Noticing - an exercise
In some previous Posts I have advanced the idea that full engagement is, if not necessary, then at least strongly supportive of transformational learning. I have also suggested that the body has an important role to play in advancing such learning.
In the most recent Posts I have discussed something of the complex and key role that the body plays in the life of we humans. (By focusing on becoming conscious of the role of what we think of as bodily functions I am not pointing to ‘getting in shape’ although this is part of it. Of more importance is tuning into the complex role of the body in holding feelings and in messaging the brain.)
The fact is that most of us only notice our bodies only when something goes wrong - a sore back, a twisted ankle or a tooth ache. Thus, we are aware of our bodies at only one level. So, the question is “How do we go about becoming more aware of our bodies at a more subtle level and how can we use that awareness in the interests of living fuller, healthier lives?”.
This is the second of a series of Posts on exercises designed, in the first instance, to increase our awareness of what the body has to tell us. As such it focuses on developing our ability to ‘notice’ our bodies at an increasing more profound level. Sounds easy? - It is not!
Noticing is nothing more than cultivating basic awareness. We are not trying to do anything about what we notice / become aware of. We just want to learn to notice more of what is potentially available to us. And therein lies the problem. Most of us do not know how to pay deep attention to seemingly simple things. So we wind up missing everything.
There are many variations of this exercise but I am giving the one that I find works best for me. A couple of things to start. First, get comfortable. This may entail using the washroom, having a shower, doing some stretching, doing a breathing exercise, having something light to eat or putting on more comfortable clothes. The test of this part of readiness is being able to say that there is nothing physically in the way of my focusing for fifteen minutes or so.
Second, relax the mind. Resolve to put aside your ‘to do’ list until the end of the exercise, or, if that is not possible, make that phone call you need to make and then do the exercise. One way that helps some people is to write down a list of all they have to do after the exercise, fold the piece of paper and tell it that you will get to it as soon as you are finished the exercise.
To begin the exercise itself, find a position that will be comfortable for you - it could be sitting in a chair, lying on the floor or lying on a bed. Beds can be the hardest as you may fall asleep. If you do its not a bad way to fall asleep.
Take a few full breaths and with each one sink a little further into the chair, floor or bed that is supporting you. Then here comes the hard part. Just become aware of your body as a whole and then wait to see what comes up.
Nothing may come up for a while and that it fine. It means that your body does not quite know what to tell you because you have not asked it that question before. If this happens just wait. It may take a few tries but you will get there. How long you do this depends on you but ten to fifteen minutes is a good starting place.
Remember that you are just noticing. ’I can feel a pain in the back of my neck.’ Good, just notice it and move back to just noticing your body. Do not focus on the pain. Its easy to get carried away wondering why you have that pain or recalling why it is there and then thinking about that.
What you are doing is just making a list, taking stock of what is going on - nothing more. You will notice that each time you do it some things may stay the same, other things you may revisit at a deeper level while still others will be new.
Over time you can expect to get a number of things from this exercise. First, an increased sense of who you are from the perspective of your body. In doing so you may come to feel more at home with your body. Second, you will notice a shift of awareness from your mind to your body / mind. You may well see yourself as more than you thought you were. Finally, you are setting the stage for working with what you are noticing to help resolve issues in your life.