This is a set of practices to explore what it means to be in your body, and how to tell if you aren’t. In addition to investigating the exercises below, please read the article What Does It Mean To Be “In Your Body”? which is an introduction to the concepts discussed in this section.
1) Here’s the most important exercise: with everyone you meet, including animals (you can also do this with trees and any other “being” you encounter), let them know on a “me-first basis” (through modeling) that in your presence, it is polite to be fully in your body. Make this invitation to every person/group/being you are with by bringing your attention to your own body when you are in their presence.
2) Do your feet feel very far away? If so, it means that you are “in your head.” An exercise that can help with this is: Full Body Face.
3) Is your clothing comfortable? It’s hard to be in your body if it isn’t! Are your trousers too tight, is your bra making you tense … what does your body need to be able to breathe easily and move freely?
4) Notice your own movement—how is your head related to your hips? How are your shoulders related to your knee? Explore awareness of how parts of your body live in relation to each other.
5) Practice “soft eyes.” Sometimes people are not in their body due to peering or glaring or staring intently. And yet, with eyes closed, sometimes people “float away.” Experiment with how you feel with eyes open, eyes closed, and in the half-closed position that is recommended for doing Qi gong. “Soft eyes” is usually something similar to this, although a little more open. The eyes are open, but the eyelids and eye muscles are literally more relaxed than usual.
6) Use basic “bodily functions” times as opportunities to become more aware of your body. Depending on your upbringing, this may feel taboo at first. Feel what it’s like to eat, swallow, and fill. Feel what it’s like to pee with full presence; note how your whole body shifts before, during and after. Take the same opportunity with moving your bowels. Check in as you go to sleep, and as you wake up. From the inside, what is it like to be fully in touch with your body?
7) Especially when out in public or with other people, are you aware of your skin? Are you INSIDE your skin? Can you feel your bones, your blood? See the article Being and Doing for a fuller description of the relevant Chinese concept of Qi versus Blood.
8) Make yourself at home in your body—relax into it like a sofa. Your body is a big cuddle surrounding your spirit. Take full advantage of the cuddle, and invite others on a “me-first” basis (modeling) to make themselves at home on the sofa of their body and let their spirit take in the cuddle, too.
9) Do more cuddling! Touch, hug, shake hands. Experiment with fuller and fuller presence while doing so. If you don’t have anyone to cuddle with right now, pets (including other people’s pets) are great practice cuddlers. Also, hugs hello or good-bye are a good practice moment for being full in body, soft, giving and receiving the momentary cuddle.
10) Dance! (whether sitting or standing … 🙂
11) Explore these exercises, and other Whole Heart Connection practices, at your own pace. Notice what resonates with you, what makes you uncomfortable, what feels different when you repeat a practice over time … and journal about your discoveries.
Thea Elijah, Whole Heart Connection
Photo credits: Peter Voerman