The first step in changing your life is to mind your body. When we were in England many years ago as college students we chuckled every time we got on a bus. “Mind your head,” said the signs, instead of “Watch your head.” Either way the point is the same. Pay attention • or you may end up hurting yourself.
The same can be said when it comes to changing your life. Pay attention to your body and it will show you the way to go. Is your body in pain? What’s that pain trying to tell you? Is your body tired? What’s that exhaustion trying to tell you? Is your body over weight and out of shape? What are those extra pounds and labored breathing trying to tell you?
We contend that your body knows what your spirit needs. That’s turning the tables on conventional wisdom. Our culture, which rests upon the mind / body split of ancient Greece and Rome, puts the mind on a pedestal. When we want to make a change, we think it through. We consider our options. We study the matter. And too often we never get around to doing anything!
Putting the body on a pedestal reverses the flow in important ways. For one thing, the body is already doing something. It exists in the real world • the world we want to change. For another thing, the body doesn’t lie. How easy it is to rationalize our thinking with excuses, hedges, and fantasies! But a pain in the chest is a pain the chest, and all the thinking in the world won’t make it go away.
Unfortunately, too many of us routinely fail to mind our bodies. We push them beyond their healthy limits and we ignore them when they send clear distress signals. Failing to go to the doctor is the last rather than the first straw. Long before it comes to that, our bodies send signals that can guide the changes we need to make.
- Are you tired all the time? You may not be getting enough exercise and rest. You may need to change how much you’re working and how hard you’re pushing yourself.
- Are you in pain? You may be paying the price for years of neglect. You may need to change your medication and lifestyle. Lifestyle changes can often reduce or even eliminate the need for medication. Different pains reveal different opportunities for change.
- Are you overweight and out of shape? You may be eating too much and exercising too little. 55% of all Americans are overweight and out of shape, so there’s a good chance you’re in this boat. You may need to change your diet and move your body.
- Are your fingernails chewed down to the quick? You may be stressed out. You may need to change your job or your family situation.
The list goes on, but in every instance we typically fail to mind our body. This is as true during the change process as it is before the process begins. People who begin an exercise program are notorious for pushing their bodies too far and too fast. As a result they end up with injuries, unable to continue their program, and revert back to where they started. If they had paid attention to the pain when it was still small, they could have ended up with a healthier, more sustainable, result.
Minding your body is a hard thing for people to do. It may not seem like much of a change principle, but we contend that it lies at the heart of the change process and of maintenance after the change has been effected. There are those who argue for a direct and specific connection between every pain of the body and every quirk of the soul. A one-to-one correspondence may be going a bit too far, but in broad strokes there is truth to the notion that we have within our flesh a powerful indicator of what’s going on in the mind and of the changes we need to make.
Meditation and stretching are good ways to get in touch with what the body is trying to say. Try sitting on the floor with your knees bent, then slowly go back until you feel the stretch. Hold that position for as long as you can. Don’t bounce or tear. Just slowly extend to the limit of your reach. In so doing your body will begin to speak its wisdom to your mind. Do this twice a day, morning and night, and you will gradually stretch yourself into a new way of being, doing, and living.
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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