We are bodies and need to acknowledge this and live as bodies; being a body opens us to a full and rich life
- The mind and body are one but we have been brought up to treat them as two, and with the mind in the driving seat. We can work with the mind to gain some control over what we do to ourselves, free ourselves from the prison it creates!
- Our bodies are where we live and we have learnt to live in small, contracted ways
- Body attention is the ability of my body to pay attention to itself and the world around it
- Body attention brings power which comes in many forms.
The mind and body are one, but we have been brought up to treat them as two. We can work with the mind to gain some control over what we do to ourselves
For many people, their mind is dominant, and their body is simply something that carries their head around. They only notice their body when it is something it should not be – too tired, too big, too small, too sweaty, too loud, or too painful. Their mind takes all the energy, and makes judgements of the body, enslaving the body to the mind.
But the mind is itself limited. It is a set of interpretations of what has already happened. It needs the body to be fully present to engage with reality. And the body somehow is always there, always bringing attention to itself, calling for a different relationship with the mind. If we can come into our bodies again, we can feel, sense and think with our bodies, and we can allow our mind to rest, and experience silence and space, and direct itself to those matters that it is best suited for, real thinking and creativity. To do this, we need to control the mind, so that it will allow us to become bodies again and experience fear, pain, love and joy.
Our bodies are where we live and we have learnt to live in small, contracted ways
The body made up of eight systems – the respiratory, cardio-vascular, nervous, musculo-skeletal, endocrine, immune, digestive, excretory, integumentary and reproductive systems, all working together to maintain a healthy state.
Put more simply, our bodies have three main elements: movement, breathing, digestion and evacuation. The body needs to move between cycles of activity and rest, exertion and relaxation, contraction and expansion. Energy flows through the body until it is blocked by tension and rigidity, and then tension is released and the energy can flow again.
The body moves all the time, inhaling air and exhaling carbon dioxide, oxygen and blood are continually circulating, tissues are repairing, water is circulating and being released through our skin and urine, food is being digested and evacuated. All of our body is intelligent, gathering information and disseminating this through our nervous system. Electrical charges move through our body and make us feel our aliveness as a visceral sensation.
Our experiences are our teachers and our bodies are receptive students. From our earliest experiences of life, we learn to contract our body when we are frightened and to expand and relax when we feel safe. As babies and infants, we are totally dependent on those around us to keep us safe, warm, fed. We learn from the atmosphere around us, from the moods and actions of others, and later, from the beliefs and opinions of those who are close to us. All of these experiences create patterns of muscular tension that are held in the body; the patterns of tension are not simply physical; they also hold the conclusions that we have formed and emotions that we have not been able to feel. These deeply held patterns of tension create rigidity in the body and unconsciously shape our behaviour, our expectations, our lives.
Most of us live our lives without questioning any of this. We live our life, thinking this is how it is for us and for everyone else as well. The conclusions drawn as a young child or teenager stay with us and determine how we live and relate with others, what we think and achieve, but all the time hidden from our awareness, hidden in the patterns of tension held in the body. For example, that Life is hard, People are disrespectful, No one takes me seriously, I’m not worth anything, or I’m scared of doing something new. We limit our experience of our own life and project these limiting beliefs on to everyone we meet. Any one who does not fit inside our small world becomes “wrong” and we belittle them to make us feel more comfortable again, or as comfortable as we can, in our small, contracted body, riddled with tension and anxiety. With every breath into our contracted body, we re-create this small and fearful world, which at the same time we find oppressive and disappointing and we want to change
Body attention is the ability of my body to pay attention to itself and the world around it
Left to itself, the mind is an endless internal dialogue where I talk to myself about myself. From a young age, what has been wanted from us is our mind – our parents and teachers related to our mind and asked us to tell them what they wanted to hear. As a result, we lose the capacity of body attention, and place all our intention in our mind, and get lost in this irrelevant inner dialogue. Using the power of touch and verbal guidance, a practitioner can bring people back to their body to teach them to let go of things they do to themselves, and bring more silence to their mind.
Bringing attention to our body enables us to understand the many varied ways in which we hold tension. Each of us is unique, as a result of our body form and what we have experienced, and we have learnt to hold tension in our own special way. We need to learn to use our body attention, in order to learn the ways in which we hold patterns of tension and to let it go.
Bringing attention to specific areas of the body enables that area to come back into our field of awareness. Bringing more breath into the body brings more energy and supports the attention, and opens up the body, expanding the tiny muscles that have contracted and become rigid, and firing the networks in which these muscles reside. The lungs learn to expand more fully, bringing in more oxygen and so more energy to the body. This becomes a normal habit. We sense our body more fully and perceive our surroundings with more clarity, seeing reality rather than holding on to an old video playing the same scenes out endlessly in our head about “how life is”. We feel more alive, more present in this moment. Our senses become sharper and as we feel more grounded and strong.
Body attention brings power, which comes in many forms
We often think of power as an aggressive force, used to dominate another person. But being powerful in ourselves has many aspects. Consider the power that comes from bring grounded, having a strong basic confidence in and trusting fully in oneself; or the power we feel when we are silent and calm; or that comes when we are clear about what we want to do and how we want to go about it; or the strength and willpower that enables us to respond to challenges and be resilient in the face of difficulties that inevitably arise. Accessing these ways of being powerful are part of enjoying a rich and creative life. The clarity to know what we really want comes from our body. We perceive with all of our body and need body attention to access these perceptions.