About discovering the needs with the help of your body
“How do I deal with changes?” That was the name of the Working Women podcast in which the lawyer and transition coach Afia Atta-Agyemang was interviewed.
I thought immediately, changes, transitional situations, that was also the headline for me the last 25 years. There were hardly any comfort zones. At the beginning there was no network of people supporting me. Hard-earned time off didn’t provide the rest I needed. The question was always, what would that be good for? What’s the quickest way to get out of this?
Bringing up two children alone, being self-employed setting up a practice, coping with a mother who required 27 years of care due to war-related problems, and the trauma of a difficult divorce in the backpack of my life have given me an extensive program that was difficult to be managed. The body often simply refused to function. Digesting was a tricky task, sleep just wouldn’t come and fear was constantly breathing down my neck. Can I cope? I wasn’t aware at that time that with all this my body was sending signals that change was needed.
The Columbus gene in my luggage made me set out again and again. How is this supposed to work, how do I achieve my goals? Self-love, empowerment, care work, positive body images, biographical patterns were all pretty nice terms that came along. But with the pressure I had, the only thing that mattered was how I could get through everyday life to carry this load of tasks, to coordinate them, and to give my body a chance to muddle along the way.
The beginning of body thinking started with dancing. Authentic Movement and Contact Improvisation brought me into contact with a movement that no sport could compete with. There I was able to let off steam and pour my soul into it, expressing everything that was infinitely difficult through movement. I moved in the flow, raged with wonderful dynamics, learned to use my voice, and I discovered that it was also possible to do it gently. My temperament showed itself as fiercely determined, straight forward and blunt. But in expressive dance tenderness and familiarity with the body, which was so sensitive and reacted to the smallest move, blossomed. The reward was good mood, a smile on my face, despite of everything. That is how the love story figuring out what my body was good for began.
This type of perception, becoming familiar with your body, which developed out of great need, still serves me today. Not just in my job as an integrative movement therapist. No! Whether it is standing upright, the mobility and yes, my mental life. My body is orientation and life support because it sets boundaries and lets me feel what’s going on. This enables me to take at least one step, even when there is fear and depression all around. These are often very small steps. But I’m moving. The direction is the right one. It’s good to know that.
Listening to the body is like a guide that brings us into connection with ourselves and thus makes the inner path visible that everyone carries within themselves. People who entrust themselves to this inner path, who let themselves fall into their own being, can trust that life will provide them with the right thing, so that it can be a good life. Energy follows attention, my Qigong teacher said back then. I have followed this path until today. It has proven itself.
My age, these 68 years of living life to the full, despite of everything, are making themselves felt. I’m not good with comfort zones, I see. I prefer challenges. But the body gives instructions, and today I understand that I need to listen carefully every morning: What does my body need, what does the soul need for the day to be a good one? There was so much darkness, so much fear, being a woman is no picnic, and yet rebellion, anger and determination always gave way to joy so that my needs had their place. Your needs are immensely important if life is to be good! They need a dedicated space in everyday life. Michele Obama says: Plan your happiness!
The body lets you know what you need. That is the message I want to pass on here. A nice life? A life felt is a life lived! The joy of life is the elixir. Even the tiny felt moments when dissociation wants to carry you away and you know that the soul needs motivation again so that it dares to come back.
Because the soul makes its needs known through the body. I worked a lot as a single parent mother and free time was a luxury. Go for a walk on an empty stomach in the fields behind the house in the morning, yes. Feel the rising power of the morning. Notice your body as you walk, before the overwhelming day sets in, breathe again, breathe deeply, fill yourself up. Be happy?
Then the question: What does the day need to be good? Where is the joy today? Is it really necessary to think about needs in these busy times? There’s so much to do! But as soon as I stopped having the little happy times, depression came knocking quite brazenly. That costs the body strength! Yes, it is necessary to regularly check what your needs are!! You want a good life after all.
Mornings are crucial. How am I today? My mother already knew this and insisted on her morning ritual. But what she didn’t have, which wasn’t common in her time, was having a right to herself as a woman. She was happy that she had enough to eat, a roof over her head and that her children were doing well. She didn’t want anything for herself. But the morning ritual was unavoidable. “Rhythm!” she said, her eyes shining. It wasn’t until she was 85 when she recognized that her “emancipated” daughters had a claim to themselves. The right to yourself as a woman! Yes! But do women really take this right in their crazy everyday lives? In my practice I see again and again that this is not the case.
So here are my recommendations for the morning
What does the day need to be a good one?
What does the body say? And the soul?
Tired? Pains? Physically, mentally? Stand upright? What do the signs say? Place one hand on your breastbone and the other on your stomach. Give yourself a moment to feel it. Can you feel the breathing movement under your hands. What are you observing? Openness? Tightness? Light? Heavy? Or something else?
If you don’t feel anything, keep at it! Sometimes it takes time to get in touch with yourself!
What tasks are waiting? Priorities? Contacts with fellow human beings? How does that feel in the body? Where do you feel this?
Where is the joy for you today? Or does it not appear at all? The joys in everyday life, do you have an eye for them? Does the sun shine bright today? How does the coffee taste? What is the season doing outside right now?
Feel the qualities in your body!
When your heart jumps for joy.
Happiness swings airily.
When the weight of a decision hangs on your back and your shoulders pull tight forward.
Leaden fatigue that puts all the cells in slow motion and gives the woman the feeling that nothing can go on.
When things get tight on the sternum because a virus overrides all the rules.
When your arms become conscious of the vastness of your own space while stretching.
When there’s something hard to digest that doesn’t let you go
When hope blossoms in the heart with unexpected lightness.
What pose would you take if you think about how you are feeling right now? Spread your arms, say yes to life? Or would you rather be under the blanket, hear nothing and see nothing? There is a variety of possibilities between these two options.
These are all signs about our current status. Don’t judge yourself! Even if there is a lot of anger around right now.
The body sets signals and shows us what we need or where we are doing fairly well. What do you need more or less of?
A life in which body and soul get space, attention and care can become a good life because we are in tune with ourselves. We are connected.
“Love yourself” is said so often, as if one could just flip the switch. Love takes time and patience. But discovering your own needs, keeping an eye on them, and making them a fixed point in everyday life is an adventure that can be fun.
Is the beginning fun? I’m just settling into a new life. Joy should be a part of that. That’s what I promise myself every day.
@ Christine Forsthuber