"To thine own self be true" is one of the underlying tenets of recovery. But how do we honor this wise sentiment by Shakespeare? One way is to check in with the "me" that I'm trying to be true to. Checking in can involve slowing down, writing, meditating, and noticing what we are experiencing rather than running on autopilot. Checking in tends to involve tuning in to our body or to our "higher self," rather than tuning in to our "monkey mind" (the running commentary that we are telling ourselves.) It is a subtle distinction, but let's take this moment to see if we can tap into the difference. For the next 10 seconds, turn your attention to what your head is telling you ...
What did you hear?
Now, let go of whatever you heard and without trying to figure anything out, turn your attention to your body. Perhaps you'll do a quick body scan to see if any place in particular would like your attention, or one spot will automatically engage you. Just rest your attention on your physical self.
What did you notice?
For most people, the two tend to be very different experiences. For example, I just did this exercise and noticed that my head was telling me about the TV in the background, thinking that I'm hungry, wanting to get back to writing this post, etc. But when I checked in with my body, I could feel some anxiety in my belly, some tension in my shoulders, and a longing to slow down and breathe.
If I stayed attending to my head, I could run myself ragged working through a to-do list all day. When I checked in with my body, I realized that I could actually use a breather. In this case, I believe that "honoring myself" means leaning towards the latter. The more we practice checking in, the wiser we become about discerning what is happening and how we can best take care of ourselves.
In terms of checking in with your physical self, did you know that the gut is literally your second brain? The intricate network of millions of neurons lining our guts greatly influences our mood and our thinking. The second brain doesn't do much for articulating conscious thought, but it is particularly adept at feeling. This is where the saying "butterflies in the stomach" comes from. For some of us, we need to listen to our gut more often. We sometimes ignore what it is saying because it isn't telling us what we want to hear. But the upside is that when we check in, we gain more opportunity to be true to ourselves, to take care of ourselves, and to live authentically with what is actually happening—not just what our head is telling us.
So, what is your gut telling you?
Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist and author of Recovering Spirituality: Achieving Emotional Sobriety in Your Spiritual Practice.
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Copyright by Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D., 2011. All rights reserved. Any excerpts reproduced from this article should include links to the original on Psychology Today.