Body Awareness: I Am More Than my Mind
© Andrew Rice
Most of us probably attest that we go about our daily lives living in our head and becoming absorbed by the chatter of our mind. But what about body awareness? We treat it as if it is just there to serve us. We simply expect the body to be there, and ready to perform at a moment’s notice. Often, we don’t even spend as much time maintaining our body as we do our house, our car, and other material things.
We expect it to be healthy, even as we remain fully lost to it, absorbed in our goals, consumed by ‘doing our thing(s)’. As we ignore the body and take it for granted, it may be helpful to know that this will have consequences. As we steer away from the scare tactics, we might want to look into how connecting to our deep body awareness can help us become more whole, become (or remain) healthy, and be more at peace.
It is not about ‘Escaping the Body’
According to the mystics, we live in our physical body as well as a subtle energy body. These energies are more subtle than conventional physical instruments can detect. This understanding comes from traditions that accept the human ability to see or feel forces that are not physically measurable. The subtle body consists of focal points (often called chakras), connected by channels (often called nadis), which convey subtle breath (often called prana).
There is a constant exchange and interaction between the physical body and the subtle energy body. These bodies will intermingle, as it is now an established scientific truth that ‘all is energy’.
How does it work?
Let’s start with the ‘all is energy’ idea. Albert Einstein was really the first modern-day scientist to define the relationship between mass and energy. By doing so he exposed the innate oneness of all life, including what we term ‘form’. The absolute simplicity in this is that indeed everything: all of space, all matter, ourselves and even all movement, is energy. Even our three-dimensional reality, this seemingly very physical ‘thing’, is made up of energy. Scientists have confirmed what the ancient sages explained years ago: the manifest universe is created and sustained by the subtle. To me, this makes the physical not less important, but more important and powerful.
The Buddha said “anything that arises in the mind starts flowing as a sensation in the body.” I have experienced this when I have had a thought or emotional reaction which my physical body perceives – sometimes it is perceived as joy, sometimes as anxiety or fear. This is an interplay, because, again, there will be thoughts and emotions triggered by the sensation in the physical. I can only conclude that the body is actively engaged in providing me with feedback. By now, I look at it as an essential instrument, rather than something simply there to serve me. I am convinced body awareness helps me to grow; and not only in terms of height or circumference ;-).
The Body as Teacher
The body has its own consciousness and tapping into it can bring us great pleasure and gain. Your body is your teacher, or at least has the potential to be.
As we use it as our guide and, intrigued, we take our first steps into a totally new world – the world within – what does it mean?
In today’s society, where the mind is king, we need to reprogram ourselves to pay attention to the physical body.
I’ll rather experience the physical body just as it is instead of trying to escape it and attempt to form a relationship. It’s like meeting a new friend. It takes time for the friendship to develop and trust to be built. Convinced that my body has messages for me, I want to sharpen my awareness and listen to it, not ignore it. Of course, this can be difficult, especially if we experience physical pain. At the same time, I don’t think it is possible to sidestep. Rather, we need to fully experience and, on some level, accept. Why? It is likely that the pain carries a message.
Whenever I feel physical pain, I connect to it and ask, “what is the message for me?” What do I need to know?” It’s important to stay as the witness during these conversations to avoid falling into one’s own emotional drama and possible trauma.
Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you,” and if he meant it literally, would that not mean it is within the body too?
I invite you too to sharpen your body awareness and bet that you won’t regret it. A simple, direct action is to promise yourself: “I will be aware of and feel into my body at all times”. Of course, this may not be achieved with immediate effect but if you put a regular reminder on your phone to check in, you may start to build this capacity. Stop, feel, know that you are the body, too. Only then will you be able to know what messages it holds for you.
Forming a Vibrant Relationship with the Body
In Auroville, the spiritual community in India which I consider my soul home, a system called Awareness Through the Body (ATB) was developed. The name of it already reveals that it is not the subtle I being that is aware of the body but through the body.
Started in 1992 as a programme to help improve the posture of Auroville children, it has evolved into a programme that enhances any practitioner’s self awareness – awareness of the body, through the body.
Made up of a variety of exercises and games, such as group exercises aimed at maintaining concentration and being present in the moment, it is all about exploring the complexity of the being. For example, if I drop a bamboo stick, the group will not be able to complete the task.
ATB, facilitators explain, is about integrating and harmonising ourselves around the innermost centre. It is all about listening, without judging or analysing, to the stimuli received not only from the outer but also the inner world – as detected through body awareness. Children who learn early on to be aware of, and tuned into their bodies, naturally continue the habit into adolescence and adulthood. They are less likely to report feeling ‘cut off’ from their body.
Since long an integral part of the Auroville schools’ curriculum, the programme is practiced all over the world. And yet it remains a fact that in most schools around the world, there is little, if any, time dedicated to such exploration.
It is not that strange that such a system has sprung out of Auroville. Its founder, Mirra Alfassa, referred to as ‘Mother’, toward the end of her life described a new state of being as ‘not outside of matter’ but as ‘a new state in matter’, which I will briefly explore hereunder.
Transformation of the cells
Yoga is not limited to asanas (yoga poses), but asanas are also not limited to the physical.
Practicing yoga is a way to serve the cells of the body.
And the cells of the body serve us, as a whole.
Mother spent many years exploring the consciousness of the body. All her work is linked to the evolution of mankind, and why would it stop now? To me it makes sense that the body provides the most fertile ground for transformation and to discover it anew, as such.
Liberation through the body, rather than from the body.
The Cells Contain Secrets
At a time with such instant access to enormous amounts of information, what do we know about the information stored in our own cells?
I do not profess to be an advanced practitioner in all of this, but I have experienced the positive impact of taking even a first few steps on this path. It is not about escaping the body, but about being the body. If each cell in my body is indeed conscious, only two things can hinder the evolution of this becoming known:
- Resistance to change (everything, including the body is in constant flux), and
- Time wasting (I will put a reminder on my phone and Stop, Feel, Know that I am the body, too.)
As I come to know that I am my body, too, the secrets of my cells can’t remain hidden for long, I suspect.
I Talk to my Cells
Before I go to sleep and as soon as I wake up, I convey to my cells:
- You are healthy, and
- I trust you.
And I listen to what messages they have for me.
In opening ourselves to our bodies we will discover a new level of understanding of who we truly are. It can feel as if we are opening ourselves to a new dimension of how we experience life.
Go for it! Set out to discover your own deep connection to your inner self, as an entire being. It’s liberating!
Yours truly, in mind, spirit and body,
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If you feel called to practise something a little more elaborate, here is an example of a guided exercise that can help you understand, and overcome your pain: https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/mindfulness-meditation-to-control-pain.
About the Author
It was at the height of Claudia’s high-fly corporate career in luxury hospitality that she arrived at a turning point. Little did she know that an unexpected encounter in the forest in the South of India was to radically change her life.
Claudia is the founder of Soul Luxury and dedicates her knowledge and experience to support people who want to make profound change in life. She loves anything wellbeing & healing and continues her inner journey.
Claudia also runs a global community for people who place value on self-growth. Working with individuals as a Quantum Energy Coach, she also facilitates retreats and offers personal change programmes. She is an author of a guided journal Your 28 Days to Self Love and I AM EVERY WOMAN, a collection of transformative life stories.
All original material copyright © 2021 Claudia Roth