When I was a student at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, the closest thing they offered to a business degree in the night school program was a degree in Organizational Communication. We were taught how to communicate effectively within any organization – be it a corporation, school, small business, committee of people gathered for a specific purpose, or even a family, no matter how big or small.
There were semester-long classes in Leadership and Development where we learned about things like conflict resolution and paradigm shifts (which is when your entire construct of reality shifts). We learned about how our reality is a product of our perception, which is a product of our past. We learned that the highest level of listening is empathic listening. We learned about win-win communication. But perhaps the most fascinating 16-week, semester-long class I took was one simply called Listening.
And without a doubt, my absolute favorite professor of all time was Dr. Rick Bommelje. He’s the one who taught the Listening course, and the Leadership and Development course, and if there is one word I would use to describe the very core of what he modeled, taught, and inspired, besides empathy, was integrity. Those two words, taken together, are the epitome of what it means to be authentic, genuine, and real. He taught me to live it to the best of my ability, and how to recognize it when I see it.
He inspired us to listen… to very deeply listen.
It was in his class that I learned that roughly 93% of all communication is nonverbal, meaning we actually communicate very little through the words that we use. Which is why you will sometimes hear someone say, “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Things like tone of voice, inflection, facial expressions, pace, gestures, even how close versus how far away you stand from your audience, eye contact, posture, and how your body moves. Basically, we studied in great depth body language.
Little did I know that this would serve me so well later on as a yoga teacher, massage therapist and life coach.
My yoga and massage training built upon my training at Rollins, and took my understanding of body language to a whole new level. When I work with a client, I can almost immediately intuit where their energy is stuck based on the way they hold themselves in their body, the way they move, all of their other non-verbals, as well as the words they use.
Often, simply driving down the street I can see somebody on the sidewalk and get an instant energetic read on what’s going on for them. I have “felt” someone’s sadness and depression. I have “sensed” anxiety. I have recognized genuine joy and enthusiasm. It’s not about making judgments or assumptions about these people or what I’m picking up, it’s simply an energetic read. Those who are highly sensitive to that energy may call themselves intuitives, empaths, or even psychics. Regardless of what you might call it, I believe we all have this ability, it’s just a matter of cultivating it and paying attention.
In the Empath Yoga Teacher Training & Life Coaching program, communication training is a very big component. As part of our study on body language and how to read energy patterns, we take turns observing how we and our classmates stand, and how we hold ourselves in our bodies in relationship to the world around us.
We get a sense of how grounded we are by the way our feet touch the ground – for example, are we shifting forward onto the balls of our feet, are we sitting back on our heels, or is our weight evenly distributed. Are our shoulders stacked over our hips, or are we leaning forward or back. Are our shoulders hunched up by our ears, are they rounding forward, or are they relaxed down away from our ears. Often you can see when one hip is higher or lower than the other, or rotated forward. The same thing goes for the shoulders.
And while we may not always know exactly what the cause is, we learn that the body is the subconscious mind, and how to recognize areas where energy is hung up. Students usually are eager to hear what their classmates have to say after intentionally observing their posture, because the culture and environment is such that we all really want to know ourselves. Because the more we understand and know ourselves, the more options we have. And the more we know and understand ourselves, the more we understand, and can empathize with, others.
This is an aspect of the program that is life-altering.
It’s this understanding of nonverbal communication and body language that makes it easy for me to see a potentially toxic person coming from a mile away. And by toxic, I mean toxic to me and my life. By potentially, I mean only if I ignore that information and let them in anyway.
I have to say that every single time I have ignored my inner guidance system, which is simply my body and intuitive mind communicating with me about what is showing up in my environment, I have ended up regretting it. Luckily, it only took a few of these unnecessarily painful lessons for me to start trusting my instincts.
How many times has this happened to you? Our body language says a lot about us, and the language of our body also has a lot to tell us, if we learn to listen.
Albert Einstein understood this, which is why he said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
According to a recent study conducted by Professor Marius Usher of Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences, our intuition actually is accurate 90% of the time.
Now is a wonderful time to turn off the television, stop asking for the opinions of others, and start practicing deep listening and trusting our own intuition. Listening to our own bodies is a really good place to start.
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