Having a human body is a wonderful resource. Our bodies are:
1. Always connected to and supported by the earth.
2. Always communicating with us through feelings/physical sensations, and
3. A good place to come home to in the midst of all kinds of challenging experiences.Connecting with these natural gifts can give us an enormous sense of stability, dignity, and strength.
Below, I describe some simple ways you can reconnect with your body, and the energy of your life. All of these ideas are most effective when practiced consistently over a sustained period of time:
Notice your connection to the earth
Sit in a quiet place (or stand) and notice how your body is connected to the earth. If you’re standing, tune into the physical sensations on the bottom of your feet. Notice how the earth is supporting you and let yourself appreciate and enjoy that support. If you would like you could imagine roots growing down into the earth, and taking in nourishment and strength. Or you might take off your shoes and squeeze your toes, noticing the texture of the rug or the grass under your feet. If you’re sitting down notice the sensations where your body is supported by the chair. Let yourself relax into that support and notice how loving and nourishing something so simple can feel.
Practice feeling good in your body
Make a list of things you can do which help you enjoy having a body and which don’t have negative consequences. Include external activities, like: taking a shower, going for a walk, or listening to music, and internal activities, like: bringing to mind someone you love, reciting a comforting prayer, or revisiting a positive memory. Set aside time each day to engage in these activities and gather new ones. Notice how it feels! Use the resources on this list when you feel stressed.
Exercise. Do yoga, tai chi, or chi gung. Visit a massage therapist, Rolfer or other body worker.All of these are wonderful ways to have a positive experience of being in touch with your body. Notice how you feel after these activities. You may not be used to experiencing strong physical sensations. Practice letting yourself experience and tolerate all of these feelings. Every feeling you experience is a reminder: You are alive!
Refrain from habitual ways you numb your body
We have countless ways of numbing our bodies as a way of coping with stress. We may even confuse numbing with “feeling good.” These “compensations” may include alcohol, cigarettes, overeating, television, obsessive thinking or spending hours on the internet. When you feel tempted to engage in numbing activities, pull out your list of resources (#1). Try one, and see if you can an establish a new habit. Notice how much time you spend in front of screens, sitting or laying down, and how much time during the day you spend being physically active.
Practice mindfulness: resting your attention on the physical sensation of breathing
Find a quiet, undisturbed place to sit. Practice bringing your attention to the physical sensations of breathing in your diaphram. It may be helpful to start by taking several deep breaths. Notice the soothing quality of the in and out breath, like a wave washing in and out of your body. If your attention wanders, bring it back again and again to the relaxing sensation of breathing. Over time, your attention will develop more ability to rest with the breath.
Practice listening to your body, heeding its messages, and letting it be.
Sit someplace comfortable. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” Bring your attention inwards, to the sensations you are experiencing in your body. Notice heat or cold, tension or relaxation, numbness or feeling, stillness or vibration. Practice being with comfortable and uncomfortable feelings. Practicing distinguishing between actual physical sensations and your thoughts. (Meditation can be a great support for increasing your ability to do this.) If you can, let go of your thoughts and stay with the simplicity of physical sensations, pleasant and unpleasant. Balance this practice with comforting activities and activities which help you feel strong and competent.Sometimes our feelings have important things to tell us about what we need to do to take care of ourselves. Sometimes our feelings are more about the past than what’s really happening in the present. And sometimes are feelings are mysterious… we may never understand where they come from, they simply arise, stay for awhile, and then they’re gone. One of the most profound ways you can make friends with being human is to allow that mystery to be there, without needing to explain or fix your experience._______
Photos: “Almost ready” by Infrogmation (top) and roseoftimothywoods at http://flickr.com/photos/madfox/29367611/ (bottom)