Recognizing (and Listening to) the Voice of Our Body

Many therapies focus on working with, and listening to, our thinking mind. It is, after all, our control center, our “analyzer,” that part of us that keeps us on schedule and on track. We need it, and in Western cultures especially, we value and reward it. As a result….

Our body often gets left out. We routinely override our physical sensations (as examples, hunger, exhaustion, pain, etc.) because we have a mental agenda. “If I stop to eat, I’ll miss this deadline!” or “I know I’m tired, but I don’t have time to rest!” or “I can feel that pain, but I’ll just keep going!” How is our body registering this override?

How does your body feel just reading those examples??

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It can be helpful to imagine our physical body and our thinking mind as two different people engaged in negotiation. Two different sets of information (“I’m tired!” vs. “We’re going to keep going!”) are simultaneously present. Both inputs are valuable for long-term health and success. But, we often allow the Analyzer to “win.” And as many of us have experienced, a one-sided relationship is inevitably doomed to fail.

If we look at the mind/body relationship as two friends, how long will the “losing” friend (the body) keep acquiescing before it reacts in protest? Depending on individual factors such as personal resiliency or cultural conditioning, this unbalance may continue for a length of time, but it will eventually be addressed. The response to this conflict might range from subconscious objection (ignoring calls or messages from this friend, avoiding places where they may be encountered, refusing to talk about them with other people, etc.,) to an actual out-and-out battle that results in an overt severing of the relationship.

But, obviously, we can’t exist without our body. So at first the body friend might offer a small murmur, a tiny complaint, an “Um, I’m a bit overloaded” sort of message to the mind. Perhaps, for example, this manifests as a inability to sleep. We may not, and probably do not, connect the two—that our body is responding to and actively protesting the constant override. We keep pushing. So, our body may sense the need to use a larger microphone.

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Perhaps we now manifest abdominal pain and cramping, again with seemingly no actual “cause.” As we continue to focus on our mental to-do list, and continue to ignore our physiology, perhaps we develop constant bloating, or chronic constipation, or a stomach ulcer, until we finally are feeling lousy enough that we go to see a health care practitioner. While medical treatment may or not be effective, at least we are now recognizing that our body has a voice, no matter how inconvenient!

In supportive somatic therapy, the body is our focus. We ask the questions, “How may I, right here and right now, support my body? What information is it giving to me, and how might I best offer support to that voice?” As we would with a good friend who is suffering, we pause, and direct our gentle, undivided attention to our physical form, noting the sensation signals being emitted. Supportive exercises can provide sensory feedback that further convey our mind’s desire to be helpful.

We are not hell-bent on changing anything. In fact, we are not focused on change. We do not impose an agenda, or note deficiencies, or judge, or “fix.” We merely tune in and offer unconditional support. We create and hold space for our body and its sensations. We make available the quiet comfort of No Expectations.

Rather than feeling ignored, our body now senses the mind’s interest and cooperation. It takes in the information that it is now Heard. Important. Cherished. Valued. As we signal our body that we are listening to and are respecting its information, we create the potential for a relinquishing of the microphone and a more cooperative, equitable state of mind/body health.

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And what friend wouldn’t appreciate this sort of responsive, caring, balanced connection?


At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of stress reduction and trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in English, Japanese, and Korean.

Add Happiness to your Life with Lemon!

Buddha knows we've plenty to feel depressed about, and my social media feeds are loaded with potential explanations. Whether it's caused by Mercury in retrograde, is our body's deflated response to an increasingly meaner world, or is perhaps a sign of our body's changing frequency?!, I and many of my clients are reporting just feeling lousy lately.

It goes without saying that regular exercise is helpful. Okay, I've committed to a daily (pretty much) 30 minute walk and to working out with a 28 minute exercise video. At the recommendation of an intuitive healer, I've also cut dairy and soy out of my diet for 90 days, and am taking more green and other supplements. And since it's one of my favorite seasons: summer, there’s lots of sunshine, and blooming flowers, and even a little more down time as clients take advantage of the school break to travel with their families.

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So what gives? Why no joy?? I don't have all the answers, but just discovered a surprising helper: lemon.

I happened to have a lemon lying on my kitchen counter that needed to be used. So I squeezed out the juice and pulp, and combined it with a can of sparkling water, a banana, half of an apple, and some ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon in my blender, and took a sip of the resulting mixture. No kidding, almost instantly, I felt differently! Lighter, more energetic, more joyful. It was lightly foamy (carbonated water), slightly sweet (banana and cinnamon), and open-my-eyes refreshing! I've been making smoothies for a while now, with different ingredients I happen to have on hand, but have never added fresh lemon. Honestly, what a difference.

This immediate improvement sent me to the internet to look for answers. Some of the health benefits of the fruit come from the fact that it is high in Vitamin C, which may reduce stroke risk, increase heart health, help maintain a healthy complexion and boost the immune system. Lemon essential oil, as it turns out, is also a huge pick-me-up, among other benefits. And the perfume industry has long used lemon and other citrus oils to add sparkle to fragrances (how could I have forgotten that fabulous lemon-filled fragrance from my teenage years, Jean Nate?).

At any rate, until the stars realign, or world compassion reigns, I'm adding fresh-squeezed lemon to my diet. And I’m heading to my local drugstore to scour the aisles for some Jean Nate.


At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of stress reduction and trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in English, Japanese, and Korean.

The Four Immeasurables and Trauma

There is a classic prayer in Buddhism called the Four Immeasurables. It is often used as a practice to help practitioners open our hearts, to cultivate the awareness which helps us to understand and treasure our common connection to all beings. The lines are as follows:

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  1. May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness

  2. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  3. May all beings never be separated from the supreme joy that is beyond all sorrow

  4. May all beings abide in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion

I recently received a teaching on these passages from Buddhist scholar and teacher, Choying Khandro, of Dakini’s Whisper, in which she offered a fresh perspective. Instead of merely reciting the lines as a supplication, as though someone else or something else is responsible for creating such conditions, Khandro-la suggests we read each of the lines in three ways:

a) As a prayer

b) As a fact

c) As though I am personally determined to make such a thing happen

For example, let's take the first line: “May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” I first read the words as is, sensing them as a plea from my heart to the universe. I feel these words go out, encompassing all beings and all realities, and sit briefly as that energy flows.

Next, I slightly change the wording in order to read it as though it is fact: “All beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” Here, I pause, and really visualize our universe as a place where this is so. What is it like to live in such a world? What energy is present? What details can I see/hear/touch/taste/smell? How do other beings react to experiencing such conditions? I take some time to flesh out as many details as possible, to really make the statement tangible.

Finally, I read the line as a mission statement: “I am determined to ensure that all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” With this statement, the abstract becomes concrete. I am now choosing involvement. This simple alteration not only changes the tone of our meditation practice (click here for a great article on the dangers of 'McMindfulness'), but it transforms our mere prayer and visualization into Power. It provides us with a means through which we may resolutely and actively engage with our world.

Those of us who have experienced trauma often feel powerless. Weak. Hopeless. Helpless. We're so accustomed to being ignored, beaten down, dismissed, and/or trodden upon, that we’ve often given up. But this simple shift from prayer statement to personal power statement alters the lens through which we view our circumstances. Armed with our vision created in Step b), our factual statement, we are consciously choosing to reframe our experience of our world. My circumstances, beginning right now, are not something negative being done to me. Instead, I am the fuel of positive change.

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Of course, this is a mental exercise. But it's not so difficult to come up with even one small thing I might be determined to do today to ensure that all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. This might mean that I resolve to offer a smile to everyone I encounter that day. Perhaps I take a bag along and pick up trash as I take my daily walk (plogging, anyone?) Maybe I ______________, well, how about you take a shot at filling in the blank?

In the big picture, these seemingly small actions probably won't erase our traumas nor those of the people we have chosen to help that day. But as we heal, as we move from our current “normal” toward our healthier “new normal,” this simple meditation tool can help us transition from passive bystander to active participant, from victim to survivor.

It may not feel easy, vowing to move forward from your heart. But as my Buddhist teachers have often said, “That's why we call it practice!”


At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of stress reduction and trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in English, Japanese, and Korean.

A body-based deep relaxation practice


Relaxing the mind through relaxing the body.

This article from Lion’s Roar, an online Buddhist magazine, leads you through a simple three-step meditation process. The practice given is based on Buddha's teaching to not only become aware of our mind, but also the body, “...visiting each part with awareness, acceptance, care, and without judgment.”

This gentle, supportive, exploratory approach to the body is also an integral part of Somatic Experiencing (SE™) and Somatic Touch trauma resolution therapy. Through contacting and simply noticing what is present in our physiology, we begin to heal:

At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of stress reduction and trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in both English and Japanese.

Fatigue? Mood swings? Memory lapses? Physical aches and pains? It could be dehydration.

I hadn’t realized how used I’d gotten to the pain emanating from both hip joints until a visiting relative asked me, “Why are you walking like that?” My usual morning stiff-legged gait had caught his attention.

X-rays ruled out arthritis. I tried chiropractic and acupuncture, but neither provided long-lasting relief. I wasn’t sleeping well, and was tired and cranky. In desperation, I scheduled an appointment with nutritional health coach, Rachel Khani.

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After completing a very thorough diet, exercise, and lifestyle intake, Rachel suggested a few very simple dietary changes. At the top of the list was her recommendation that I drink at least 70 ounces of water, pure water, every day.

That’s two liters of water a day! I protested, but I was in pain. I did as Rachel recommended. Within two weeks, I was sleeping through the night and my hip pain was GONE. To say I was surprised would be an understatement--I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that simply consuming more water could make such a difference.

After this experience, I now routinely ask clients about their water consumption habits. For more information on why water is so important for our well-being and for some ideas on how to increase your own water consumption, please click here to read Rachel’s post: “Are you depressed….or dehydrated?”


At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in both English and Japanese.

Looking for Stress Management? Body-based "trauma therapies" can help!

We’ve discussed that trauma isn’t only defined by big, overwhelming events; it can also be the end product of cumulative stress (click here for more information). Even so, I have some clients who don’t feel “traumatized,” but they ARE stressed out and want to feel better! Not a problem! We can use many of the same techniques to help.

If we accept the standard definition of stress as “a state of physical, mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances,” we can see that any method which serves to release this strain or tension would be beneficial. Another important point is that if we choose to work with, for example, physical tension, we'll often register a reduction in our mental and emotional tension as well.

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I'm a massage therapist, and massage has long been used to relieve muscular tension. Most of us have had the experience of feeling completely and utterly relaxed after a good massage, and we therefore know first-hand the state of physical, mental, and emotional well-being that follows such a session. (If it’s been a while, please click here to make an appointment!)

Meditation is another helpful tool in our stress reduction arsenal. As with any tool, we obtain the most benefit from consistent, regular practice. Even just a few-minutes-a-day meditation schedule can offer a sense of being more grounded, more present, and more readily able to handle the highs and lows of life. I have a teacher from whom I receive instruction, and I often lead clients in short guided meditations, but simply selecting from among the plethora of meditation apps on your smartphone and downloading and following along will be helpful.

Somatic therapies are also effective methods for relieving stress because they too emphasize and utilize the mind/body connection. Somatic Experiencing (SE™) and Somatic Touch are sensation-focused, and are perfect for those who wish to learn more about how their body physically responds to and stores stress. A specially-trained therapist serves as a guide through this process, offering verbal and hands-on support and encouragement as the client accesses and discharges tension. For those who are experiencing stress as a form of emotion, Integral Somatic Psychology (ISP) offers a method of physically connecting with and processing these feelings.

I'm happy to discuss any of these and other body-focused modalities, and how they may help you reduce the stress in your life! For clients in Japan, I'm also affiliated with a group practice (TTCR—Trauma Treatment Center and Resources) in the Saitama area. There, we have English- and Japanese-speaking therapists trained in mindfulness meditation, somatic therapies, and other body-based modalities to help with stress management.


At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in both English and Japanese.