By Daniel Kingsley
When you stand with your two feet on the ground, you will always keep your balance.
Great ideas originate in the muscles.
We have a strange relationship with our bodies in the West. We do our best to make them appear beautiful. We worry about them and try to fix them when they hurt. We give them exercise and we feed them, if they are hungry. But other than that we tend to ignore them.
We treat them like objects, at worst, or as helpful (or attractive) machines at best. As a means to an end, whether that end is feeling physically better or attracting a partner.
We act as if we are thinking creatures who happen to have a body, thinking creatures who can feel. And most of our lives we remain locked in our heads, thinking, ruminating and worrying, and only attending to our bodies if they demand our attention, or we want them to “do something for us”.
So…how’s that working out for you?
And yet, our constant thinking doesn’t make us happy. This is certainly my experience. When I live in my thoughts, I’m mainly concerning myself with the future or the past, whilst missing the present moment. And this doesn’t make me feel particularly great or joyous.
Research agrees. If we simply experience the present moment as it’s happening rather than thinking about stuff that might happen or has happened, we are measurably happier. Amazingly, this is true even if what’s happening in the present moment isn’t that comfortable. I wrote a blog piece about this a while back – Being Present Makes Us Happier.
These are not new insights. Science is in fact just catching up. Meditation and yoga are thousands of years old, and are based around these understandings.
Why does being in the body make us happier?
Why is this the case? Why does being present in our bodies, feeling what’s going on moment by moment actually feel more satisfying than daydreaming about the future?
I believe that it’s because we were not designed to be primarily thinking creatures. As Richard Strozzi-Heckler puts it, we are not in fact thinking creatures who can feel, we are feeling creatures who can think.
We were designed to be living in and from our bodies, feeling what’s going on inside them moment by moment, and only firing up our brains when we needed to do a bit of analysis. Our bodies were designed to be our home base, our intelligent centre of gravity, connected to the present moment and the outside world.
Instead, the servant has become the master, and we’ve become trapped inside the computers in our heads, with our bodies becoming increasingly objects to us.
This is partly a result of the jobs many of us do, and it’s also aided and abetted by our ever burgeoning technology. Whether it’s email, Facebook, Netflix or WhatsApp, we are increasing living in our heads and living in our screens. And these things tend to take us further and further away from our true selves, our natural selves.
This is why many of us are turning to yoga and meditation. To find an oasis of calm and respite from the tumult of our churning minds. After an hour on the yoga mat we tend to feel clearer, cleaner, simpler and yes, happier. We’ve rebooted our system and restored the natural balance, albeit temporarily. We can still think, if we need to, but in those moments it’s not the predominant mode. And that feels great.
Living from the body
The body is a gateway to the present moment. Feeling the sensations in my body, I’m feeling what’s happening now and only now. The body doesn’t dwell on the past and it doesn’t think about the future. It simply lives what’s happening now. And when I choose to tune into what my body is feeling now I get a direct gateway into presence.
When I live closer to my body, in the present moment, I get access to the intelligence that exists outside my brain. To my instincts and intuitions. I get access to those realisations that seem to come “out of nowhere”. And to a greater sense of connectedness with those around me and with the world.
I also feel more confident. When I am present in my body, aware of what I’m feeling, willing to accept it and simply feel it, a sense of centred, grounded confidence simply arises. There is a sense that whatever the difficulties in life are, I can manage them. I stop worrying about what others are thinking and start feeling into what I want to tell them, or being interested to listen to what they have to say. I become curious about life instead of concerned about it.
This is where these insights become vital for us as leaders, public speakers and presenters. Whether we’re leading a team or giving a keynote speech, we want to feel confident, curious and connected. When we are open to the connection with others they can feel it, when we are secure in ourselves they can relax around us, and when we have an attitude of curiosity magical things start to happen.
We are like owners of a grand country home who have taken up residence in a shack in the garden, and forgotten about the beautiful house we possess.
It’s time to occupy the present moment. It’s time to start feeling more. It’s time to come back home.
I’d love to hear your experience in the comments section below. And if you’d like to see how we apply this to public speaking and leadership do take a look at our Foundation Courses.