Considering the news over the past few days specifically, as well as the past few months and years more broadly, it's easy to notice all the ways in which our bodies were not meant to consume this amount of knowledge in such a short amount of time or to witness such violence and horror. Still, as we witness collective trauma, collective harm, and collective violence, the expectation is to continue on with our day. The unspoken expectation is to shut down your body's cues and show up to work, to your meetings, send your emails, answer your texts, and move on... or keep moving... to be more accurate.
The thing is that, as a leader, it also comes back to protecting your humanity fiercely in order to contribute to something greater than yourself. That includes contributing to your family, your teams, your communities, and your own sense of purpose. So, how does one protect one's humanity when there's no room for fear or grief or overwhelm or confusion in the average 9 to 5? I propose you practice what I'd like to call a 'Bodies Scan'.
Understanding what your own bodies need can help you understand what you need to grieve, whether it's because you, your communities, your families, your teams, or people you don't know are experiencing unthinkable suffering. This can help you (re)orient yourself in the midst of such a disorienting experience, which is necessary for you to be able to take consistent, inspired action over time. Below, you'll find ideas on how to do this 'Bodies Scan'. For a Yogic perspective on multifaceted wellbeing, check out The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar. For an Indigenous understanding of wellbeing through the Medicine Wheel, learn more here and here. It's with deep gratitude for my teachers who shared these learnings with me. I now share them with you on understanding your bodies Here are four to consider:
1. Mental body: intellectual learning, planning, and logistics
2. Emotional body: feelings and felt sense
3. Purpose body: connection to something greater than ourselves
4. Physical body: skin, muscle, and bones that hold your mental, emotional, and purpose bodies
1. Mental body: does your learning brain need a break? Is it foggy, numb, or wired? What's an activity that can feel yummy to your body and doesn't need too much cognitive energy? With these answers in hand, what does this body need?
2. Emotional body: what are the feelings that your body holds right now? If your immediate answer is 'I don't know', what if you guessed? As a leader, learning to hold multiple truths is part of supporting your nervous system in navigating uncertainty. That becomes easier as you practice identifying your feelings. If feelings are too much of a stretch though, then what sensations do you notice around your eyes, jaw, neck, shoulders, chest, belly, and lower back? Noticing the sensations in these areas of the body can give you cues as to what you might be feeling below the surface. With these answers in hand, what does this body need?
3. Purpose body: what might you be feeling disconnected from? Are you feeling disconnected from yourself, your joy, your community, your teams, your friends, your family, or from your own sense of safety? Whatever the case may be, consider the people, places, and experiences that help you feel more connected as you get curious about ways to release tension. With these answers in hand, what does this body need?
4. Physical body: how is holding all of the above impacting your health? Are you getting enough sleep, water, food, sunshine, and gentle company? Whatever your answers may be, ask yourself one follow-up question: what would help my physical body feel 1% more comfortable? Once that adjustment has been made, you can check in again with the same question as more energy becomes available to you. With these answers in hand, what does this body need?
As you make sense of your bodies, you find ways to ground yourself through complex experiences like moving through grief. By practicing Bodies Scan consistently, you can better understand your baseline in the face of change, challenge, and opportunity. You also get more familiar with what fuels your overall wellbeing and the types of suppport you can access. By modelling this behaviour, you can encourage those around you to tune into what is grounding for them, too.
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