listening to the body
I begin sessions these days asking clients to bring their awareness into their body, to ground into where there is safety & support. And that’s not always easy after these past 18+ months.
As I see it, the pandemic created a unified field of experience, a "nervous system for humanity*" that shifted our sense of connection with one another & our place in nature. We have been required to think about our place in this world, in nature & community, & how we are more intimately interconnected than we may have ever recognized. .
In "Breath Taking" Michael J. Steven writes “The atmosphere is a communal space, and lungs are an extension of it. Our very breath ties us to one another and to the world around us.”
Our consciousness of the breath as "communal space" and the fear that accompanied that awareness lives on in our bodies, with shoulders wrapped forward to define our space & protect us, with jaws held tight aching from teeth grinding in the night, in narrowed diaphragms that don't draw deep breath into the body, into the belly.
. And yet, it is that same breath that can liberate what has become stuck. Breathwork, with a panoply of methods, offers the capacity for greater health. The simplest tool we have is the breath yet its benefits are vast. Research has shown how many maladies– anxiety, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, asthma, attention deficit disorder- can be reduced or reversed by changing how we breathe. "There are as many ways to breathe as there are foods to eat. And each way we breathe will affect our bodies in different ways." "Breath," by James Nestor
Although you may already have a breathwork practice, I offer one that focuses on using the breath to expand your awareness of your body that I hope you find useful.
*Teilhard de Chardin’s term
Listening to the Body, a gentle breathwork practice
• Lay down on a comfortable surface where you feel supported.
Feeling the gravity of your body & the support underneath you, relax into that.
• Take a few slow breaths with long exhales & drop your awareness into your body with no agenda, just let your awareness expand throughout with your breath. Sensing the back of your body, let your breath open space where you notice tension, letting you melt into the ground. Continue with the front of your body allowing any tension to soften with your breath. Keep breathing into that cleared space, exhaling slowly & notice any shifts in your body.
• Now let your attention be drawn to a particular area of the body that calls you. This can be a tension, an awareness, a place in the body you find challenging or uncomfortable. Allow your ATTENTION to draw you there, not your thinking mind.
• Focus on this area & offer a light, soft breath, tender and gentle, into this part of your body. You may even want to bring a hand there. Keep your attention lightly focused until you notice some change. This can be an opening of some kind, a deeper breath, a change such as the tension melting. As you sense a shift, notice what is there now. Maybe there's an image or association that comes up. Holding your focus there, send a kind note to this area of the body, for example:
“I welcome you. I love & embrace you. I'll protect you. Thank you.” Whatever feels right for you.
• Widen your attention & notice what may else may have shifted throughout your body. Rest in those sensations for as long as you like. You can also allow your attention to move to another area of the body, or repeat the steps in the same area if you would like to continue the exploration.
Be open, curious and allow any change to happen.