February 27, 2013

Learning to Listen Within.

Our bodies are wiser than we know.

They guide us on the path of cultivating true freedom and fulfillment in our lives, if we choose to listen. I discovered this the hard way.

For years I experienced pain, tension and discomfort in my body as a result of a chronic illness. I also felt disillusioned about my career, which wasn’t aligned with my true passions. I was suffering and didn’t know what to do about it.

Looking back, I can see why. I approached life from a mind-dominant perspective, and was incredibly disconnected from my body. My mind led the way, and what I felt physically, emotionally and intuitively was ignored or dismissed.

I knew logically that I wasn’t well and that I wasn’t living in alignment with my truth. I also had an inner nagging that I needed make some changes. However, the idea of exploring what this meant for me seemed inconvenient. I wanted to ‘fix’ things in my outer life, and was too impatient to delve into the desires and vulnerabilities of my inner world.

I felt a constant pull between my inner craving of wanting ‘more’ for myself (more freedom, fulfillment, and contentment with who I was), and the reality of ‘surviving’ in a material world. What’s more, I felt trapped by the limitations of my physical body, frustrated that it wouldn’t conform to my relentless striving.

I oscillated between periods of chasing after financial goals, to nursing the exhaustion and pain that pulsated through every cell of my body. A vicious cycle that kept me spinning my wheels and only intensifying my yearning for real freedom.

My inner world was begging me to slow down and take a different direction, but I wasn’t prepared to listen—at least not without conditions or self-bargaining. I put restrictions on how much time I could have to rest, and a deadline on when I needed to feel ‘better’ by.

This inner turmoil was incredibly frustrating and the inability to meet my true needs felt deeply disappointing. I lacked a connection to who I was, felt detached from others, and was disillusioned with my life as a whole.

The turnaround point came when I was physically unable to carry on. From a position of complete and utter burnout, I felt I had nowhere left to turn but inwards. This was the first time I started opening up to what I felt in my body, without filtering out or resisting any part of my experience.

I began paying attention to my physical sensations, allowed myself to experience pain and welcomed the full spectrum of my emotions. I also started genuinely listening to my heart, intuition and deeper callings about what I really wanted to create in my life.

The distinction for me was not about dismissing my mind, or changing how I thought. But rather, giving equal balance to all parts of myself: recognizing that I had an inner guidance system to support me, that I could use alongside my thinking to determine what was right for me.

I gave myself permission to explore all aspects of who I was: physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically and spiritually. In opening up to the whole of who I was, I felt more engaged in life and could approach each moment from an embodied perspective.

It seemed like a contradiction, but by opening up to what I thought was painful, I created my own freedom. The worries that previously occupied my mind started to dissolve, and the physical pain I experienced was more bearable. Overall, I began living in a more wholehearted and balanced way.

Nowadays when I sense a conflict between my mind and body, I take it as a cue to go deeper. I explore what’s really at the core of my unease, moving through that unease until I feel aligned in body and mind once again.

Of course, there are occasions when I struggle to find a logical explanation that matches the signals my body sends me. So for those scenarios, I’ve learned to trust my body and instincts over my mind, because my inner cues are usually spot on.

It’s not always easy or comfortable to take this approach. However, I’ve found the rewards of being totally present, open and curious to what we are experiencing within our whole body and self, are huge.

This has been my journey to finding genuine freedom and fulfillment. I honor my inner world, embody all aspects of who I am and create a life in alignment with my truth. It’s my intention to stay present to my body, feel my feelings fully, and trust my instincts. With this approach, I feel more connected to who I am, and finally, I feel free.

Which leaves me curious about you: do you feel you’re listening to your inner world, and what would transform in your life if you opened more fully to the intelligence of your body?


Marissa Håkansson is a freelance writer who is passionate about mental health and wellbeing. Through her writing, she shares her experiences of overcoming stress, burnout, and illness. She believes that everyone can find inner peace and genuine fulfillment when they allow themselves to be who they truly are.

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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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Gabriela Feb 28, 2013 8:02am

Thanks for your article. I have also learned and I am still learning to listen to my body and to look within. It was a huge shift for me. Born and raised in the Christian tradition, one learns to look outside the self for support and answers. However, I feel more empowered when I look within, when I face my "monsters" and when I take action without waiting for someone else to solve my problems.
I remember, when I first tried a guided meditation that invited to introspection, to sitting down with the uncomfortable situations/feelings in my life, that was a shaking experience. I thought I couldn't do it, it was extremely disturbing. I wonder if there are steps when starting meditation to avoid going in "head first". Looking back, I think that one should really practice a lot of breathing meditation and easier "body awareness" before sitting with the uncomfortable questions in their lives. That would be like a cleanse, it would prepare them, make them stronger. The rewards, however, are wonderful. Just like you said, finding genuine fredom and fulfillment, that is the journey.

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