Paying Attention to the Body

It wasn’t a hard day in class, but it felt long. On the second day of one course I teach, there is a certain push to keep on schedule. One eye on the clock, the other on the activities and questions, and the afternoon gets squeezed for all the teaching moments.

Lighting and a saguaro from

When I got home I was tired. Tired enough to fall asleep in the chair looking at the mail. After supper, the rain started. When you live in the desert, it’s not a sound you hear often, but the sound of rain drumming on the skylights and splashing in the pool is an instant sleep inducer for me.

I jerked awake at 10:30, horrified that I had slept away the evening. I had work to do! And while my body sat up, my mind wanted to rollover and go back to sleep.

Guilty, I hurried to check emails and catch up on an evening of work. And then I stopped. It’s really good to listen to your body when it asks for something. Whether it’s sleep or creative play, the body hardly ever asks for what it doesn’t need. (Well, mine asks for chocolate a bit too often. But otherwise. . .)

The ocotillo was all bare stems. One good rain and it leafs out in about 10 hours. The leaves stay on as long as it rains, then in another 12 hours, they are gone again.

Martha Beck says, “Having fun if not a diversion from a successful life; it is the pathway to it.” Listening to your body is an act of wisdom. Too often, I push ahead, ignore the need for sleep, or play, or just being aware.

So my plans tonight drained away with the rain. No one will do the work for me, it will be here tomorrow. We get eight inches of rain a year. Spending an evening listening to it fall and letting it drum me to sleep seems a deeply restorative choice. Like the ocotillo that sets leaves when it rains (seriously, in 10 hours it goes from a bunch of sticks, to covered in leaves) and drops them when the rain is done, it’s good to pay attention to what you need.

Today is 9/11. Patti Digh has written a heart-opening article on this memorial day. It’s worth reading and spending some time with.

Quinn McDonald loves Monsoon Season in Arizona.

20 thoughts on “Paying Attention to the Body

  1. I just bought your book–in ebook format, and I thank you for making that available, by the way, but I digress. I’m retired, and I have to say, one of the best things about retirement is simply having the time and the leisure TO listen. I have many health problems, and had to learn to listen to my body in order to even be able to even function. I finally had to quit work in order to be able to survive. I’m fortunate, in that I have a wonderful husband, who had no problem with my leaving work and retiring at age 54. Another advantage is in being able to study the behavior of our five cats. If you want to see what listening to one’s body looks like, study a cat. When they need to relax, they just do, wherever, whenever they happen to be. And when they rest, they do it with complete abandon. One can do worse than to emulate cats.
    Oh, and, I’m really enjoying your book! (One book drawback to eBooks: how can the author autograph them? Sigh.)

    • You are wise to listen to your body. It doesn’t lie. Cats are funny, I have more than one, and they sure know what they are doing. Except the used-to-be feral one. She stays outside in the heat too long, won’t come when called, then arrives at the door panting. I have to set the timer when I let her out and go fetch her. Thanks for buying my book. It was my publisher’s decision to make it available as an e-book, I can’t take the credit. But I CAN send you a permission slip postcard, signed. That might help. My email address is on my blog, under Contact Me, at the top. Send your mailing address.

  2. So, I my body was telling me to rest this past Saturday after six weeks of much activity. I had two commitments, both which I found very important. I laid on my bed and called my daughter. She reminded me when I don’t listen to my body I pay for it and the cost is a high one. I cancelled both events and did self care.

  3. Listening to our bodies seems so simple in theory, but is so difficult to put into practice. I ignored my body and put up with an eye infection/allergy for the entire summer. Finally, I listened to my body (and some good friends) and weaned myself off of diet colas. I’m finally drinking 6 glasses of water each day on top of copious quantities of green tea. And yes, I’ll admit it, I still drink black teas and coffee, but not quite as much as I was used to consuming. My eyes are now clear and I think I’m on the road to better health which will mean more studio time.
    Falling asleep listening to the rain was a zen moment for you Quinn and your body knew how much you needed it. And you’re so correct, the work will be waiting for you the next day. The difference is, you will feel refreshed mentally and physically. Take care!

  4. Very timely for me this morning–I have to remind myslef when my body wants to slow down-or rest–I need to listen to it-otherwise I’m a crab!
    Great message!! 🙂

  5. Rain here in VT is the same relaxation inducing phenomenon but we get it far more often. Only eight inches a year. I cannot imagine. We get that much every month, it seems, maybe more. I’d have to check the actual stats. As a child one of my favorite things was to lay in the haybarn in freshly stored hay and listen to the rain on the roof and go to sleep. Being in the camper now has to suffice. Somehow being in the house and listening is nice but not quite as satisfying. Reading while it rains is also especially wonderful. A major childhood experience as well.

    • So true, reading while it’s raining is wonderful. I’d probably fall asleep! I lived in Connecticut for most of my adult life, so I’m used to a lot of rain, too. Not here. It was sprinkling this morning and I’m shocked. Two days in a row!

  6. Thank you – this is timely for me as the new academic year begins. That after-teaching tiredness resonates with me! I too love the sound of rain and find it helps me pay attention to my own rhythms. Reading your post helped me slow down and be kinder to myself!

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