built as our reality when it is not real at all.

  2. It actually does pay to ignore the mind and it’s wants/needs/fantasies because often trying to abide by them is at the detriment of the body. That voice in your head that says “Say yes because you want to be nice and help out” will be drowned out when your exhausted, face down on the sofa because the body didn’t want to do what you said yes to in the name of “being nice/helpful” etc.

  3. I have to wonder how much the consciousness of education interferes with our connection to our body. One of the things that came to me reading was about the “right and wrong” consciousness, and how we tie our sense of value and worth to getting things “right”, so this may interfere with our ability to humbly acknowledge our body and the changes it is showing us that need to be made. We may even have pride and not want to listen to our bodies because we believe that being either right or wrong defines us. But truly, the body is just showing us the way back to harmony with ourselves and to being self loving and self caring.

  4. It’s amazing how much effort we put into not listening to our body, and make it look so easy and natural. We live in it, we are with it 24/7, yet we manage to live so disconnected from it as if that is the most normal thing to do.

  5. “All the while I’ve been ignoring the me that is me.” I can relate, that’s exactly what I have realised I do by focusing on other people.

  6. The distraction of fixing others and disregarding ourselves is so deeply engrained for many and it has taken me many years to gradually let go of this pattern and pay more loving attention to my own body.

  7. ‘The weight has reduced considerably, the arthritis is less painful, the thyroid is back to normal, and my heart is beating strongly, but is still out of rhythm.’ It just goes to show with love and care for ourselves and starting to listen to our bodies instead of overriding them as well as medical support we can completely turn our health round to one of true wellbeing. Not rocket science, not costing a lot of money, no research needed. It is that simple.

  8. Great article Carmel, and adding to what you have shared that as we regularly do things they become part of our rhythm and so when we exercise with a gentle relaxed rhythm bringing a focus to our breath and how we are using the program to strengthen our whole body then our heart will follow us into a deepening rhythmical way that will support us during the day.

  9. Wouldn’t it be awesome if mainstream medicine recognised that our bodies send us constant messages and pointed this out to patients. Perhaps we could all evolve beyond the current it just happened to me syndrome.

  10. Carmel your honest blog is very inspiring. “I’ve come to appreciate that my body naturally knows how to be in harmony with itself, and that it’s truly the best source of information I have.” I only can agree and I am wondering how most of us can stopp to listen to the body? Answer – our will can do it – it can override what the body is trying to tell . . .

  11. Yesterday I was asked how honest I am with my body, how much I in fact listen, and I realised that while my body listening skills have improved there’s pockets where I actually choose not to listen to, well because it just tastes too good … but increasing my gorgeous body is showing me ever more clearly that this doesn’t work and I’m learning to embrace it and understand it’s a continual refinement and that my body shows me the truth of my choices and how I’m living, all I need to do is listen and honour it.

    1. Same here Monica and the fact that listening to my body has resulted in truth time and time again without fault there is now a clear track record I can’t deny. Listening to the body does work.

  12. Why is it we dismiss all the things that go wrong within the body and see them as inconvenient when there is so much to learn if we are open to it.

  13. “I’ve come to appreciate that my body naturally knows how to be in harmony with itself, and that it’s truly the best source of information I have.” When we ask ourselves the question Why? our body has the answer.

  14. The outside world is so busy of emotions, images, rules…that it’s easy getting lost. That’s why bringing gentleness in our life is so supportive, cause it allows us to stop and feel our loveliness inside, a place to return that remains pure no matter what. In this stillness I can understand the true meaning of love.

  15. Gorgeous Carmel, this is a loving invitation to look at what’s tiring me in my day to day. It can be whatever brings me down, makes me being protective or contracted…whatever prevents me to feel the true me. How great is being able to feel all of that with no judgment, just accepting and letting my heart beat in its own natural rhythm again.

  16. What a great distraction of wanting to fix the world or people, I can very much relate, which simply boils down to not wishing to deal with my own stuff, thus it’s like a great avoidance trick but actually keeps one from growing and evolving.

  17. this is a hard-hitting exercise – writing from A-Z all the things we’ve put our bodies through. It brings to light just how much stuff we get up to – and even though we might say oh well it is over many years, the fact is it all adds up.

  18. Just like you Carmel, “there has been a part of me that always wanted to ‘fix the world”, and I realise now that the immense feeling of frustration that I couldn’t, did nothing but drain the precious energy I needed to live in the world. It has taken me a while, but I have finally realised that you can’t fix anything for others in a way which truly supports them, but by making the choice to ‘fix’ (heal) myself first then I offer an inspiring reflection to others that they too are able to do the same; but it’s always their choice.

  19. Yes I know that part too Carmel, that has wanted to ‘fix the world’, with a need for others to be different. Thing is, with this investment I only ever harmed myself by absorbing everything which then is toxic in my body because it does not belong to me! Learning to observe and not absorb is the game changer and allows you to discern and read every situation so that you can respond and not react.

  20. I too am appreciating how the body knows the way to be in harmony with itself and it communicates very clearly when pushed out of its natural rhythm. When we listen and honour how we are truly feeling the body naturally rebalances itself and we are able to flow in a true rhythm that is self-energising.

  21. It’s a fool proof way to live when we listen to our body. I find accidents and illness all come about when I am not listening to it. We have so many safety rules at work and in life these days to protect us from injury. But the rules are really not working that well. How much simpler would it be for society to see it as normal to listen to our body and work/live according to that. My body knows to the tiniest detail the way I need to position myself, when to rest, when and how to exercise. Its only when I am not listening (or present) that harm occurs.

    1. Our bodies do know the tiniest detail in the way we need to position ourselves. This becomes so clear when I am driving, for all of a sudden, I will adjust my posture, straigthen my spine, chest opens and I feel more present in my body, and then I become aware of how I am holding the driving wheel, I soften my hands and the hold is more gentle… yes our body super aware in the details.

    2. Our body is the best and most steadiest compass possible but when we take our focus from it is the time when things go awry; we trip, we fall, we burn ourselves, we drop something – the list goes on, and on. But coming to a place when we accept and appreciate the exquisite accuracy of our compass for life is a time when life becomes much simpler and in that simplicity it flows with so much ease and ‘accidents’ become a rarity not the norm.

  22. We can never take from another when we are being super loving and supporting ourselves and we can never be hard on another when we are being gentle and honouring of our being; these are merely thoughts/behaviours that when fed hold us back from having a true relationship with ourselves first.

  23. The body is an amazing object however, I observe how often my head ‘wants in’. It wants to identify with what ‘it thinks’. You are what you align to. If you want to be recognised for being the best you will be given the thoughts to be that while body is already aligned to be the best.

  24. We get little twitches and we ignore them, a little tweak of pain and we move differently but don’t stop what we are doing entirely… and then a few days later bam! The body says you didn’t listen to me, I’ll show you! I’ve had knee issues all my life, starting with grazes from roller skating accidents when I was younger. I played squash for 20 years, a sport you have to be fit to play, but it is well known to be bad for knees. I have osteoarthritis in my joints. I’ve taken care of them to an extent where I no longer run and jump, I always use a cushion when I kneel (Early days of being a Catholic kneeling on hard church benches didn’t help!), and where I live now I walk up some pretty steep hills most days, but obviously more tender care needs to be taken because moving buckets of soil around the garden and stepping over low walls my left knee went ‘clunk’ and there was a shooting pain. After three of those I stopped (why didn’t I stop the first time?) and now I am having an enforced rest – almost – still doing a bit, but my knee is strapped up and I’m walking very slowly. But it doesn’t feel great. We have to take care not to compromise our posture and other parts of the body when one part isn’t functioning fully.

  25. When we want to know where we are truly at we should listen to the body, it is the most honest and wise friend we can ever wish for.

  26. ‘To fix the world’ is a tricky thing we all need to be aware of – on one hand we obviously recognise that something is wrong and that it shouldn’t be that way, as it opposes everything we feel and know to be our true loving nature, on the other hand by attachment/investment we get drawn into it and thereby contribute to it while believing we would bring any change for the better. And then we learn that only by living and bringing what we see is missing and going wrong in the world can we contribute the truth of who we are for everyone to be inspired to restore their truth as well.

    1. Hi Alex, I like what you wrote and yes, we do not fix the world by judging anybody, I am learning that people learn by reflection, by example, through role models, not by anyone pushing them to change. We inspire others by the way we live, so when we live how we want the future to be, then that’s what other people see and can choose for themselves.

  27. We can numb ourselves in many ways and for me one way was with food: nuts. I was snacking on almonds all day – a healthy snack you might say, but I noticed my nose was getting a bit sniffy. I experienced the same thing a few years back with eating cashew nuts, hence my accepting the likely cause was the almonds. I’ve also been putting on weight, a bit sad after I lost a total of 48 kilos over he last 14 years. Not only that, I was eating large amounts of fresh and dried fruit, not noticing any particular effect possibly because the nuts dulled my senses, until one night I awoke with serious chest pain. I already have atrial fibrillation and stopped drinking anything with caffeine in to prevent my heart rate going up, so this chest pain made me realise that the fruit really wasn’t doing me any good because of its sugar content. I’m now on Day Four of No Nuts and No Fruit. It’s been challenging and I’m eating carrots and tomatoes, which are also sweet, but at least the chest pains have stopped. Listening to my body means I have to be able to sense what is going on, not ignoring any signs and symptoms (I did have the occasional chest pain that I ignored – very foolish). Leaving it for the body to shout louder could be fatal and I’m not planning on dying just yet so I had better refine my listening skills.

    1. Love your sharing Carmel because it is free of perfection and rules. Your commitment to listen to the body and to remain with what your body is experiencing in each moment with no trying to ‘fix’ it inspires me, thank you

  28. The body simply reflects how we live. And what I can feel is how we run life back to front. We run the show from the mind’s perspective, and when something calls for our attention, the mind is still in the driving seat, trying to come up with a solution, and the mind has a picture of what a healthy life should look like and what healing is etc. and here I am wondering how true my ‘listening to the heart’ has actually been.

  29. When we start to develop a loving relationship with our bodies it becomes clearer how much disregard we have been in and what it takes to override the messages our bodies are giving to us constantly.

  30. “I’ve come to appreciate that my body naturally knows how to be in harmony with itself, and that it’s truly the best source of information I have. I realise that all these symptoms are my body reflecting back to me how I am living, how all the daily choices I make about how to be, what to eat, when to rest etc., are truly affecting me.” A beautiful sharing Carmel so supportive and loving of yourself and all you have come to and a real inspiration for others.

  31. “I’ve come to appreciate that my body naturally knows how to be in harmony with itself, and that it’s truly the best source of information I have.” Yes so true Carmel yet we are told that the mind is the source of all information without any consideration for the body, no wonder we find it so difficult to maintain harmony in our life.

  32. A beautiful sharing Carmel that shows there are so many factors of how we are in our day that can either harm us or support us. It is interesting to hear that you are at a stage where it is becoming about how you are with other people and the way in which we are constantly being asked to not hold back.

  33. Life too has presented me with some big stops for me to become aware and stop my abuse so that I can come back to my body and learn how to care lovingly for it, as I listen to it now I feel it is calling me to do gentle exercise to strengthen my body.

  34. It is the little things in life that heal us and help us understand. Even when something has accumulated to a big and complicated mess, it is the everyday loving gestures towards ourselves that dissolve what we find so overwhelming.

  35. “I’ve come to appreciate that my body naturally knows how to be in harmony with itself, and that it’s truly the best source of information I have. I realise that all these symptoms are my body reflecting back to me how I am living, how all the daily choices I make about how to be, what to eat, when to rest etc., are truly affecting me.” I love this Carmel. Our body really does know what’s best for it and listening to it and then honouring its messages for us is the best medicine to start with.

    1. I love what you are saying here, and it makes so much sense, there is a completely different foundation we are standing on when we honour ourselves deeply.

  36. Lovely sharing Carmel. Your article has humbled me in feeling life is always giving us opportunity to re-correct our ways to express more love, to return to a truer version of ourselves. Life is constellated in a way where this is the only direction we can go, and it’s only for us to respond.

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