Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sensing Into Our Senses

This week I want to get out of my head and truly into the body.
I encourage you to do the same. Everywhere, all around you, spring is beginning to poke its head. Here in California, of course, things are beginning to bloom and there are smells in the air at night of jasmine and orange blossom. Today I went for a hike in the mountains and the hills radiated all shades of green: tall dark trees, bushy shrubs and moss.

Our senses long to be brought more fully into our lives, and slowing down enough to listen to the body helps us experience the world around us in a different way. Take some moments this week to step into that kind of slowed down sensuality. Try doing something you usually do but with greater attention to all of the details and to your own body. If you put lotion on every morning after you shower, try slowing it down just enough to really experience the touch and the feeling of it on your body.

Take five minutes to look out the window at the sky, or better yet, sit outside and let the air move against your skin as you take in everything around you. (I once went on a retreat and was amazed at my ability to stare at a tree for over a half hour, fascinated by the way its leaves moved in the wind.)

Similarly, when you eat, slow down enough to really taste the food, feeling it in your mouth and noticing when you start to get full. What does fullness feel like? Hunger? What's it like to be really satisfied by something you're eating? How often do you not even notice?

Our senses are our body's language of the world: they are how the body experiences everything around us. As we engage with them more fully, we're more connected not only to our bodies but to our lives. Too often we sacrifice this kind of connection for multi-tasking and doing, forgetting to really experience what it's like to 'be' fully in our own skin.

Try picking one moment in your day each day this week to become attuned to the senses, even if just for a moment. Check in with how your body feels, its muscles and movements. Listen to music. Get a massage.

It doesn't matter so much what we do as how we do it. Moving in our lives with attention and the intention to connect with and honor our bodies changes us. It allows us to receive our own lives in a more present way.

You don't have to go out of your way to find those moments, you just have to slow down with some consciousness to experience what's really happening right now. As you do, notice how your body responds to your awakening and listening in this way. You may feel it soften, open, relax. It may feel heard or valued in a different way simply by this shift in your awareness.

Opening to our senses allows our bodies to feel like they matter in our lives. Our senses are part of the body's gift to us, and they have tremendous value if we take them in. Despite our belief, we cannot live our lives completely from our heads. In order for life to catch up with us, we need to let it simmer and stir in our senses, in the quiet moments, and in the step into conscious awareness.

In what ways have you been depriving yourself of your senses and what does that do to the way your relate to your body? What would happen if you let your senses speak more fully in your life, guiding you to greater openness and joy?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NOW 2011 Love Your Body Poster Contest Winners

Just wanted to share with you all this inspiring and artful contest sponsored by the National Organization of Women--
Check it out!

NOW Foundation announces winners of 2011 Love Your Body poster contest

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Choice For Love

Why is it often so terrifying to choose a better relationship with our bodies over one based on fear, criticism and judgment? So often, the idea of bringing connection, compassion and dialogue to the relationship we have with our bodies creates resistance and reaction. Some common questions:

1)But if I love my body now, how will it ever change?
2) I have to hate myself to feel motivated to do something different.
3) I have to do penance until I accomplish whatever external goal I have for myself.

Sound familiar?

And yet when we look at the body as something we're in relationship with, some interesting truths unfold. We all know what it's like to relate to other people, and we all know that negativity, constant nagging or criticism and a sense of never being able to please the other person make us, invariably, feel hopeless, shut down and--yes--less motivated to change. Usually there's a feeling of paralysis and despondency instead of inspiration. We feel that we'll never be enough. Why even bother?

It's interesting to consider if your body doesn't have the same response to a constant cycle of 'not-enoughness,' blame and disgust from you. If you checked in right now, you might be able to feel the difference in its physical response to words of kindness of encouragement versus words of disparagement and criticism.

As we learn more and more about how our words and thoughts create our world, it behooves us to apply the same insights to our thinking and speaking to our bodies. Does our negativity really accomplish--for us or our bodies--what we think it does? Why not dare to choose love instead?

Relationship experts tell us that change doesn't happen with nagging and criticism but more often through empathy, partnership and appreciation. When those qualities are present in a relationship, positive change is the end product of healthy collaboration, with each side having the other's best interests at heart.

What if it's possible that the old way of creating change hasn't actually been working for you at all? Would you be willing to give it up?

In the weeks and months ahead, consider what it might be like to practice being the best possible partner to your body right now. Think about these questions:

1)Even if you don't think you're satisfied, what CAN you appreciate about your body and all it does for you already?

2)If you stop blaming everything on your body, what can you begin to take responsibility for as an equal partner in the relationship?

3)How can you begin to think about the changes you want to create as a goal you share with your body, rather than one it's defying you by not accomplishing? And how does the process of working on the goal together teach you both and encourage you to grow?

Much like with our relationships, challenges can be met with stuckness and blame or with a cooperative team spirit, using them to teach both of us. Ask yourself if your first instinct is to be against your body rather than with it and whether or not this is the best stance for creating positive change. Our bodies are alive and waiting to work with us, rather than against us. They are containers for our thinking, waiting for us to choose love.