This compelling question from a reader crossed my desk the other day and I wanted to give it some of the attention it is due:
“How do I know the difference between what my body is telling me from what my mind does or does not want to do?”
So here are my thoughts on how to distinguish “mind voices” from “body voices” — and why your self-trust and confidence hinges upon you doing so.
Several years ago, I was driving in the car with my husband and I asked him how he could tell the difference between intuition and fear, a popular question with my friends and clients.
He looked at me wide-eyed and said, “they feel so completely and utterly different, I am not sure how anyone could confuse them.”
It might be him, or the fact that he is a man and received more training on trusting himself over the years than his female counterparts, but I was struck by his clarity. A clarity NOT shared by too many of us. A clarity that has been hard-won for me over the years.
A clarity I wish for you, and that is kinda the point of me writing today.
So, here’s how you know you are hearing “mind voices” or “body voices,” fear or intuition. These are guidelines, based on my own experience and that of clients and course participants. They are not the word of any ordained authority, so please use them as a guide toward your own truth.
For the most part, mind voices help you with things like doing your taxes, tying your shoes, and making sure your partner is crystal clear that she is wrong and you are right.
Often, mind voices have a side effect of you trusting and liking yourself LESS. They like to remind you that you can’t trust people, you don’t fit in, no one is ever going to date you until you lose 20 pounds, it’s all going to be okay when you have that new pair of shoes, you’re not getting it and why bother anyway — or that you are so damn brilliant the rest of us had best wear sunglasses.
If you’ve ever said, “I always second-guess myself!” it’s a mind voice that does that second-guessing.
Mind voices are heady and quick, like the “fine print” in an advertisement being read at the speed-of-chipmunk, trying to impart in 2.3 seconds not only the amazing deal you are going to get if you act NOW, NOW, NOW, as well as the side effects that MIGHT, MAYBE, PERHAPS include paralysis, immolation, and death.
Mind voices come from your “masculine” aspects — the productive, efficient, discerning, analytical, hierarchical, competitive, goal-oriented, and will-powered parts of you.
Mind voices try to warn you away from physical and emotional harm, and because they also want you keep the species reproducing, they might urge you to hop in the sack with someone who is probably bad news for you. Addiction, denial, avoidance, obsession, compulsion — all mind voices, often having you feel out of your body, numb, dissociated, stressed, and anxious.
Body voices In contrast, body voices are feelings, emotions, sensations, intuitions, instincts, nudges, desires, pulls, pushes, images, and impulses — that often require patience, space, and stillness to hear and some deciphering to understand.
For example, if you ask yourself a question like “should I accept the scholarship?” your body-voice-answer might come in the form of an image, symbol, or metaphor like a golden cage with a door flung open and a white bird fluttering to take flight (I got this one during one of my own recent body voice meditations).
Often, being in dialogue with body voices has a side effect of you trusting and liking yourself MORE. Body voices aren’t particularly interested in guaranteeing your comfort; in fact, they might bring up things that are quite scary or dark. But as you work with them, they remind you of what is true for you, what is important, what brings you joy, and what you need to see or learn at this point in your life — even if it is painful to see and brings up shame as you learn it.
If you’ve ever felt, “I just know,” it’s a body voice that let you know.
Body voices come from your “feminine” aspects — the intuitive, feeling, emotional, instinctual, cyclical, sensual, sensory, connective, collaborative, joyful, peaceful, passionate, and devotional parts of you.
Body voices are concerned with your growth as a human being, your unique life path, your purpose (which is not necessarily the same thing as your job), what you are here to contribute and experience, and your embodiment of your unique essence.
They don’t particularly care if you look bad, usually have a wicked sense of humor, and often urge you to do or say things that “make no rational sense” and radically deviate from “the plan,” but feel very right to you. Body voices are quiet and powerful, like the sound of deep pulsing bass from a far-away passing car playing music, that you HEAR just as much as FEEL in your belly. Body voices tend to bring you more into your body and feelings, rather than numbing you out. It’s not that we should NEVER listen to our mind voices and ALWAYS listen to our body voices. We need both. But I’ve found the sanest way to go about being a human (and a woman) is to listen to my body voices FIRST and then let my mind voices weigh in.
And this is, for most of us, as easy as trying to steer a car by starlight. But it can be done. And it gets easier and easier. And eventually euphoric.
Of course, we live in a world that gives out gold stars by the pound when we follow our mind voices, and encourages our body voices to fade into the background.
So we have our work cut out for us. It is good work, tho.
Living your life predominantly by your mind voices separates you from your true self and has you wonder why, if you are following the plan so darn well, you feel perpetually disconnected and dissatisfied.
Living your life by your body voices first and your mind voices in support, reconnects you to you, gives you back your innate confidence, settles you sweetly in your skin, and helps your life — however awkward or messy — to feel triumphantly like your own.
It’s worth saying that your mind and body (and soul) are intertwined and interconnected, so your mind can’t be actually separate or totally distinct from your body.
And yet, it is vital as you walk along the path of self-awareness, self-trust, and personal liberation, to distinguish the different voices within you, to know which one has the talking stick at any given moment.
As you get to know each of the voices inside you, here’s a cool insider secret: THEY ALL LOVE YOU. All of your voices are excited to work for Team You, each in their own quirky way helping you to stay happy, safe, alive, learning, growing, and self-expressed.
None of your voices is the bad guy. There’s a misunderstanding I see in many personal growth and spiritual communities, that spotlights a particular voice within you — perhaps your mind, your ego, your anger, whatever — and makes that voice out to be the villain in your story. And gives you tools to transcend, control, or overcome that voice, to oust that villain.
Truly, out-of-control minds, egos, or emotions can be extremely dangerous forces, but it is not control or transcendence that is needed in order to work with these parts of ourselves.
It is awareness, kindness, humility, a boatload of courage, and some super-size doses of humor.
Okay, your turn. Come share with us what your mind voices and your body voices sound and feel like for you. I’ll meet you there.
Great question today, right? Keep ‘em coming!
PS: Also, come check out my Facebook Live videos, “Ever feel trapped in your head? This is why and what to do about it” and “Can’t hear your intuition?” which speak to this as well. They are juicy ones.
And while you are at it, please “like” my Facebook page if you haven’t already, so that as I do new videos, you’ll get notified of them. My Facebook page is a great place to ask any of YOUR questions, which I can respond to in either an article like this one, or a Facebook Live video.