Raising Awareness Through Embodied Mindfulness
I teach embodied mindfulness. That means paying attention in the here and now moment how thoughts and feelings are showing up as sensations in the body.
There's no judgement of these thoughts and feelings, we simply notice them with curiosity. The goal is to objectively observe ourselves with no shame, no blame, no judgement. We embody this by noticing the physical sensations that accompany these thoughts and feelings - a "lump in my throat", a "gut-wrenching", "butterflies in the stomach".
What we're looking to notice are those bodily sensations that are difficult to describe with words. Using words for color, shape, movement or metaphor can be helpful to name the embodied experience of thoughts and feelings. For example, "a black lump sitting in my gut" or "a swirling, chaotic red circle in my chest".
From there we take notice that feelings and thoughts come...and they go. Nothing stays around forever. Our internal landscape is constantly shifting as we move through our days. Remembering this helps us to feel safer in our strong feelings - knowing that they will eventually pass.
This is a skill that can be practiced and mastered. As we practice this skill it can then be used to notice and adjust the way we think, feel, and act. We become our own Curious Observer.
The Curious Observer is free to make objective observations and ask questions that lead to thoughtful self-reflection.
As we develop these skills we might find ourselves asking ourselves questions like...
What is this feeling?
How is it showing up in my body?
When have I felt this before?
Is there a pattern of feeling or behaving I have with this sensation?
Are there memories or other sensations connected to this feeling?
Would I like to change anything about this experience I'm noticing in my body?
Another helpful exercise is to use the Curious Observer as a sounding board - asking "If my Curious Observer has a message for me in this moment what would it be?" or writing down a list of questions you'd like answered by your Cruious Observer who can objectively and compassionately observe you and answer honestly. Then reverse the roles in your writing and see what answers come up for you.
Our bodies can never be anywhere except in the present moment. So by focusing on how thoughts and feelings are showing up in the body, you are keeping yourself in the here and now - and keeping yourself out of the regrets of the past and worries of the future.
If you are desiring at this point in our country's history to understand if you hold racist thoughts or unintended prejudices, this is an excellent way to explore.
For example, when you see a person who doesn't look like you, remember to notice what comes up for you and where in your body it may live. See if you can name feelings - without judgment, shame or blame. See if any memories or related sensations show up for you.
Notice if these sensations or feelings or thoughts are part of a pattern for you.
What action do they compel you to take?
Would you like to take that action?
What new sensations come up if you think about taking a different action?
Simply noticing is a powerful action in itself. Self-reflection is a hard won skill and is always - eventually - followed by compassion - for self and others. Let your body be your guide - you've likely been ignoring it for way too long!
**Image by John Hain from Pixabay