Listening to your Body

feetI have spent almost 15 years practising yoga asana (postures) and over that time have felt the benefits immensely in terms of strength, flexibility and a feeling of spaciousness in the body and mind. But perhaps the most distinctive gain felt has been the deep connection that has developed with every part of my body – a sense of being in my body rather than in my head (which is my natural tendency). Obviously the amount of time I dedicate to practice affects the overall advantages received week to week – that is why it is called “practice”, it’s a daily routine.

I have spent much of the last week living in my head – not in my body. Not grounded. Generally off centre. My practice not taking place as much as it should.

Donna Farhi says:

‘When we are not in our bodies, we are dissociated from our instincts, intuitions, feelings and insights.’

I have definitely found this to be true. Our profession demands many hours of thinking and reflecting each day and with ‘To Do’ lists that tend to get bigger rather than smaller we try to push through – spending too long on the computer (a major energy sapper), not making time every day for exercise, eating on the run and ignoring tiredness.

After a week of ignoring it, I finally decided to listen to my body which was giving me a warning in the form of some fairly intense back pain. As a result (I see now) I could not connect to my intuition nor have insight into the nature of my reactions to certain situations and people – something I had become particularly adept at. I was getting in a flap about ridiculous things. I needed a reminder of how deeply connected our body, mind and spirit are. We can’t ignore one without experiencing repercussions in the other two.

Listening to our bodies is a way of tapping into our inherent wisdom. The wisdom that tells us what we should do when we are confused. The wisdom that helps us make the right choice. The wisdom that assures us that everything is going to be okay. I know from experience that when my body is strong my mind and spirit are strong and nothing much can knock me off centre. When I neglect to prioritise my physical fitness everything else is weakened.

The more my meditation practice has deepened over the past 9 months I have prioritised this – getting up at 5:30am to meditate then doing my yoga practice before my daughter rises. As body, mind and spirit are connected the practices that strengthen and support each aspect of our being must be balanced in order that we don’t de-centre another part of our self. I’d forgotten that of late.

If we are detached from our feelings we cannot have clarity around issues – positive or negative – that are cropping up in our life and causing an emotional response. We will live in a way that finds us at the mercy of our environment rather than strong and centred in the inner stillness of our body and heart. Being at the mercy of a class full of students can be soul destroying, hence our greater need to stay connected to our body.

Donna explains further:

‘The insidious ways in which we become numb to our bodily experience and the feelings and perceptions that arise from them leave us powerless to know who we are, what we believe in and what kind of world we wish to create.’

When we look at our connection to our bodies as being so significant as to affect the kind of world we live in – prioritising exercise / movement that relieves the numbness and awakens our body is a matter of global urgency not just of personal health. Body awareness helps us to connect with who we are and what truly matters – inside and outside the classroom. When we reunite with our body we let it guide us in the only direction it knows – towards the truth.

Ways to reconnect to our body to let it guide us (a reminder for us all):

  • Move your body everyday (first thing in the morning before excuses creep in).
  • Sit in stillness every day to let your body speak.
  • Connect to the Earth every day – which is where your body came from. This might be as simple as walking in bare feet on the grass, sinking your feet into the sand, sitting under a tree or taking a dip in the ocean.
  • Nominate some device free days / nights and stick to them.
  • Breathe deeply and consciously.
  • Practice yoga postures and meditate (see my post on Inner Listening for a guided breathing meditation that will leave you grounded).
  • Eat mostly food that comes from nature.
  • Make small changes to your routine to prioritise any of the above.

It is through small changes such as these that gradually profound changes eventuate. Have you been listening to your body this term?


Related post: Inner Listening – Connect Back to Your Body Oct 23 2014


Trust Yourself to Achieve Unexpected Outcomes

trust yourself

‘…choose to see the outward forms as poor substitutions for your true nature and you’ll begin to live without attachment to those forms.’

Trust first and foremost in yourself.

Wayne Dyer

I’ve spent a long time feeling that being a teacher was not enough. It didn’t hold enough status, I didn’t earn enough money, I wasn’t outwardly successful enough in terms of possessions or salary. I was somehow not as worthy as a doctor or lawyer. No one ever said this to me directly but of course we all feel the judgements of others fairly regularly in term of comments on the hours we work, how many holidays we have and the old crack about “those who can’t do, teach”.

I was so attached to the idea that I was not living up to anybody’s expectations that it became difficult to take responsibility for anything. But I’ve come to realise what an illusion these ideas are.

Ours is a profession of honour.

Of meaning and magic.

Of heart and heroism.

A sacred vocation in which we have the power to make positive change.

We measure our worth as a teacher by how well our students are performing, how much we achieved in a lesson, by the outcomes we set out to reach. Could we shift the measure of our success to the joy and peace we (and our students) experience daily? How well we model for our students a healthy and balanced mental and psychological state? How easily we give love to our students and to ourselves? How we interact and respond to their needs and accept them as they are – without wanting to change them too much?

With so many pressures and so much accountability I think some of us have stopped trusting ourselves. We are finding it hard to hear our own inner voice.

Anything you aspire to or covet in the material world of “outward forms” will never compare to the grandeur that you’ll find inside – and this is true for our students also. Trust that you know what your students need from the wisdom of your true nature. Watch your own thoughts that might be judging or attached to certain outcomes (Why didn’t I get that finished today?……She shouldn’t be behaving that way…).

Listen to your heart.

If you can set aside some time each day to go inward you will reap the benefits and the wisdom in your heart will be easier to hear. In the world that we currently inhabit this is not an easy task. We are made to feel that what we are or do is never enough, that we are falling short in some way. But the truth is we don’t need anything else to make us whole or better. We have everything we need inside – we just have to access it by peeling back the years of conditioning that have us believe otherwise. Wouldn’t it be great to save our students from years of shedding – that they could just know this from NOW and have a sense of self that could withstand any outward forms that they encounter.

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Centred Leadership

centred leadershipThe great leader speaks little.

He [or she] never speaks carelessly.

[s]he works without self- interest and leaves no trace

When all is finished, the people say,

“We did it ourselves.”

Lao Tzu

I have been reflecting on this quote from the 17th verse of the Tao Te Ching and how it might apply to classroom teachers as leaders of their learning environment.The attributes above seem fitting of a guide – which we agree is what a teacher truly is.

Dr Wayne Dyer (my favourite teacher!) suggests we become an astute observer of what is taking place, then ask ourselves how, without interfering ‘…we can create an environment that will help everyone act responsibly’.

We can only view our class perceptively and intuitively know what is truly taking place by being calm and centred and allowing our inner voice to guide us. We can choose our words carefully and respond rather than react to any situation.

Often the most important lessons that we teach seemingly “leave no trace”. Their effects are not quantitative, their basis not knowledge and skills but rather feelings and self- worth. And the consequences can be life-changing. It is those students that we know we have impacted incalculably that we must hold to when we feel like giving up…when we are tired and overcome. It is for these types of lessons that most of us became teachers in the first place.

We must convey to our students that we trust their ability to figure things out. We must create a space in which students can build trust and confidence in themselves to live a life of purpose and truth and to achieve the greatness that is within them. This greatness can’t always be calculated.

By giving trust we are in turn trusted by our students.

Here are some ideas for creating such an environment (most of which you are probably already doing but that are sometimes forgotten in the busy-ness of everyday):

  • Praise your students often.
  • Foster co-operation rather than competition.
  • Give choices and refer to behaviours that are supporting or hindering learning in order to inspire personal responsibility.
  • Love and serve your students without needing anything back.
  • Encourage personal improvement and reflection.
  • Allow students to make as many decisions as possible.
  • Speak less and suspend self-interest.

We can look to nature (also a great place to centre ourselves) to see the perfect example of giving without needing anything in return (and I need all the help I can get with this – it’s really hard):

Even after all this time

The sun never says to the earth,

“You owe me.”

Look what happens

With a love like that,

It lights the whole sky.


Our service and love can light up our classrooms and our schools as well as the lives of those within them.

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