”It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now…with its aches and its pleasures…is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” - Pema Chodron
Your body is wise, far wiser than you know. It tells us truths no rational thought can. It speaks to us with its rhythms. it tells us when it is hungry or tired, but also when it is wounded or when it is scared and in need of safety. The whole of our existence, even those memories that have been lost are tied up in its movements and sinewy strength.
Western society since the enlightenment has told us to trust rationality above all else, that the mind is separate from the body. And much of talk therapy was built on the belief in scientific rationality above all else. As a result, the importance of the body has been lost in that equation. But there are many new perspectives out there that are looking to reconnect the body to mental health. And societies in South Asia and China have been preaching being grounded in the body for nearly 3000 years.
The Interoceptive Network, Mindfulness And Looking for Answers In The Body
The Interoceptive Network, the stimuli arising in the internal body network, is the main way the body communicates to us. it tells us if we are feeling good or bad, calm or nervous, hungry or full. It may communicate its feelings with a growl of the stomach or rapid heartbeat. We rarely look too deeply at these sensations. We just react to them.
But slowing down and paying attention to this network has its benefits. This is where mindfulness, the nonjudgmental act of paying attention, comes in. Have you ever examined what it feels like to be anxious or sad without doing anything about it? Have you just say there and felt your heart rate rise and shoulders tense up? Have you asked what your body is communicating with you?
With some practice, the answers start to come. Not necessarily verbal or rational answers, but emotional ones. The first rule of mental health is a feeling of safety, and often times our bodies are communicating above all else, disconnection and feelings of unsafety. Can you connect to those feelings in the moment? Can you breathe deeply during this moment to lower your heart rate? Can you connect to that feeling of unsafety and disconnection and shower yourself with self-compassion?
Not many of us can. It takes practice. But this is what self-regulation looks like. Things like yoga and meditation help a great deal with this. So do things like qigong or tai chi. This examination, this moment to moment awareness of our bodies sensations, is being intimate with our humanity. To notice what we feel, to not push it away, but to hold in our hands like an injured bird, and meet it with true compassion is an act of love that we rarely give ourselves. This is where healing can begin. This is a revolution that can happen at any passing moment.