Engage Your Body
My body was
with me always. It walked with me, ran, with me, slept with me,
laughed with me, and followed me wherever I went. I spent a fair
amount of time grooming my body, training it to performance and
present itself in ways that were appropriate to my needs.... In class,
my body would sit patiently while I was being educated.
any of us know,
intuitively, that we listen to our inner voice more than we listen to
anyone else. Gut feelings, educated guesses, ethical hunches, imagination,
inspiration, grace, guidance from above, or intuition—whatever you want to
call this prompting—are also as important in your understanding of what’s
going on as the logic you find in your inner voice.
If you doubt this,
imagine not having your body as a guide. You wouldn’t have the sensibility
that you’d better not schedule that appointment for next Friday, that it’s
almost time to check on the pot roast, that Renee is more trustworthy than
Ray, that a job you don’t know much about is worth taking, or that today
you should call your mom. Decisions like these may not have a logical
basis, but they’re vital to how you learn and live your life.
This chapter introduces
you to natural and ageless approaches to learning that may seem at first
unconventional and possibly even uncomfortable, but that can change the
way you look at yourself. Diverging from the first two chapters in this
book, which focused on how you’re unique, this is the first of
three chapters that introduce you to the workings of how you learn
so that you can increase your potential to learn more.
Road Map to
Chapter 3 takes you to the following
Learning in your whole body
Accessing your inner knowing
Getting out of your own way
Getting off the chair
Help From Your Whole Body
We tend to regard [thinking and learning] as a kind of disembodied
process, as if the body’s role in that process were to carry the brain
from place to place so it can do the important work.
Our most refined thoughts and best actions, our greatest joys and
deepest sorrows, use the body as a yardstick.
If you’re investing
your time in learning more now, please don’t waste another day believing
the predominantly Western perspective that thinking and learning occurs
only between your ears. Contrary to science fiction movies and futuristic
cartoons that show a time when heads in jars rule the world, you need your
whole body to be intelligent.
Your brain and body
operate as a single entity; both played an integral role in your learning
processes throughout your life. Scientists now have extensive evidence
showing that you think, remember, and learn as much, if not more, in other
parts of your body as you do in your head, and that the mind (the
word used to describe what allows you to think) is located throughout the
body, not only in your head.
Even though gross
anatomy hasn’t changed much for 200,000 years, modern imaging technology
has begun to reveal the body’s biomechanics so our understanding
is new and improved. For the first time in history, with new research in
neurophysiology, neurobiology, somatics, quantum physics, and cognitive
sciences, scientists now can show that all matter in the human body has a
built-in intelligence, as well as the ability to think and learn.
To make sense of
this, you first might need to recover from the fact that it probably
contradicts everything you’ve ever been taught about learning. After all,
most of us learned at a young age that learning is all in our heads. We
think we’re smart when we can find the right way to manage what we think,
and create rules to govern what we do. Although that can work in some
situations, circumstances where one rule can supply the answer are
becoming rarer each day, in every area of life. Sometimes, all you can do
is admit that there simply isn’t a rule that applies, and it’s smarter to
go with your gut.
Several years ago, I
worked with group of firefighters. They were quick to point out that they
depended every day on this superior form of learning. They explained that
firefighters don’t weigh alternatives: They grab the first idea that seems
good enough, then the next, and the next after that. To them, it doesn’t
feel like deciding or learning; it feels like doing their job.
what I’m saying. Your brain is the most complex organ in your body,
serving as the processing center for many physical and mental functions.
Before you can take that sip of morning juice, for example, the motor
cortex in your brain completes an incalculable number of subconscious
actions to coordinate your hand toward the cup. Before you can wake up
your children, your vision center processes an equally incredible amount
of information just to recognize their faces and identify your usual
routines. You brain, however, doesn’t work alone.
To learn optimally,
information flows instantaneously from your body to specific areas of your
brain and back, faster than light, and from one area of your brain to
another area, each working separately and as one seamless unit. The
thinking you do with your body, similar to the thinking that you do with
your brain, is part of a two-way system, up and down.
You could compare
your whole body’s learning capacity to a river that can flow in two
directions at once. Sensory information enters somewhere along your
body—through your nerve endings, your eyes, your ears, or your
muscles—which then sends a chemical signal to another center, with each
center upstream (or downstream) from the one before. Every inch of you is
involved in sending, receiving, and then translating information. Cells
that receive a signal or notice a change in the flow respond by making a
What your brain
communicates to your body depends largely on what messages your body
sent first to your brain. For instance, when you’re happy, you smile,
and when you smile, you feel happier. Faster than you can notice, every
part of you has collaborated for the good of your whole being. Brain and
body overlap, working together—often on the same thought. Your cells are
literally talking to each other, and your brain is in on the conversation.
When I shared this
with a group of middle-school students, one 7th grader
paraphrased it this way: “When they say ‘It’s like riding a bike,’ the
muscles in my legs remember how to pedal and my butt remembers how to sit,
and my back knows how to balance, and my hands remember how to steer and
all those thoughts go to my brain where it’s assembled in ‘ride the bike’
terms.” That’s about right.
In the work I do, I
call this, whole-body learning. I chose that phrase because when
you explain this to your family or your coworkers—and I hope that you
do—they’ll give you fewer weird looks than if you called it “body-mind” or
“body-brain” learning, terms that researchers frequently use.
Intelligence and Intuition
is] knowing without knowing how you know.
The mind can
assert anything and pretend it has proved it. My beliefs I test on my
body, on my intuitional consciousness, and when I get a response
there, then I accept.
—D. H. Lawrence
exercises throughout this book are designed to help you become more aware
of how you learn, how you create new patterns, and how you establish new
pathways to learn more. If you’re considering skipping these, in an effort
to learn even faster, let me assure you that these activities shouldn’t
take long, and they will help you establish your learning in more of your
body than if you only read and took notes. I promise to keep exercises
short and focus on making the most of your time.
I suspect you have
always known you’re more than what’s in your head. To check this, try this
on where you pointed.
point to your head, your body, someone across the room?
you speak of “giving yourself” to someone else, what are you referring to?
Do you give your brains, your heart, or your soul?
Try this with other
people. Where do they point?
(c) Learn More Now: 10 Simples Steps
to Learning Better, Smarter, and Faster by Marcia L. Conner (Hoboken, NJ:
John Wiley & Sons, 2004)