Optimising The Nervous System Part 3: Connecting With Your Body
Have you ever been for a long drive and when you arrive at your destination thought: wow how did I get here? Maybe you can't remember driving through a certain area. Or you wonder where the time went.
This same absent-mindedness can also occur in times that really matter to us. We can spend large sloughs of time lost in thought that we may not really be present when spending time with our loved ones or visiting a beautiful place.
Our minds can get so busy planning the future or ruminating about the past that we can miss what's right in front of us. If we're frequently carried away planning our future how much of our life are we really living? How much of life do we spend 'preparing' for something in the future? If we are spending a large amount of time each day figuring out the past, how can we appreciate the experiences happening in the now?
Living with Present Awareness
Being aware of the sensations in your body helps to anchor you to the present moment – to where life is happening. It’s easy to get lost living in the "movies of our mind" that we can lose touch with what’s really going on right here and now. By bringing our awareness into our body we can live a more connected, happy and fulfilled life.
Many areas of our life will benefit from this practice. It increases our clarity and focus making us more effective and productive. It helps us become better listeners and to speak and act with greater awareness, deepening our relationships. It enables us to live rather than interpret our life with thoughts about the future or past.
Although we could consider that planning and rehearsing help us to be more prepared for the future, if we are unable to then stop thinking we decrease our ability to concentrate on the task at hand.
Notice how different you feel when you bring your awareness to the sensations inside your hands. Can you feel the vibrating and tingling? Can you close your eyes and pay attention these sensations for 10 seconds? This is one of my favourite techniques for staying in my body if I’m body if I’m stressed or my mind is racing. It helps me quickly find a state of clarity and calmness.
Stress and anxiety creates tension and pain in the body. It’s natural that we want to get away from that so we may disconnect from our bodies. We focus our attention elsewhere so we don’t have to feel difficult emotions like the gripping of fear or the hollow burn of shame.
But this has major consequences because it prevents us feeling our moment-to-moment experiences directly: the joy, happiness and positive experiences can also be blocked.
What Am I Unwilling To Feel?
Our emotions have an intelligence and if we're willing to tune in and listen to them they contain profound wisdom to guide us.
Learning to be present with uncomfortable emotions instead of running from them allows us to act with greater self-awareness and greater self-compassion. The simple inquiry of: what is it that I'm unwilling to feel? can be incredibly enlightening. Bringing a kind and curious attention to these feelings and waiting to see what else arises increases body awareness.
Feeling Uncomfortable Sensations
The following technique can be used to train yourself to stay present with uncomfortable sensations. You are not trying to force this exercise - if the sensations are too strong the nervous system will be heightened and the connective tissue may contract. Also, do not progress into pain just discomfort.
To connect with the trapezius muscle before you begin, place your hand on top of the shoulder, and feel into the muscle belly between the shoulder blade and spine. You can place your palm here and also practice breathing into it to connect to this area.
You will require:
- two tennis balls or massage balls
- a yoga block, bolster, pillows or towel
Before you start the video spend five minutes lying on your back using the 1:2 breathing techniques as we practiced in our previous post last week. Once you are relaxed you are ready to start today's video.
When the strong sensations have dulled down and you are feeling relaxed you can use the below guided meditation as a second tool to learn to be present with sensations as they arise.