This is part 3 of 4 in our Enter the Arena series.
If monks can teach us anything, it’s that the body responds to conflict. While you might not be striking a flurry of blows or deflecting missiles in real life, your body plays a prominent role in any conflict. And with discipline and practice, you can prepare your body so that you can act in your best interest without a second thought.
Because in the heat of the moment – right in the storm of conflict and change – if you’re paying attention to others, the environment, AND trying to observe and control your emotions and reactions, you aren’t going to be present or aware of what's going on.
That inattention makes conflict harder and makes change return to the status quo. We revert to what we know and what we’ve practiced. We go back to old “fighting styles” that don’t serve who we want to become.
With practice, however, you can turn your newfound mastery into intuition. It’s called “muscle memory” for a reason.
Let’s get some practice in now:
If it feels safe to do so, think of a recent argument you had or an attempt to make a change outside of your comfort zone. Take a moment to visualize the scene and the words that were said (or unsaid) or the actions taken (or left untaken). Experience that memory.
Now, pay attention to your body. Start at your head and work your way down. What do you notice?
Tight shoulders? Jaw or hands clenched? Feet planted? Heart racing? Eyes turned downward? Ragged breath? Frozen limbs?
Now, take a moment to imagine that the same argument or conflict is resolved or that you made the change that you set out to make. You are in a moment of peace.
What changes do you notice in your body? What messages is your body sharing with you right now?
Our body speaks its own language when we are in conflict and change. Learning to understand and speak that language will give you new insights and a greater awareness of how you are feeling when in the arena. You don’t need to control your body’s response, just listen to what it says.
Dedicate the time to practice instead of waiting until the moment arrives to test your skills. Practice and prepare through journaling, meditation, visualization, or even rehearsal with a practice partner. DO NOT traumatize yourself or catastrophize by imagining the worst-case scenario – your body WILL remember that too. And where you need professional help, find it – whether that’s a therapist, coach, or other support.
With that information in hand, the choice with what to do with it is up to you. Between the stimulus of conflict and your response, there is a space. At first, it might feel small and short and put you in a position of being reactive. But with time and awareness, that space opens up and creates more choice on how to respond.
Do you further engage?
Do you disengage and de-escalate?
Do you need to reposition?
Do you just need to take a breath?
Listening to your body in the moments of conflict will give you the answer. This is where the discipline of monks truly shines - when you listen to your body you will be capable of feats you didn’t know you were physically capable of.
So when your body talks, will you listen?
No more vows of silence!
Autumn & Jerod