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.

734 thoughts on “Listening to my Body

  1. I’m now living in a different country and, although the range of foods available to me includes all the foods I like, there is also a wider range of delicious fresh fruits available. I stopped eating fruit months ago in order to bring more stillness to my body but never being one to resist temptation, and rather like the story of Eve, I tasted of the ‘forbidden’ fruit and there were consequences: I got very, very moody. It is well known that refined sugar affects our brains and sugar from fruit can do just the same, and it was affecting my whole day, my sleep and subsequently all my relationships. I was feeling belligerent, and slipped into martyrdom and an awful broody silence. Once I clocked what was going on, and that it was what I was eating that was the cause, I went straight back into what I was eating before I left the UK, a very simple diet of fish and green vegetables, and my body responded with instant calm. Very noticeable and a good lesson learned.

    1. I was talking to a friend yesterday who also shared that eating things like fruit made her angry. The affect that food has on our body is fascinating and something that we would benefit greatly from if we paid more attention. I think I might do a little experiment and pay attention to how I feel after eating fruit. I am curious to find out what I will discover.

    2. This is a great observation Carmel, I too get mood swings from sugary things like fruit, which shows that the blood sugar, after a short spike, drops, which causes a bit of a disbalance in the body – and it makes you hungry as well.

    3. This is amazing Carmel, that even fruit can cause such major mood swings because of their sugar content. It just goes to show how much our diets and what we eat affect our bodies in ways that we so often don’t realise.

  2. Thank you Carmel, I loved what you have shared about listening to our bodies, it is where our truth lies. After living with the thinking what was so called good for me, for most of my life, I am slowly feeling into what my body is telling me and letting my body be my guide, a whole new world of feeling and loving, appreciating my body’s wisdom.

  3. Carmel I really appreciate your sharing. I love fruit and it is hard to resist when in season. I also have a Heart that adds a few extra beats at times and its interesting that you mention how very sensitive you are to someone who is hurt or a child crying, and wanting to fix the world, for that is a part of my issue too so I will listen more closely now to my own body . I know I can still be a caring person without ignoring my own body’s needs !

    1. It’s interesting that we see being a “caring person” often also meaning we neglect ourselves fully in preference for caring for others. It’s often an “either/or” scenario, we either care for others or only care about ourselves (i.e we are “selfish”), instead of the care we have for ourselves being a true foundation for caring for others. It’s like we have responsibility back to front, we are to care for others and hope someone cares about us, when we really all need to start with ourselves.

  4. Carmel, thank you for sharing this, ‘Occasionally, when I’ve ignored it completely, it’s brought me to a complete stop so I had no choice but to listen.’ I had an experience with my knees recently where my body gave me a stop so I had no choice but to listen, my knees became very painful when I moved about and so I actually had to change how I walked, I experimented and found that walking in a much lighter, more flowing and gentle way was the only way I could move without pain, I became aware that I had been lacking presence when I walked and that I had been walking in a jarring way that was hurting my knees, so now I am rushing less and enjoying more the femaleness and loveliness of my legs and I have less pain in my knees as a result.

    1. That is most interesting, Rebecca and thank you for sharing your experiences with your knees and how you walk – my knees twinge in a very painful way and it is when I have moved suddenly, uncaringly, and is a great stop and feel moment when it happens.

  5. The more we listen, and the more we pay attention to it, the more the body, our best friend, will share with us. It is quite a paradigm shift to see the body, and not our head, as our best friend.

  6. I slipped back into eating fruit and carbohydrates the other day and got so moody I shouted angrily and swore – that is not like me but showed me that I must express what I feel as I feel it and not store everything up till it explodes like a volcano. That will make me ill and isn’t nice to be around. I also need to look at how my holding back has given me exhaustion that I was craving sugary foods once again. It was also Full Moon and that makes a difference to how I feel in my body – when I had periods I used to get moody just before and I get the same around the Full Moon now I am post menopause. The Our Cycles App is great for helping track that.

  7. You can’t help but wonder how much of the woes and suffering is due to people not choosing to listen to or honour the body in which they reside. For when you keep the loveliness at arm’s reach so too is a life that reflects this.

  8. It’s very interesting how our bodies are communicating with us all the time and how we choose to ignore it until we are given a serious illness. Then we seem to get very upset and blame everyone else other than ourselves for our dilemma. I saw this being played out recently with a friend of mine who was telling me that that were upset with the doctors because they had a heart condition and they didn’t feel that the Doctors really knew what they were doing and were going to complain to them at the next consultation. It was as though they were blaming the doctors for their heart condition rather than look at the way they had been living that brought on the condition.

  9. I find it amazing the lengths I go to in not listening to my body, and yet there it is consistently every day letting me know what is best for me. When we let the body decide and not our minds it really does open us up to a greater quality of life.

  10. I too am amazed at the ability to ignore the signals from the body and also to not want to continue feeling good in the body. There is much at play energetically all the time and developing rhythms that support us to stay connected and loving towards our bodies is super important.

  11. Thanks Carmel, it’s always inspiring for me to read this blog. Your words on the subtleties of what’s tiring you is a great insight for me as well to begin looking at what is tiring me in terms of my day to day living and relationship to other people.

    1. Yes, Melinda, there are some very subtle things that make me feel tired – pandering to another’s needs and ignoring my own rhythm is one, my critical self talk is another, any uncertainty about choices I am making, beating myself up for procrastinating and being distracted, the list is endless! Appreciation and self love are good things to work on and putting down the ‘baseball bat’ is an essential part of that. I love working with the ‘You are doing nothing wrong, you are a student, and everything is a lesson’ approach because it means I can let go of the pictures of how I think I should be and allowing who I am to simply be.

    2. Carmel your list of what exhausts you was exhausting to read 🙂 Humour aside, I can relate to everyone one and have also felt that those exact things drain out my vitality. We are learning so much though and there are many moments where there would be little miracles occurring. As we drop the pictures (all the “shoulds” and expectations) of ourselves I’m sure we will begin to feel and see these more, and enjoy what’s unfolding also

  12. Like you Carmel, I have been learning to listen to my body over the last few years and also like you, life has changed in a myriad of wonderful ways since I have. But I have lately realised that I can’t become complacent as the messages my body is giving me have many layers and if I don’t take the time to truly listen I may just hear the top layer whereas there is so much more wisdom to be shared. It’s a listening work in progress and I’m loving the deepening connection that I have with my body and look forward to even more.

    1. it is very easy to become complacent, Ingrid, especially as we feel so well, we think we can go back to our old ways of behaving but, as our bodies are now so much more sensitive, they have more immediate and painful ways of showing us the damage we are doing.

  13. I am amazed with how used to our bodies discomfort we get and write it off as it just being ‘life’. This is such that many of us actually get used to the pain and do not realise at times the hardness in our body that we live with each and every day. How is something we live so innately with and get up with each and every morning is something we know or are in truth so ignorant about when it is the very vessel that is what we express our whole life through? We have certainly become very very good at overriding our body and opting for the truth of our heads!

    1. As an example, for several mornings now I have woken up with a stomach ache, but it goes after I’m up and moving about, so I forget about it until the next morning. It crosses my mind that perhaps it’s something I ate the night before, or the way I ate, and occasionally I might change what I eat for supper, but no real change is taking place. I know that eating is me avoiding being able to read situations, I am deliberately eating to numb myself, so I need to explore why I am I avoiding reading when it is something I can naturally do and it would help me to get on in life? There is always a deeper reason why we do things that keep us small, stop us expressing all of who we truly are. It is for us to fathom, and the answer lies through our bodies, not our heads.

  14. I am also noticing how the way I am affects me at the end of the day. If I am not being in my fullness, if there’s anything unexpressed, undealt with, my sleep is not as restful as it can be. And for me, this kind of links in with what you said about ‘making it all better’ – I may leave a situation because I don’t want to stir up things or upset my boss, and this so doesn’t go well with my body.

  15. Let’s imagine that our body would go along with us no matter what. For some, this would be Heaven. It would be there no matter what you throw at it, even if this happens non stop. The obvious question is whether this would be truly good for us? The true answer is no. The body is anchored to something that is true and although it does allow us to exercise our free will, it does not allow us to walk completely away from our truth. And, this is another great service of what a body does for us.

    1. I never thought about it like that Eduardo yet it is so true. Our body is anchored to love, it is made in a perfect form and, as a result of many indulgences, it breaks down and we berate it for not being able to sustain the abuse. Yet it is doing exactly what it is meant to do which is not let us wander too far.

  16. How profound the wisdom of the body is – never giving up letting us know where we are disharmonious with it. How arrogant we are to continually dismiss it, in order to rigidly stick to a lifestyle that does not support its true wellbeing.
    “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”.

  17. Beautiful Carmel. The way forward for us all. To change our movements into gentle ones which makes it possible for more loving energies to enter through the body when moving. We choose the source we want to connect from and the source of love makes it possible to connect with our soul again. It starts with gentleness and delicateness.

  18. How very true Carmel, appreciating, listening and responding to our bodies is the key to a harmonious vital body;
    “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”.

  19. The whispers of the body are ever present and your blog presents in a wonderfully practical way why and how to listen to the whispers before they become as loud as drums.

  20. As we allow ourselves to feel more, the whispers from my body are easier to hear and take notice of. I recently had a one-to-one exercise session where the instructor reminded me that if anything hurt, I could check my posture, that nothing needed to be painful when exercising, whereas in the past it was easy to believe in the ‘No pain, no gain’ philosophy, now I understand that if my body hurts, then it’s because I am hurting it. Simple. Feeling deep within my bones, and how the way I move affects my whole body, it is a lovely honouring and feels beautiful.

  21. I’m in mild chronic pain daily that goes up and down and addition to this I have had another pain increase in intensity which has made me stop and listen. What I realised, similar to Carmel, it has been there for some time.. It’s incredible really how long and quickly you become used to and override pain and aches in the body. “We learn to live with them” when, we should be learning the marker of HARMONY and learning to live with that.

    1. …And that marker of harmony can be absent for different reasons, for example, when we are at odds in our relationships or when we are about to make a decision that is not great for us. Once we can experience the harmony, it is easier to feel the not-harmony, so we can stop and check what is going on and choose differently.

  22. It is so true that what we choose is reflected in how
    our bodies feel and in what shape it is in. We are all able to notice and it is our responsibility to listen, so it doesn’t need to shout with serious illness and disease.

  23. Our bodies are the most amazing communicators, patient, loving and understanding but also consistent and persistent. Just as well because the mind is a very poor listener and I’ve discovered often un-cooperative and even argumentative. It’s a choice which to align to for sure, one has our complete well-being at heart, one has instant gratification in mind.

      1. and here in lies the miracle of healing – when we take full notice and respond in full, miracles can happen.

  24. How I am in the presence of others is a huge learning. There is such a lot going on, much more than I care to admit because sometimes it is not pretty. My learning is to offer space and accept the choices of others in full and to have understanding and see the bigger picture that we are all returning to where we came from in our own time and at our own pace obliterating all control, guidelines and rules.

  25. I love this – your body doesn’t have to shout anymore, you are listening to the whispers – that is for all of us to choose isn’t it! I have found the more I listen the less the body has had to shout and the louder the whispers sound – I must have been very arrogant and deaf because I am now seeing there is so much to be aware of that I chose not to notice.

  26. When we listen our bodies do truly respond more – I was being very mental in buying a house and my body was feeling exhausted, needing more sleep, more sugar just to stay feeling OK. As soon as I let go of the mind and allowed my body to say yes or no to each house we visited, there was a feeling of ease and we started enjoying the whole process. One house in particular felt beautiful the minute we walked in – everything was perfect, and ready for us. There were a few niggles and concerns that my mind cut in with but, the day we made the decision to offer for the house, my body gave a huge sigh and, interestingly, I stopped craving sugar… and woke up early!

  27. I love the honesty of this blog and the depth it takes us to. It shows how we can fix all the superficial drains of our energy by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. But for most of us it is the underlying drain of how we feel and are in life that is the problem. Not just letting life ‘be’ is a huge drain. Similarly not letting ourselves ‘be’ is another huge drain. We spend so much energy trying to be more or something else, when the easiest thing in the world is just be the gorgeous being we knew ourselves to be as little kids.

    1. This is something I am rediscovering right now – if I’m feeling low and anxious I won’t spend time creating nourishing meals, so my mental health is affecting my physical health and it becomes a vicious circle. Our thoughts can nourish us or drain us, it’s good to be aware where our thoughts are coming from. change our movements to tender and its amazing how our thoughts change too.

  28. With the rates of disease and illnesses escalating as they are I cannot but help wonder if many of us are actually listening to our bodies as closely as we should be…

  29. Listening to our bodies is one thing but to be aware of its every fine movement and then moving in a way that supports what it shares is another and one that can be explored more and more as we move through life. Being open and aware to what our bodies say supports us to deepen our relationship with ourselves and to keep making new choices to explore and learn as much as we can about ourselves and our bodies. Which is pretty cool.

    1. We can have a lot of fun playing with our movements and seeing how they can change our mood, for example, feeling angry makes my movements jerky and when I become more tender with my touch, the anger goes. Feeling depressed I notice my posture and sit up and that changes everything.

  30. Today I noticed that I was not so present as I moved about doing a few jobs. I then noticed that it hurt my body to do things the way I was. I noticed this because my body spoke quite loudly – I banged my shoulder and it hurt, I banged my hand and it hurt…Whilst I was not so present and moving in hardness, I can appreciate that I now hear the communication of my body in times like this.

    1. It is, as you say, easy to feel once we open ourselves to feeling what’s going on, the hardness is a great one to catch – when we move in gentleness there are definitely fewer injuries!

  31. Carmel I really appreciated reading this again, I have periods where my self care and respect for my body is really wonderful, then I can drop self care and end up with a very unwell or battered feeling body. What I am learning though is to be as understanding as possible and that it’s often got to do with the fact I’m experiencing something that I don’t know how to deal with, usually something that feels awful (like another’s jealousy), or something that is hurting me in some way. I’m gradually learning to stop judging these times and instead allow myself to feel what’s upsetting me, and stick with self care instead of dropping it.

    1. And sometimes, Melinda, we are experiencing our own amazingness and, after a lifetime of identifying with low self worth, we feel uncomfortable and do something to make us feel ‘normal’ and low again.

  32. If we all made choices to live in a more responsible way and listen to our body and be more gentle with it, there would be far less strain on the health services and its staff.
    “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”.

  33. Ignoring ourselves is a big one, we look out so much we neglect what is right there with us. I am returning to what lies within and it is stillness, steadiness and grace of endless measure. I recommend supporting this reflection of life, we need nothing from the outside. We can live with the all, when we connect within.

  34. “Now it doesn’t have to shout so loud, the merest whisper will do” That whisper can be very loud and relate to something that previously I would have thought very trivial.

    1. I think, Mary, that as we reduce the self abuse on our bodies, we become so much more sensitive to the slightest thing, so, as you say, something that previously felt trivial becomes much more significant. Our bodies are so delicate and we are so rough with them without even realising the level of abuse.

  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.’ How we let our mind interfere with this information is quite a big thing and changes our perspective on ourselves and the world. Now I have experienced how it is to live with the truth my body is telling me I see how my mind mislead me time after time.

  36. Not a bad tip, to log all the things that have gone of for you and your body. It would be quite telling to see it all in one place and I wonder what we can read from this. Is it centred on a particular part of your body, a side, is it reoccurring or constant etc etc. There are many things we can learn on a daily basis when we look at our bodies as a whole. If we leave it all as parts and not see it together then it’s easy to just carry on as if nothing was happening.

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