We want to enjoy our lives, to be happy, to feel our full participation. However, many of us suffer from a fundamental imbalance that has to do with being in our heads versus living in and feeling our bodies. We seldom bring our awareness or attention to our body unless it gives us a big red light, like when we're in pain.
Our attention is busy with the activity of our mind. We commit our energy and attention toward thinking, planning, strategizing, worrying, obsessing, judging, and analyzing rather than committing our energy and attention to sensing and feeling.
I don't know about you, but I've found that unless I'm doing a "body-centered" practice like yoga, qi gong, or if I'm seeing clients in my work as a body-centered psychotherapist, I'm generally not directing my awareness into my body. I don't naturally speak to my body or listen to my body. My awareness, as yours may also, attends to what's "out there" in my environment versus what's "in here," the feelings present in my body. It takes focus, and practice, to glean our body's wisdom from the patterns of sensation we feel.
Through awareness of the body itself we can begin to soften and release tension patterns. To just be aware that in this moment my shoulders are tight, my chest is collapsed, or my guts are tied up in knots brings me more fully into the moment and an embodied experience of my life. There is often a natural shift that happens, toward letting go of strain, when awareness is simply awareness...without judgment, criticism or pressure to be different.
There is something curative in non-judgmental contact with your experience; acknowledgment that contains acceptance, curiosity, and maybe even compassion. Imagine being accepting of the tension in your shoulders. You could say to yourself "welcome tight shoulders, let me take a moment and just feel your presence."
In this simple practice of bringing accepting awareness into an uncomfortable body experience you will begin to notice a shift, a transforming of the tension. For an even deeper or fuller transformation or healing to occur, we invite our curiosity. From our curious and open mind we ask our tense shoulders, "Do you have a message for me, why are you here?" That question will help open us to the wisdom of the body.
We might hear a message like "I'm here because you are working from energy of pressure and taking on too much." Or we may hear "I'm burdened." Wow, we just translated a sensation called tense shoulders into valuable information.
This fundamental wisdom from our body, "I'm burdened" leads us to an important next step in healing. We ask our shoulders the next question with a compassionate heart and open mind, "what do you need?"
We may hear a body wisdom that can bring us back to into balance and healing as our shoulders say, "I need you to slow down and breathe as you work right now. In fact, stop and stand-go outside and take 2 breaths of fresh air and then come back."
As I wrote this last passage about fundamental wisdom that can be present in these tense shoulders-I was sharing the guidance I heard from my own shoulders, so I paused from writing this newsletter and went outside where its currently 6 degrees below zero out with about 8 inches of fresh snow. In actuality the wisdom I heard was "breathe...shovel the deck." So I did. It felt great and I'm back writing with shoulders relaxed and renewed energy.
We don't just get our information and wisdom from discomfort. It also comes from feelings of well-being. If I'm sitting with a close friend and we're laughing together and enjoying being together, I might feel a lightness and openness in my heart. If I paused to ask my light and open heart if it has a message for me, why is it here, it might say "This is so important for me, I really enjoy being with this friend where I can be lighthearted."
Using my body's intelligence I can attend to my needs in a rich, and embodied way. I can commit to make time for more regular connections with friends and less time watching TV or having virtual connections on Facebook. I can slow myself down and walk away from work when the pressure is getting to be too much.
Try this practice on for yourself. Take time to scan your body right now as you read this. If you notice a pinch in your neck you can stop, and breathe. Welcome the sensation, ask for a message. Notice if this new way to interact with your body brings you more fully into the moment.