“Our bodies communicate to us clearly and specifically, if we are willing to listen to them” – Shakti Gawain
In our mindfulness courses we have two practices which focus on sensation in the body. One of these is the infamous body scan and the other, mindful movement. As we progress through to the compassion training, we have a compassionate body scan and in the Stillness Through Movement Course we move with compassion and kindness for our bodies and a new level of awareness of the body.
The body awareness practices are important in that being aware of the body keeps our focus in the present moment. We know the body is present in the moment, not past and not future.
The body also holds a vast amount of knowledge and wisdom. For example, have you ever experienced a ‘gut feeling’? This feeling displays itself as a twinge in the solar plexus area of the abdomen and can often accompany a sense of anxiety or dread. I notice that I often hold on to feelings in this area – and this is accompanied by a shallower breath – almost like I can’t bring my breath deeper beyond that point. There is no logical explanation for this. As a fairly logical, analytical type of person I notice that I want to know more about this phenomenon. What does my body know and what is it trying to tell me at these times?
Sometimes this feeling in the gut manifests as excitement with sensations like an energetic ball of energy.
I have noticed that these sensations are most often present when I have to make a decision. If I learn to trust it, is it possible that these sensations could be like an internal compass steering me in the right direction. Twinge for no and zing for yes? Wouldn’t that be amazing if I could trust it and it worked? I’d never have to worry about making a wrong decision again.
Deepak Chopra states that “If you say ‘I have a gut feeling about such and such’ you’re not speaking metaphorically, you’re speaking literally. Your gut makes the same chemicals that your brain makes when it thinks.” Therefore, every cell in the body is working on the decision, not just the mind, and the nervous system in the gut doesn’t have the ability to doubt itself, which the central nervous system does.
When logic wins and I ignore the seemingly irrational twinge warning, I often find that I regret my decision and the twinge feeling worsens and then goes on to fuel rumination over missed opportunities. In turn this becomes a major distraction for my mind instead of remaining in the present moment.
It’s interesting that Mindfulness has brought me to this point, and I am more aware of these antics happening right in front of me in my own body and mind, rather than reacting on auto-pilot without questioning my responses.
Throughout my years of mindfulness practice, I became more aware of the sensations in the body. I was then able to tune into them more deeply and I found I needed a vast vocabulary to describe what I was feeling. Immense ranges of sensation began to reach my notice on scales from heat to coolness, tingling and buzzing to stillness, tightness to softness and other sensations such as fluttering, hollowness, flowing, sinking… the list is endless. Before mindfulness, it seemed like sensations were very limited. In fact, I could probably have counted them on one hand. Something like, warm, cold, painful, tight…..etc. The body presented itself to me as a fragmented array of body parts that made up a whole me.
As a teacher and practitioner of ancient movement arts such as tai chi, qigong and yoga, I yearned to learn more about this body and what transpired was more of a felt sense of this body. A body of pure sensation without any parts. If, as Chopra states, that every cell in our bodies think and have strong memories, then that means they are holding a wisdom and knowledge I have been missing all of my life.
So I am going to start with the gut feeling and work from there.
Apparently, Steve Jobs found it to be “more powerful than intellect” and Richard Branson prefers it to stats and data. Albert Einstein called it the “only real valuable thing” so body scan and mindful movement practice – here I come, show me what I need to know. I have a gut feeling about it…..
I invite you to recall a recent time when you have noticed a ‘gut feeling’ going on inside your body. Bring to mind how it felt at the time and how it feels now.
When my gut feeling is beginning to drive me a little mad, I do this simple practice, whilst being very mindful of how I am feeling. You might want to try it too.
Settle in a relaxed way and bring focus to the breathing.
Begin to draw the breath deeper into the belly
After a few breaths bring awareness to the release of the breath.
Then begin to gently pull the navel inwards towards the spine on the out-breath as if completely emptying the abdominal cavity and lungs.
Do this for a few more breaths, noticing how the new fresh breaths feel and how it feels to release the breath completely.
Allow the breath to return to its natural rhythm and become aware of how that feels and sensations throughout the whole body.
Is it easier to make a decision from here?
I’d love to hear your comments and feedback so please do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacky will be teaching this coming weekend on the new Stillness Through Movement Course on 5th October, 2021.
She has also contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.
This blog draws on information written by:
Deepak Chopra, Marilyn Barefoot and the following books:
Your Body Knows the Answer by David Rowe
The Radical Acceptance of Everything – Ann Weiser Cornell