Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Standing in Our Bodies

(Image taken from http://ccsalina.com/2010/05/01/taking-a-stand/)
Why does it feel so good to be grounded in our bodies? To feel our feet fully on the ground, take a deep breath, stand tall? When we inhabit our bodies in this way, we seem also to be brought more fully into our lives.

In fact, a great deal of anxiety and depression can come from being out of touch with what it feels like to be 'in' our bodies. When someone is having a panic attack, one of the key tools for coming back is to take deep breaths, to feel their feet underneath them and to slow down their thoughts. We could use a dose of this throughout our days, with or without a panic attack flooding our systems.

We let our minds take over with analysis and worry; along the way we forget what it feels like to be in the non-verbal expanse that is the body, with its sensations and awarenesses, its mysteries. There's something simplifying and humbling about journeying there, to feel in this moment how something is being felt, simply physically felt: not interpreted, anticipated, criticized. Our bodies and their sensations exist without our deciding what they mean.

Have you ever felt yourself drifting away during a massage, sauna or any physical experience that really brought you into your body? The 'you' that leaves is the mind, and you are left with a present experience of the body, one that can often be blissful and surrendering. From this place we remember our basic, physical connection to everything around us. The mind no longer has us in its grip; we simply feel.

It's one of the reasons that sexual experiences, food, exercise can be so addictive. There is a cessation of thought, a rootedness that takes over. That state of being is something we long for. We can cultivate it by moving into our bodies, and noticing when we've moved away.

Just in this moment, take a deep breath and ask yourself where you are. Are you in this moment, or are you thinking about something in the past or future? Without judgment, see if you can take a few more deep breaths and begin to observe the sensations in the body: what does it feel like in your legs, your chest, your neck, your belly? Ask yourself if you can actually feel your feet below you and practice wiggling your toes and becoming more conscious of the surface underneath the soles of your feet.

Notice as you take even a moment to come more fully into the aliveness of the body, what happens to the mind. You may feel a momentary feeling of peace, of cessation of thought. You might also become aware of feelings or emotions that are in the body but not allowed to be felt when the mind is taking over. Continue to explore all of the sensations of the body.

When life seems like too much, or a problem seems unsolvable, see if you can practice going to this place, if only for a moment. Find your feet. Find your breath. Notice how your body greets you and what happens when you come into relationship with it.

There's a reason why we have certain expressions about 'standing on your own two feet' or 'getting the wind knocked out of you.' We want to take back the legs we stand on, the breath we breathe, until we know with confidence that we are here and fully alive, allowed to be just as we are.

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