What does it mean to be embodied?
In a previous post, I wrote about my journey with the Alexander Technique--how I identified with my brain and imagination and was disconnected from a feeling of living in my body, and how much my life has deepened since learning to live with a sense of embodied presence, not as a mind or body but as an indivisible unity.
If we don't feel connected to our body, we often try to gain this connection by engaging in physical activity in a mechanical or even a self-punishing way. This is extra present in the first few weeks of the new year--we go to the gym fueled by guilt about how much we ate during the holidays (I just got back from Mississippi--so I totally understand). We see our body as a bad thing that has to be whipped into shape with the best intent and will power of our virtuous mind. The shot of adrenaline we get while working out makes us feel as if we are connected to our body, but there is an illusion here--we are actually hyper-activated in our fight/flight system, which is pleasurable as we are in it, but will fade and actually distance us as we come out of it. We have treated our body as a mule to be whipped rather than as an inherent part of ourselves to be treated with kindness.
A personal example on how this mechanical approach can be ineffectual or even damaging. My freshman year of college I knew I was pretty terribly inflexible so I took a yoga class. At 7am. On a Friday.
So already off to a bad start.
I was painfully aware of how 'behind' everyone in the class I was, so I buckled down and pushed myself as hard as possible. Remarkably, I didn't seem to be making any progress, and would leave the class feeling tighter and more wound up rather than looser and relaxed. Years later, I am convinced it was the relationship I had with my body that did this--since changing my perspective, I have come to love yoga and see consistent results.
I have become a big proponent of this attitude--that there is no thing good or bad but thinking makes it so (also see my blog on mindfulness and meditation). So as you turn your attention towards your new years goals, I encourage you to be kind to yourself, and bring your body along. Keep a sense of presence in your whole body--a good way to do this is to picture your consciousness as being in the center of your body as you move rather than as in your head (a little weird, but it works). This will keep you from dissociating yourself. Remember gradual habit change is ultimately better than crash attempts (which tend to....crash, as well as being more about ego than progress).
And be careful of self hatred disguised as self love.
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Thoughts on what is going on in the work and the world right now. Many posts to come.