For the Senses
“May the touch of your skin
Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you.
May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.
May the fragrance
Of a breathing meadow
Refresh your heart
And remind you, you are
A child of the earth.
And when you partake
Of food and drink,
May your taste quicken
To the gift and sweetness
That flows from the earth.
May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
Of everything that meets you.
May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes.
– John O’Donohue, Benedictus – A book of blessings
How do we cultivate body awareness?
The more I learn about health and healing, the more I am becoming aware of the mind-body connection. And the importance the we recognise and honour this connection.
Some of the understanding of how this connection works, seems to be emerging in new research, whereas in more ancient traditions this have long been recognised, even though the exact workings of the physiological mechanisms weren’t yet discovered.
We are all connection between our mind and body. A living Whole Person, even if it doesn’t always feel that way… Yet sometime we either feel like we are “living in our head”, or it is looked upon in medicine that any of the physical symptoms we are experiencing that doesn’t seem to have a clear cause is “just in our head.”
I think most of us have had the experience of driving somewhere, and yet when we arrive, having no recollection of how we got there.
So how do we bring our wandering mind back home to our body?
This week I had a gentle reminder of how to do this. When listening to a really interesting conversation over on my favourite podcast On Being about how trauma lodges in the body with Bessel van der Kolk, one sentence in particular stood out for me; “The core experience of ourselves is a somatic experience”.
So just like John O’Donohue so poetically shared it, opening our senses to experience the world, is how we orientate our human experience in the present moment. When we open up to our sensory experience we are in fact bringing our mind home to our body.
Bringing our attention to and cultivating this mindful awareness of our outer experience (sight, hearing, smell, touch) can indeed help us become better listeners to our own body’s faint whispers. To hear the more innate sensations such as feelings of hunger, fullness and satiety.
The better listeners we become, the better caretakers of our bodies and ourselves, we become.
In meditation, the breath is usually the focus of attention. Even though I have a little bit more experience with sitting meditation practice now then when I started out a few years ago, I still feel like I often struggle to catch when my wandering mind has drifted off, doing its own thing. However, this past week I was attending a virtual retreat (yes exactly as it sounds) and one of the practices we were doing was walking meditation. I have practiced walking meditation before, but it had been awhile and I had forgotten how grounding I find it.
In walking meditation the focus is on your feet rather than on your breath. You start off, standing still, placing your attention on your feet, noticing how they feel against the ground. If you can do it without shoes, or even barefoot (outdoors if weather allows) it is even better. To me it really feels like a home coming. When I place my attention and focus on the sensations of my feet, I know that I am HERE. And nowhere else.
Once you’ve taken a few moments of standing, you move slowly, moving one foot and then the other, paying attention to the movement of each foot as it lifts, moves through the space and then being placed back down again.
Funnily for me, when my focus is on something like my feet, then it becomes much easier to “see” what kind of thoughts my mind is engaging in. Like planning, projecting and remembering.
Maybe it is because when your attention is on your feet, it is kind of obvious that where they are is also where you are.
So now, perhaps this week, tune in and see where your feet really are? And let them softly kiss the earth with each step, with appreciation that you are in fact here.