Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Finding Peace Through the Body

How does it feel in your body when you are open, surrendered, relaxed?
How do you know you're in that state? What's your breathing like? Your posture? The feeling around your head, neck, shoulders? Your vision?

The reason why I ask is I'm starting to think more and more about the choice we have over how we walk in the world day-to-day. Do we want to be stressed out, tight and reactive; or would we prefer kindness, openness and breath? We mostly don't think we have a choice. When we're reactive, we believe our thoughts are real, and they--consequently--create our physical state. We're angry at someone and our body becomes congested by shallow breathing, tightness and a low-level of pain. Or we're stressed about something at work and our thinking sends messages to our body that there's never enough time, we'll never get it done. Our bodies take in the energy of the thoughts and go into 'fight or flight' mode, ramping up for battle.

But the truth is, we can flip this scenario by focusing on the body first. Anytime we want, we can check in to see how it feels to be in our bodies. Right now: do I feel relaxed, open and content? If the answer is no, we can ask: what would it take for me to change that state in my body to the one I'd rather be in? Leave the mind out of it, ask it to step inside, and make a choice on the body level for a kinder state of being. Begin to create the reality you want through breath, posture, perhaps a stretch.

If it's hard to get there right away, use a memory of when you feel relaxed and open. Maybe it's an image of you lying in the sun, getting a massage, taking a nap with a pet. If you catalog the series of sensations connected to that feeling of relaxation, you can begin to recreate them by going there with your mind and body the next time you're stressed. What's it like when your body feels relieved, relaxed, unbound? Again: what is your breath like, the feeling in your chest, a sense of lightness, an openness?

Now come back to the present moment, take a deep breath and build that state again through your body. Feel the breath the way it feels there, then the expansion through the chest. Take a few breaths. Now bring in other senses: the melting feeling of being in the sun or the surrendered softness of being touched. Watch what happens as your body goes into this remembered state. After a few breaths here, notice if the situation you'd created as stressful in your mind has the same impact.

Our bodies remember, and they tell us--by being keepers of sensation--when we're stressed or out of alignment with how we want to feel. But they can also be the doorways for how we get back. To allow them to be that, we just need to be willing to disengage from believing in the story about what's stressing us out and create and experience peace and openness through our bodies now instead. It just takes practice.

If it helps, find a word that you can say that brings you back to that relaxed and peaceful state and series of sensations you imagined earlier. It might be 'peace' or 'contentment' or 'love.' Say it to yourself when you visualize that moment of relaxation, and then practice saying it throughout the day and repeatedly calling up the state you associate with the word. What's your breathing like? Your level of openness? The sense of relief in your body? See if you can feel that state getting more easily accessible as you practice saying the word.

The power of this remembering is to see that we have more of a choice over the state we're living in than we think, all the time. Through the simple physical cues of the body we can practice and recreate what we most want to be feeling in our lives, or notice when we're in some other state and change it.

I encourage you to stay open to the possibility that you have more of a choice over the state you're living in than you think. Practice some of these awarenesses with your body. Then watch your life change on the outside to meet the kinder, more peaceful state of being you've learned to create from the inside out. Thank-you body!

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