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Sunday, Jul 13, 2014
The Sun

Kramer: We need to listen to our body voices

Special correspondent

With a reassuring smile, my physical therapist Holly advised me, “Listen to your body,” and I immediately understood exactly what she meant, having just gotten off of the leg press machine.

“It's OK to feel the burn when your muscles get tired,” she said. “It means you're challenging them adequately. But don't hurt yourself.”

I’d been in physical therapy for almost a month and was getting ready to be discharged. The exercises for general muscle weakness had become incrementally more challenging as my therapy progressed, and I could feel the increased strength and benefit of my strenuous workouts with various therapists.

But as I left the clinic, I found myself ruminating on an expansion of Holly's sound advice. “Listen to your body” resounded in my head and I thought about the other parts of me that speak and I probably ought to listen to more carefully.

For instance, heart-speak. There are times when I need to listen to my heart I told myself as I thought about the experiences in my life when heart and head had been at war with each other. The message is to hear both and weigh the choices carefully. To listen doesn't always mean to obey or agree. It means to recognize and hear what's being said. The heart-speak language results in feelings.

Mind-speak conveys a different kind of message. It communicates ideas and choices in addition to feelings, and it challenges us to make decisions based on discovering a comfort zone for processing all of the above.

And then there is gut-speak for the feelings that explode powerfully as warnings, fear, confirmation, denial or uncertainty – just to name several of the sensations it may convey.

I guess I’d never thought much about the languages my body speaks. I think I'm often hearing impaired when it's saying something I might not want to listen to.

“Enough leg presses, Judy,” it advised as the burn increased. But I wanted to do five more to make myself even stronger. My body then speaks the language of pain. Too many leg presses and my hips hurt the next day. I hear and listen.

Mind-speak offers a different kind of message. It calls upon us to bring into consideration all similar experiences we’ve had in the past and the lessons we may have learned as we struggle to make decisions that could alter our lives. It's often a process of weighing options. Sometimes there can be a very long line of them at the scale.

And gut-speak often has a loud and clarion call as we feel the tension in our bodies when it tries to tell us something.

But the good news is that these messages from the body, heart, mind and gut very often can be in synchrony. And when they agree with each other we feel a kind of harmony that’s comforting and reassuring.

Holly's comment remains powerfully with me. These languages that need and often cry out for recognition are aired in the silent privacy of our internal selves. Now I hear them as individual voices speaking to me and to each other, and I listen more attentively. We come to a decision together. It's called learning.

Judy Kramer can be reached by email at JudyandOz@tampabay.rr.com. She is author of the book “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”