How do others perceive you? How soon do you realize that you are getting tense?
How well do you anticipate their unspoken feelings? Your ability to understand
these signals has an enormous impact on how well you get along with others.
The secret is all in understanding a code. It is a most elaborate code that
is written nowhere, known by none and yet understood by all.
Tour Your Body for Vital Signs
Your body is a hologram of your being; a three-dimensional movie that is constantly
on, showing others how you feel about yourself and the world.
As you walk through life, is your body saying what your words are saying?Your
body is a three-dimensional full motion billboard you are constantly
showing the rest of the world. Even if people are consciously reading your body
language, they will subconsciously react to your bodily signals.
For example, if you are literally uptight, that is rigid in any part of your
body, especially your face, where most people focus most of their attention
in conversation, people will instinctively resist or react against you and your
comments. This phenomena is akin to bounding a hard rubber ball on a concrete
surface and then on a soft carpet. The ball will bounce higher and faster against
the hard surface than the soft one of course, just as other react against your
hardened surface. Suggestion: Whenever you are entering a potentially
volatile or even new situation, loosen up physically. Walk, stretch, and work
on the areas you tend to hold most of your tension.
For example, if you are like many conscientious, hard-working people, you probably
hold your shoulders higher and slightly more forward than is natural and one
of the tendons in your neck has tightened up even more than the other. If someone
will give you a quick ten or fifteen minute shoulder and neck massage, you will
enter the situation more relaxed and others will respond more softly to you.
Its time to get to know your body. If you dont know where you hold
your tension, and most people dont, take a tour of your body, so you can
know what needs the most loosening - -and exercise. Are you shouldering the
worlds responsibilities, or perpetually drooping? Or, in your determined
drive toward success, do you plant your feet solidly on the ground in a life
gesture of hostility, defiance or taking ground? Perhaps you have a forward-leaning
posture, with the head tilted slightly forward, as if yo are ready to spring
into action, expressing a lifelong pattern of flight away from psychologically
threatening situations, when you thought it was part of your make-up to leap
forward to new opportunities.
To be depressed is, in fact, to press against yourself. To be closed off is
to hold your muscles rigid against the world. Being open is being soft. No instinctive
muscle clenching, such as in the jaws, a growing pattern in Americans, even
into their sleep. Hardness is being uptight, cold, separate, giving yourself
and others a hard time. Softness is synonymous with pleasure, warmth, flowing,
being alive, drawing other people toward you rather than pushing them away.
Are you itching to get at someone? Is your colleague a pain I the neck? Are
you sore about something? What is your aching back trying to tell you? Is there
someone or thing on your back? What about your ulcer, allergy, muscle spasms?
Is there someone you cannot stomach? What is it that you would like to get off
your chest, or your back? Your body speaks to you all the time, telling you
what your own needs are. Listen there. It is your free and most sophisticated
medical feedback testing system. It is constantly showing you your inner tensions,
state of mind and habitual life attitudes.
When you are misaligned and tense, you expend outrageous sums of energy doing
the everyday gestures of life. Since the body is a high viscosity substance,
that is 60 percent to 80 percent water, the bondes are floating in a relatively
fluid environment. Yet, over time, despite that apparent fluidity, you have
tightened the muscles around every major experience of pain, fear or anger,
and continue to tighten them each time you think you are experiencing similar
situations, thus guaranteeing that you make your own pattern of uptightness
familiar and increasingly habitual, until it becomes a permanent condition you
no longer recognize as not normal.
We all hold great muscle tension around certain bones in blind remembrance
of fearful events, long after the actual events are often long forgotten. You
may never recall what initially made you afraid, but you can note where you
body reacted to protect itself and spend more time in your exercise and massage
or other body work to relax and loosen those muscle groups.
In Western society, we usually hold the tension somewhere in our upper body
whereas in many Eastern cultures the tension tends to be held in the lower body.
If you dont begin a regular practice of exercise and stretching, you
are guaranteed to lose mobility sooner as you age and rob yourself of the most
positive and alive personal presence you could offer the world every day.
We go through life making decisions, closing down and limiting ourselves unconsciously.
Stay open literally by getting in motion more frequently. Stand and stretch
at least every twenty minutes when you are sitting and working. Try to walk,
hopefully in sync with someone else, in fresh air and sunlight, at least thirty
minutes a day. As Dr. Dean Ornish wrote in his most recent book, Love and Survival:The
Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy, our survival
depends on the healing power of love.
One of the safest and most natural ways to move closer to others is to walk
with them. Walk further to the restaurant. Walk and talk on the way to the meeting.
Walk with your loved one, rather than sitting at home, to come down from your
day, and come together. Motion is emotional and makes every event more vivid
and memorable. Literally move towards the one you want in your life and loosen
up together. Your life may depend on it. In fact, why not get up right now and
take a stretch, look around, call someone and suggest a walk.
Want to learn more about the importance of cultivating intimate relationships
to keep healthy? Consider reading, in addition to Ornishs book:
Cortis, Bruno, Heart and Soul, Villard Books, 1995
Dossey, Larry, Healing Words, HarperCollins, 1993
Goleman, Danile. Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books, 1995
Keen, Sam. To Love and Be Loved. Bantam Books, 1997.
Lynch, James J. The Broken Heart. Basic Books, 1977.
Pert, Candace. Molecules of Emotion: Why We Feel the Way We Feel. Scribner
Books/Simon & Schuster, 1997.
Remen, Rachel Naomi. Kitchen Table Wisdom, Riverhead Books, 1996.
Scarf, Maggie. Intimate Partners. Ballantine Books, 1987.
Weil, Andrew. Spontaneous Healing. Knopf, 1995.