So many of us are not actually on this planet even though we may think we are. We are elsewhere thinking about the future, reminiscing about the past or doing a multitude of other things, but how physically present are any of us?
I walk everywhere as we haven’t got a car and I rarely get the bus so I am very physical, yet this week I discovered I am not fully here.
What does this mean?
Well, since beginning my mindfulness classes, I’m getting in touch with my feelings and feeling them instead of trying to distract myself with TV, food, internet, zoning out etc.. but one thing I didn’t know was how not in my body I am.
My mindfulness teacher was speaking about this at a singing bowl workshop, where she told us to all go on a mindful walk around the hall. She said most people live up ‘here’, up in the upper body, head, neck, shoulders, heart area. So I consciously started to be more mindful when walking, feeling my feet making contact with the pavement, my joints moving and then I noticed that I zoned out. Almost as if really feeling my body move was going to hold some memory or something scary I was afraid to face. So I continued to focus, but this week I started the 8 week mindfulness programme that is laid out in The Mindful Way Through Depression book and started the daily CD audio called Body-scan (see here to try this for yourself).
In the body-scan, you lie on the bed or a flat surface, and focus on each body part, the toes, the feet, the lower legs, and finally you sense the body as a whole. What I discovered shocked me, because I realised that when I focused my awareness onto my toes I could hardly feel anything, and as I moved my attention to my lower legs, again hardly anything. It continued this way until I reached a part of my back and I could feel this slightly. I could feel my neck, my face slightly and most of my sensation was in my hands. I did this over a few days and a part of me hoped each time that I would feel more, but no, hardly anything to nothing.
So I took a shower this evening, came out of the shower and put on my favourite body moisturiser. And what I discovered shocked me further. I was ‘thinking’ putting my moisturiser on, not ‘feeling’ my moisturiser going on to my body. So I actually took a really long pamper session, slowly massaging my legs as I realised that my lower body has the least feeling of any part of me.
How Many Of Us Are Physically Here?
Take a moment out of your day; take a piece of fruit like an apple and see how you are at being physically present with that apple. How much does your mind wander to what you are going to do next? What the time is? What your children need? What you forgot to do? What you need to remember? etc.. Can you bring yourself back to just tasting every morsel of that apple. Try it. It’s much harder than you think.
Multi-tasking Be Gone
Are you aware even if you are physically not multi-tasking; if you are doing one thing and thinking about doing something else you are also mentally multi-tasking. I didn’t realise I was doing this too. I realised when eating that apple how disrespectful I am to my present moment. The tree gifted the apple, people picked the apples, people stored the apples… so much went into that apple getting to me and most of the time I eat while being on-line, eat while watching TV, eat while thinking about something completely different.
Getting Back To Basics
I know that in today’s world we are encouraged to be doing so much, but I feel that for true peace of mind we all need to slow everything down and get back to basics. Many teenagers may be on the sofa laptop on, typing up work for college, while eating, texting and watching TV. How insane does this sound to you? But so many of us do this.
No wonder anxiety, depression and mental health issues are absolutely rife in today’s society.
The Body Has Wisdom
Our bodies store so much from our lifetime of walking, moving, eating, experiencing fear, joy, love etc. that the body is a witness and carrier of so much of our human story. Our wisdom lies inside the body. It is not simply a vessel we use and abuse until it is worn out and we leave the planet, but we can begin to experience transformative changes by becoming truly embodied in our bodies. If like me, when you start to become present in your body you begin to zone out, you will know something inside your body needs your attention and may just give you relief and freedom from some stress you may have been carrying for a decade.
Tasting Food Mindfully
Have you ever closed your eyes and slowly eaten a beef burger or some other meat? I am not vegetarian and I love the taste of meat (I used to be vegetarian), but at those times when I am fully mindful with meat in my mouth the texture is not the nicest of textures. Now compare this with mindfully eating a super sweet ripe strawberry or apricot or peach. Such a difference in taste and texture and flavour. I thought that perhaps Buddhist monks generally were vegetarians because of not wanting to eat another living creature (and yes this may be a big part of it) but I do wonder if they realised that by eating mindfully they needed to eat less and that eating meat was not very nice at all.
I am still experimenting with meat and food.
This is one journey, this mindfulness path. I encourage everyone to begin to explore how mindful they actually are in their day-to-day activities like eating, bathing, brushing teeth, walking up and down stairs. Where are you when you do these things? This is an amazing experience and one I will continue.