Many have a sense that constantly planning, worrying and living stressful lives is not quite normal, yet feel unsure about how else things could be - or even how to achieve it.
Often we become more aware of this sense when our bodies begin to do one (or more) of these three things:
- Your body seems to ache more (e.g. headaches, sore joints, breathing problems, generalised aches and pains that can't be explained)
- You're feeling less energy, more lethargic and out-of-tune with the world
- You're experiencing mood swings and/or feeling more low or down than usual and struggle to get through normal daily routines.
If you're experiencing one or more of these signs, then please know that you're not alone. In our culture and society it's becoming more the norm to feel these things than ever before. It's akin to being in a trance of wake-up, eat, work, eat, zone-out in front of the television, sleep: repeat.
In the hope of getting closer to an answer of how to break the trance and re-gain a feeling of aliveness and wellness, let's for a moment do a mental check-in with our bodies.
Step 1: After reading the following paragraph, do your own body check-in.
- Find a quiet place to sit and get comfortable. Aim to be as still as you can. Notice your breathing and its rhythm. Let any sounds you hear in the background drift away. If your mind begins to run wild with thoughts - notice them and then direct your attention back to being aware of your breath.
- As you're in this moment of stillness, focus on each part of your body in turn - begin with your feet, then calves, knees, thighs, hips, pelvis, gut, chest, back, arms, hands, neck, head, and finally your face. Do this as slowly as you feel is right for you.
- As you focus on each part of your body, check-in with yourself and note any sensations you may be experiencing. Can you sense a pulse, a vibration, a tingle - or any awareness of heat or coolness?
For many, the whole process of doing a body check-in may seem quizzical. Your thoughts may already have begun chastising you for being so silly to waste precious time thinking about how your body feels. Or you may have scooted through the exercise so quickly in order to get to 'the really important bit' sooner, believing that you're a 'quick learner' and can 'get' things pretty quickly (I used to be in this category in my rush for 'quick quick').
In our society generally, the only time we stop to check-in with our body is when it's hurting so much that pain attracts our attention until we medicate it back into a numbed (or 'I'm-not-aware-of-it' state of being in a 'trance'). While pain is the body's internal alarm bell, it often tinkles more softly beforehand in the hope of alerting us to something that's not quite right. And more often than not it's our interior dialogue of stress, negativity and tiredness that begins to ring out-of-tune in the hope of gaining attention.
Our bodies send signals to our brain (and vice-versa) to monitor and maintain our well being with every breath we take - every moment of the day and night. Being still for a moment allows us to tune into our body's natural processes and be present to what our body is experiencing. If we can do this, we have the chance to be more attuned and more present to our internal senses that influence our 'gut' reactions to what is right in our lives - and what is not. In other words in listening to our bodies we can respond in a better way to what feels right or wrong in our lives. So many of us have experienced emotional traumas through relationship breakdowns in one form or another that our body holds this information while our mind 'time travels' to a place where hurt and pain can be ignored. The problem is that, as Bessel van der Kolk's book title says, 'The Body Keeps Score'.
If you did the 'body check-in' and didn't notice any sensations, it may be worthwhile slowing down the process and considering each body part, for example a finger.
Step 2: Focus on your finger as if seeing it for the very first time
Look at your finger as if for the very first time - as if someone else's finger had been attached to your body and you're noticing the finest details. Check your finger's knuckle, folds of skin and lines with an attitude of curiosity. Watch how your finger moves and bends. Listen for sounds as you rub the finger against your hand. Notice how the tendons of your finger respond as you move it - like the strings of a piano in response to a sensed thought of movement.
Now continue this by observing your hand's natural shape - its curves, the spaces between fingers, your finger nails, the hand's length and shape. Now turn your hand over and see what its natural resting position looks like.
Step 3: Observe and draw the outline of your hand
Let's focus further. Take a piece of paper and a pencil and draw your hand through simply observing its outline. Notice the colours you see - mine has such a range of pinks and blues and yellows that together combine to create 'flesh'.
Now check-in with any senses your hand may be experiencing - heat or coolness, lightness or heaviness, low or high energy, a sense of ease or anxiousness, the desire to rest or be busy?
Place your hand gently on your cheek and notice the lightness of its touch, the sense of softly being held and any emotions this action may bring to your body such as a gentleness of spirit, a softening of heart, or calming of mind. This sense of touch can in itself be a self-soothing comfort when feeling anxious.
While this is a very simple exercise, it's the beginning of noticing the power you have in one small part of your body. Your hand is a tool that works for you every day. It's a willing servant that picks things up or puts things down. It strokes, touches, grasps, clutches, scratches, scrapes, claps and most importantly holds a loved one's hand, a young child's body, a beautiful object, a piece of soft fabric or a partner's face in tenderness.
Being present to your felt senses through tuning into a moment and feeling into it, listening for its rhythms, and noticing the changes in muscle tone or skin texture is the opening of awareness to greater insights - not only about our own bodies, but the rhythms and signals sent by others that if seen can change relationships from 'trance-like' to deeper and more meaningful engagements.
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I'd love to hear from you - what are your thoughts on being present through a Mindfully Creative Moment? Please leave a comment below.