by Marcia Feola
How many times have you done something you knew you shouldn’t but did it anyway, only to regret it later? Have you ever lost your temper and been sorry? How many times have you driven somewhere and then don’t remember the drive? Haven’t ridden a bike in a long time? But when you hop on it, lo’ and behold you can ride. There are an unlimited number of examples of actions we seemly do automatically. What do these examples have in common?
The answer is: your body. What does that mean?, you might ask. The human brain is located in your skull but it has a neural network that goes down your spine and out into your body, all the way to your fingers and toes. This is called your distributed brain. Information goes both ways- brain to body and body to brain. Some organs send 9 times as much information up to the brain then comes down. Our bodies are sending information up to the brain all the time whether we are paying attention to it or not.
Our brain is a predictive instrument. It looks for patterns and it moves certain behaviors to implicit memory. We develop ways of being and behaving which get wired into us. Our bodies react often without being choiceful or perhaps even without awareness. If we are not in touch with our body, we are not getting all the information we need to be more intentional and choiceful. In fairness to us all, our culture (in the US) values rational, cognitive functions. We think intelligence is all about IQ or what knowledge we have. So it’s no wonder many of us have become disassociated from our bodies.
More often these days I hear people talking about wanting to bring their full selves to work or to be authentic. How can we bring ourselves fully to any situation if we are not in touch with our body? It’s like going to work without your heart and gut. When we talk about leadership and who epitomizes a good leader it is rarely about the knowledge they have or what they “do”-it’s usually how they are Being. Its how they are showing up in their bodies. Are they calm, inspiring, passionate? Do their words align with how they are showing up? Are they attuned to themselves and others? These are the qualities that captivate our attention, motivate us to listen, follow and emulate. If you want to be a better leader, a better parent, better friend or someone who wants to live more fully, one way forward is to invest in getting familiar with the intelligence that lives in your body. Sensations, emotions, moods, and intuition all have information for you if you can tap into them.
Here’s an experiment to try: Observe yourself for a week and notice how many times you feel you are on auto pilot, or do something you later regret. What was the cost of not being more aware and choiceful? And what might have been possible if you had paused and reflected before acting? If we are not supposed to leave home without an American Express Card, why would we venture out without our body intelligence?
Forethought, Composure, Connection – priceless!