Today, we are going to play with speaking Sensation. Yes, it’s a language. Yes, you will be able to speak it by the end of this post.
But first, why? What’s the point?
Sensations are the language (the words) of our bodies. They are how our bodies communicate with us.
Speaking Sensation allows us to interact with our bodies in a way that is gentle, non-invasive, and that promotes an increased sense of ease and wellbeing.
Our bodies are always communicating with us whether we are aware of it or not.
They are constantly letting us know what is going on with them: I’m hungry, I’m full, I’m hot, cold, thirsty, in pain… Sometimes the messages are very clear “That hurts!” Sometimes, they are quite subtle.
Today, we will begin to explore the infinite ways your body communicates with you through sensations. And, believe me, the vocabulary of your body extends far beyond full, thirsty, cold, hot, pain, and hungry.
So, just what is a sensation?
A sensation is a physical feeling in the body.
Sensation Language describes these physical feelings using words based on the five senses (taste, touch, smell, sound, sight).
It is important to not confuse sensations with emotions. While emotions do have accompanying sensations, the emotions themselves are not sensations.
For instance, think about fear. Fear is an emotion that, for me anyway, comes all wrapped up with the sensations of extreme clenching in my stomach, constriction in my chest and pressure in my throat.
Here are some more examples: tingling is a sensation. Anger is not. Queasy is. Longing isn’t. Relaxed is. Happy is not.
For a partial list of sensations to help you get into Sensation Speak, click here.
In short, speaking Sensation involves using words based on the five senses to describe whatever you are experiencing in your body.
What does ‘good’ really mean?
A friend asks you how you are. Without really thinking about it, you answer, “Good!” In that moment, you mean it. You really do feel good.
But, what does ‘good’ mean? How do you know that you feel good?
Enter sensations: TaDa!
Scan your body… what do you notice? Is there a sense of expansiveness in your chest? Perhaps you feel an overall sense of lightness and space throughout your body. Perhaps you are experiencing something entirely different that to you feels good.
What word other than ‘good’ could you use to give a more body-based description of how you are?
Sometimes, starting with pain makes speaking Sensation easier.
Although it may sound strange, it is often much easier to speak Sensation when describing pain. In general, most people have a fairly extensive pain-based sensation vocabulary–extensive compared to words describing a state of wellbeing and comfort, that is.
So, let’s do a quick exercise. And yes, I’m doing it too. 🙂
Step 1: Scan your body and choose your favorite tension-holding body part. For the purposes of this exercise, choose an area of chronic, lower-grade tension. Avoid areas of recent injury or high-intensity pain.
Ex: I’m tuning into my right knee.
Step 2: Allow yourself to just notice what is happening there on the level of sensation. You can refer to the list here for words if you get stuck. (And, yes, stuck is a great sensation word!).
Ex: Initially, I noticed a pulling in the back of my thigh, a tingling going down my shin and this dullness directly under my kneecap.
Step 3: Give yourself 3-5 minutes to continue noticing and watching (witnessing) that part of your body. As you pay attention to it (without trying to fix or change it), what happens? Does the sensation stay the same or does it change? If it changes, what sensation word would now describe it?
Ex: the pulling sensation dissipated; the tingling in the shin increased momentarily and then decreased; the dullness became more of an ache and then I noticed a gentle pulsing beneath the kneecap. Interesting!
“The very act of paying attention to your body changes your experience.” –Diane Heller
Sensations give us a very concrete way to interact with and listen to our bodies. It is through this listening, this interaction, this communicating, that our bodies (we) change.
Remember, learning something new takes time.
Do you remember when you first learned how to drive a car? I recall feeling very overwhelmed initially. There was so much to keep track of, so much to do all at once… turn on your blinker, check your mirrors, check your blind-spot, speed up (or slow down), hands at 10 and 2… all that just to change lanes!
I also recall thinking: Soon, all of this will be second nature. Soon, I will be doing all these things at once without even thinking about them. And soon (very soon) I was.
It’s the same process with learning to speak sensation. At first, it may feel overwhelming. You may find yourself getting frustrated and wondering if you will ever be able to
- notice/be aware of sensations in your body and
- be able to describe them in a meaningful way.
That’s ok. That’s normal. Just give yourself time, keep practicing, and eventually you will be able to speak Sensation without even thinking about it. Eventually, you will be fluent in the language of the body.
For you (if you so desire):
Over the next week, play with speaking Sensation. You can repeat the exercise described above with the same or some other part of your body.
Or, when someone asks how you are, pause, notice the sensations in your body, and see if you can find a sensation word to describe what you are experiencing in that particular moment. You just might surprise yourself!
Want to take it even deeper?
Join the Tending the Sacred community and receive access to Dissolving Overwhelm with Owl, a mini e-course. It describes one of my favorite self-care techniques that just happens to be oh-so-very helpful when learning to notice and track sensations in your body.