Dropping Into Body
Dropping into Body.
‘Breathing mindfully takes our mind back to our breath and, if we continue, to our whole body‘. This is the first line from a reading by Thich Nhat Hanh that I often use during the deep relaxation that I guide on retreats and retreat mornings. It goes on to say ‘We go back to our body and reconcile with it. We get to know what’s going on in our body, the wrongs we have done, the conflicts we’re having, and we’ll know what to do and what not to do in order to be on good terms with our body‘.
Our body is precious and central to our life, and yet we so easily become disconnected from it, overriding and ignoring it’s wisdom. If we have a headache, or something more serious, our body is communicating something to us. If we stop and pay attention (the essence of mindfulness) we can discover what it is telling us and we can choose how to respond. We need to be conscious of our body through the ‘good’ times, so that our body doesn’t need to shout its message in the form of more serious dis-ease.
I remember the tutor, when I undertook my art therapy training, saying if you have a headache you can take a tablet or you can find out why! Finding out why, takes time and patience – both of which seem to be increasingly rare commodities – and of course it involves some discomfort, the ‘being with’ as opposed to the ‘rushing to fix’ and annihilate pain and suffering. A headache can usually be easily remedied by drinking a pint of water, going for a walk, or meditating. A headache like everything else is impermanent, shifting from moment-to-moment, and yet the need to make it go away ‘immediately’ is common, and indicative of our quick-fix culture.Taking a tablet means we can ‘carry on as usual’, without adapting our behaviour, but it doesn’t get to the source of the problem and it simply masks the body’s message.
If we understand our whole body to be ‘mind’, that is, each cell in our body has intelligence and each cell has the capacity to heal itself, then we are more likely to support the healing of our body in whatever way necessary. The body is a miraculous ‘self-righting’ system, however the body-mind connection is not commonly or fully understood. What we see as ‘symptoms’ are part of a complex communication system that often baffles scientists who insist that cures are ‘out there’ waiting to be discovered, when to a large extent, the power to heal lies ‘in here’. Our minds are as powerful, as our bodies are miraculous, and consciously or not, we are creating our future in each moment, with each thought we think and with each choice we make.
Mindfulness brings us back into our body and helps us to be more ‘conscious’. In meditation we see the boundaries between phenomena disappear and at this deeper level of consciousness and understanding, everything becomes ‘one’, ‘whole’, irrevocably connected, without effort. As we become melded with the present moment, we connect deeply with all that we encounter and we realise that we are always experiencing life from the inside out. As we drop into our body and pay attention to it, we learn more about it and how best to support it, to keep it functioning efficiently and optimally. Mindfulness is a holistic practice, it takes care of the whole person, not just the brain and cognitive function.
At the Wednesday meditation group at my home last week, we got into discussion about ‘happiness’ and what exactly that is? Between us we came to an understanding that there is an ‘outer happiness’ that comes from the material world of ‘things’, that is fleeting and leaves us wanting to consume more; and there is a happiness that comes from within, that is generated by spiritual experience and has as it’s essence feelings of joy and peace, it is lasting and we can build on it from moment to moment – the source of this inner happiness is always available to us and it is free! However, it takes ‘practise, practise, practise’, as Muriel says in the article below.
When I work one-to-one with people we usually spend some time in mindful dialogue and then often, some time connecting deeply through meditation. Guidance is more than simply words, there is an exchange or transmission of energy that takes place, a feeling of complete peace, of wholeness, that is more easily generated with two or more body-minds. It is not possible for me to guide someone to a place that I have not been myself, this is why my own continuing personal development, in the form of attending retreats and associated trainings is pivotal to the experiences I can offer to you.
It has been a particularly full and rewarding twelve months for me, in terms of my personal development. I trained with the Psychosynthesis Institute in London, undertaking their Fundamentals course followed by a PG Cert. in Leadership Coaching and I have been deepening my connection to body through somatic work and this November embark on Hakomi body psychotherapy training. So, in some respects I feel I am only just beginning to ‘drop into body’ and understand myself in a way that only body can reveal – and in another way, I feel I know ‘body-mind’ very, very, well indeed, we have been through a lot of trauma and healing together.
So, this is an invitation to you, to drop into your own body and ‘get to know what’s going on in your body…to know what to do and what not do do, in order to be on good terms with your body. You may like to use the deep relaxation that I offer, to help you, or you may like to book onto a retreat or come and see me for a private appointment in Lytham or Lancaster.
Meeting Jan in the Lifehouse our local healthstore in Lytham, more than five years ago, became a landmark in the journey of my life. Jan invited me to her mid-day mindfulness meditation group meeting to which I went, and so began my exploration into mindfulness itself.
Those early group meditation meetings were so meaningful, for they brought the beauty and benefit of the quiet mind, the recognition of the body through focused breathing and awareness of the senses. They were also social occasions, for I met many lovely and interesting people.
The aspects of mindfulness for which I am most grateful are:
From these early beginnings, I read extensively the works of Thich Nhat Hanh, attended Jan’s workshops and retreats, all helping to mould and deepen my appreciation of mindfulness and the effects it has had in my life and wellbeing.
- Awareness of the present moment – being conscious of thought, experience and events as they happen
- Acknowledgement of them
- Acceptance that it is in the present moment I accept what occurs
- Non-judgmental – looking at things and events in an objective and not subjective way
- Letting go – not hanging on to my thoughts, feelings etc
– With many thanks to the legend that is Muriel Ingham, aged 96 years young!
I wrote to myself after the first formal introduction I had to mindfulness 18 months ago. Through work a group of us completed a ‘mindfulness for stress’ course. My letter to myself was to remind me of what I learned on the course. My notes include:
1) Judge and react less, notice and respond more
2) Remember we’re biased towards negativity so allow more time to dwell on the positives.
3) Apply a just right effort with practice, not too hard nor insufficient.
4) Start with kindness to myself (that’s a biggy to me, harder said than done)
5) Notice when I’m making it harder by how I am thinking, let go of secondary suffering
6) Keep considering “Being, not only doing”
7) Send out smiles.
Once the group finished I continued to practice, but feeling like a lone wolf I needed to connect with others and joined Jan’s meditation group. All my notes in my letter have more meaning and richness through developing practice in a group. Moving through the ideas in the “book group” was an even better way of making the practises and meditations real. It was so beneficial to learn from the wisdom of the other participants’ experiences and of course Jan’s sensitive and person centred guidance.
It feels like I am coming home to ideas that I have long considered but didn’t know were in the world of mindfulness. After some deep thinking and individual consultation with Jan I have found the courage to pursue further training in mindfulness. Eventually I hope to help others experience the benefits for themselves in the areas of stress and pain.
Personally I feel calmer, more appreciative and much more centred in my life. In truth, mindfulness practice has helped me relate to job redeployment and making my way in a new post, a friend’s tragedy and the ups and downs of life, in a better way than before. There’s no going back now, continuing to balance and practice is for the rest of life, a moment at a time. (G)