There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies.
Our bodies communicate to us clearly and specifically, if we are willing to listen.
When you think about the word “graceful,” what comes to mind? Maybe a dancer like Fred Astaire, or an athlete like Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio’s playing was described as “elegant,” and it was said he “glided” around the outfield with the “grace” of a cat. These are not words that you often find in the sports page, but when people saw DiMaggio play, those were the words that fit.
Where does grace come from? Are people born with it? When you see someone who is clumsy or awkward, do you think they are just like that, or they just aren’t paying attention? For the body, there is two-way communication. Listen to your body and compel your body to listen to you. This comes down to awareness. A simple idea, but one on which few really act.
How many people actually eat because their body is telling them it is time to eat, or sleep because they are tired? In the modern world, this is undoubtedly easier said than done. The planned and programmed nature of Western society is totally at odds with your actions being in tune with your body and your body being in tune with the world. However, just being aware of what your body is telling you, regardless of whether you can conveniently act on it, will help you become more in tune with your body’s rhythms. This idea can carry over into productivity, personal interactions, sleep, and physical fitness.
For example, I have been a life-long insomniac. I have terrible trouble sleeping, and I have gone through whole nights of tossing and turning, with a rising level of panic about going through the next day as a zombie. But lately, I have tried to pay more attention to sleep patterns and listen to what my body is telling me. If I wake up at night and I feel wide-awake, I just get up. If it’s late enough in the night, I just stay up. If I feel tired during the day, I’ll try to close my eyes for twenty minutes for a power nap (depending on where I am). On average, I’ve been getting less sleep, but have felt way more rested.
Your body also communicates to the rest of the world — and this communication can also be graceful or clumsy. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are constantly sending out signals, and this communication can be more comprehensive than language. A good illustration of this is talking to someone in person versus on the phone. In person, you see body language, facial expressions; and if you’re good at it, you can recognize subtle signals, like pulse, respiration, and skin color. On the phone, you’re not getting any of this information. It’s like reading a newspaper article from which the background information has been cut. And it goes farther than that. The way you hold your head, your gait when walking, the tone of your voice — all of this sends a signal.
The producers of the first James Bond films, after meeting with Sean Connery for the first time, watched him cross the street and described him as moving “like a big jungle cat.” For them, his physical presence was as much a part of his appeal as his acting ability.
Of course, we’re not all Sean Connery. Like any other attribute, part of how graceful we are depends on how much we were born with. That being said, each of us has a range of grace that we can achieve. We can pay no attention at all, or we can listen to our bodies, be aware of our movements, and pay attention to others. While being aware of each step and breath you take is challenging, it can lead to a better relationship with your body and can have a wealth of other benefits. The focus you achieve can bleed over into other areas of your life, and your physical grace can become a more comprehensive grace, which can include aspects of emotion, intelligence, and personal interaction.