Why Body Intelligence (BQ) and Why Now?

By Kathlyn (Katie) Hendricks and Lamara Heartwell - featured in The Body Intelligence Summit

Humans have the opportunity to make the shift now from fear-focused, adrenaline-fueled living to full-body-intelligent living. Body intelligence expands our perspective beyond fear to the rich, millennia-long wisdom we carry in our cells. BQ includes all feelings and inner experience, informs responsive choices, heightens well-being, and opens perception based on curiosity and possibility rather than scarcity and prejudice. BQ allows us to connect deeply with our essence and the flow of life that sparks genuine appreciation and collaboration with others.

When we value what our body is communicating to us, we open the doors to a level of vitality that cannot be achieved by following advice from a book.  Every BODY has a different road map, and by becoming intimate with what our own body is asking for, we unleash our inner physician.  It is through this level of nourishment in our daily lives that regeneration of cells proliferate.  It’s an “in the moment” experiment, and you know you are on the right track if you notice feeling energized by your choices (as though your cells are humming the words “Thank You”).
Body intelligence is the direct, consciously felt experience of being alive, from the flow of blood and sensation to the many attitudes and mental shifts that weave with our responses to being in a body, in relationships, work and the world.  The most common complaint that I (Katie) received in my former practice as a therapist was: “I don’t know what I’m feeling,” or, “I just don’t feel.” I took this to mean more than, “I don’t experience emotions.” Rather, this common complaint is the predictable apotheosis of 2000+ years of culture and religion casting the body as bad, wrong, immoral and untrustworthy.  We, therefore, have been taught to fear our bodies, and not listen, as though we’d turn into hedonistic gluttons if we did.  The inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison, famously declared, “The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.”  Many people today seem to agree.

Consider instead the perspective of Joseph Campbell: “I think that what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive.”  People must first come into their bodies to experience them, rather than proceeding through life as James Joyce described his character, Mr. Duffy, “who lived a short distance from his body.”

What would you actually be doing and sensing if you used more of your body intelligence?  BQ skills include the following:

  • Listening AND following what your body is communicating
  • Honoring the wisdom in your cells vs. discounting your body's voice and objectifying yourself
  • Relating to your body in a kind way vs. allowing your inner critic to lead
  • Nourishing yourself well through daily needs (food, water, rest, quiet space, activity, connection, etc.)
  • Trusting your body wisdom to guide your decisions with different people, places, and circumstances
  • Valuing your inside voice first before the authoritative, acculturated outside voice
  • Owning your authority-- being your own authority by living from that inner truth that's beyond the rational mind
  • Knowing how to presence yourself-- feelings/ sensations--and knowing how to center, breathe fully,  and open your body regardless of who you are around or where you are
  •  Allowing and enjoying positive and pleasurable sensations to circulate through you vs. holding back or tightening your breath as soon as you feel really good

Here are some of the many BQ doorways that you can enter at any time in life:

•  Noticing—curiosity woven with attention
You can be aware of a vast continuum of sensation inside that gives you the somatic gestalt to effectively respond to:
--- Hmmm, something else going on here under the surface,
--- Or, I want or don’t want,
--- Or, Move Now!
--- Or, shift. Do something different/give attention to outside you/ say something,
--- Or eat/drink water/rest/ take a deep breath.
This self-caring skill is polar opposite of the critical, what’s-wrong-now kind of attention that most people are trained to focus on their inner experience.
•  Giving sustained attention to inner experience
You can learn to be with your experience as it emerges and unfolds. Whether getting curious about an emotion, an urge to communicate or a complicated physical skill, body intelligence amps up your ability to presence your experience as it unfolds. For example, following a golf swing all the way through body, club and flight until the ball lands, rather than looking up before the club even strikes the ball (common beginner move). You can follow the first buds of an emotion and feel what wants to happen, the tentacles of memory echoes and thoughts, as the sensations, course through to authentic expression. In contrast, one of the most common ways to decrease BQ is to distract yourself from being with what is going on right now. Common distractions: having a conversation with a mate/ close friend, non-stop tasking, emotional eating, obsessive thinking, shallow breathing, or holding physical tension.
•  Favoring presence
We’ve created presencing as a verb, which we want to enter into the lexicon of valuable human skills and the dictionary. When we bring attention, breath, open posture, turning toward, receiving, and wonder to this moment, presencing results. Intimacy results. New solutions result with ease. The emergence of a new, conscious field of awareness, that we can all tap into, results.
Right now ads with “kindly doctor” basically say: “Have a headache? Take THIS pill.” In a world that works from body intelligence, the kindly doctor would say, “Have a headache or body ache? Ask your body what the message is and make the necessary shifts to come home to yourself again.” Right now stress-related illnesses cost businesses at least $200 Billion a year.  In a body intelligence savvy world, we’d have fewer athletic injuries because athletes would be giving attention to their self-care as well as to goals they are trying to meet.  Children would be going to schools that would teach them to stay attuned to their natural instincts and develop a balance between cognitive, emotional, and body intelligence.  Imagine how business would change if sharing feelings were no big deal, just another valuable addition to collaboration.  Otto Scharmer, bestselling author of Theory U, makes a strong case for the direct positive impact of presencing on the bottom line.  Authenticity and transparency are gaining traction. The paradigm is shifting, and we can become a part of this evolutionary emergence.
We can learn to presence, even as technology tempts us toward becoming big heads with thumbs attached. If we don’t, evolution could continue in the current direction away from enjoying and occupying the ineffable joys of having a body.

Kathlyn (Katie) Hendricks, Ph.D., BC-DMT, is an artist of life who creates transformational theater events around the world. Passionate about the power of embodied integrity and emergence, she continuously promotes creative expression in service of a direct experience of life, wholeness and evolutionary collaboration. She has been a pioneer in the field of body-mind integration for over forty years. Katie has an international reputation as a seminar leader, training professionals from many fields in the core skills of conscious living through the lens of body intelligence. Her explorations about the catalytic, transformational power of the creative arts have been featured in many magazines, journals and ten books co-authored with her husband Gay Hendricks. Katie earned a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology and has been a Board Certified-Dance/Movement Therapist of the American Dance Therapy Association since 1975.
Lamara Heartwell is a body intelligence expert who speaks, facilitates and performs, inspiring people to claim their bodies as an essential source of intelligence, power and pleasure.  Lamara founded Santa Barbara Dance Tribe in 2009, a thriving twice-weekly ecstatic dance event with a strong community presence since its inception. She has produced dozens of performance art events in California over the past 12 years. As the great granddaughter of one of the founders of Exxon, her passion and activism for environmental sustainability has been influenced by her family lineage in the oil industry. Lamara is as invested in the health of the planet as she is in the health of our bodies, and sees a direct relationship between the two.  She holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a coaching certification through the Hendricks Institute, two years of counseling training at the Interchange Institute, and extensive yoga training since age 16.  Lamara lives in Santa Barbara, CA.  In her free time, she delights in playing on the magical and wild shores of the pacific.

Join Katie and Lamara with co-hosts Gay Hendricks and Mark Metz on the Shift Network’s upcoming Body Intelligence Summit.

Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in: 2014 Catalyst, Issue 3: Becoming truly embodied