Whether we like it or not the mind and body are intimately connected. Our body is incredibly sensitive to the tiniest emotional twist in our thoughts. And unlike our mind our body doesn’t consider if those thoughts are real and correct – it just reacts as if they are…
But it’s not a one way street between the mind and the body. Not only does the body react to our thoughts, but as I’ve talked about before our body language, our posture and our gestures also influence our mind for the positive, but also for the negative – reinforcing and even enhancing our fears, worries, misery or any version of unhappiness.
Whether we accept it or not the state of our bodies does and will affect any judgements we make at that moment.
Altering our relationship between the mind and the body can ‘profoundly improve your life‘. But may of us spend so much time lost in our thoughts. We get utterly tied up in our mental prisons that we’ve spent years building. So that our body doesn’t get a look in.
If you didn’t already know, over the next 8 weeks (or so) I’m practicing the mindfulness course laid out by Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology, in his book co-written with Danny Penman – Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world (quotes in italics are from the book). My aim is to learn how to thrive in this frantic world.
This second week focused on learning to pay mindful attention to the body. It was all about coming home to the part of ourselves that we have likely ignored for way too long.
Instead of your body amplifying and potentially unconsciously reinforcing emotionally charged thoughts, it’s about developing a connection to utilise it as your early warning radar. ‘To cultivate mindfulness truly, we need to become fully integrated with our body once more.’
The first activity was to continue to develop my MINDFUL AWARENESS OF A DAILY TASK. You can pick whatever suits you just as I did last week, so this time I picked walking from my office to the kitchen. I had to pay careful attention to all the sensations – what I saw, what I heard, what I felt, how my body moved – each time I walked to and fro. And that was fairly frequently considering the number of cups of tea I drink!
I managed this probably more times than I remembered the mindful brushing of my teeth last week! Over the 7 days I certainly became much more aware of my surroundings, the feel of our wooden floor beneath my feet and the birds singing and chirping in our garden. The 12 second walk from desk to kettle (yes, I am that sad that I timed it!) became a little mental break in my day and I certainly felt more refreshed overall. But it is difficult to work out which of these practices affects what.
Next was the HABIT RELEASER. This week it was incredibly simple – go for a walk for at least 15 to 30 minutes at least once this week. It seems that walking is ‘a brilliant stress reliever and mood booster‘. I had to pay attention to how my body moved, the sensations in my body and to the sights, sounds and smells around me.
I actually kept putting this off all week and finally got around to it on day 7 of the week. We’re lucky enough to live near a beautiful lake that’s about 3km around.
It was certainly a pleasant break from the norm and I did feel that I was aware of many different things to when I have walked the route previously. But I definitely had a challenge actually getting myself out of the house to do it!
The third mandatory practice was the BODY SCAN MEDITATION – just like last weeks meditation it had to be done at least twice a day on at least 6 days out of 7. The whole aim was reintegrating mind and body into a ‘powerful, seamless whole‘.
Basically the 13 minute guided meditation took me on a tour to ‘scan’ my body, by moving my attention around different parts of the body, holding each part in non-judgmental awareness before releasing it and moving on. It takes you back to the breath and finally expands your awareness to the body as a whole.
It was a fabulously relaxing meditation and I managed to do it twice a day for the 7 days, only missing one evening session, when sitting on the terrace drinking a lovely rose wine and enjoying the great company of the kids and my husband seemed a better idea.
As it was so relaxing I did get in to my usual challenge of staying awake. The meditation is meant to be done lying on a rug or a bed. But as always lay me flat and I go out cold within 2 minutes. For me sitting in a comfy chair with my legs relax on a big soft footstool was by far the better bet. I still yawned my head off and my eyes ran with water (both perhaps signs that my body was trying to tell me I was worn out), but at least I stayed awake.
Did I feel more connected to my body? Yes, I certainly did. As the week progressed I felt more sensations during the scan than I had at the start of the week. Those were positive, pleasant sensations and also less positive sensations of tension or even pain. But at least the communication lines are open.
It’s certainly a meditation I’ll use again in ‘my own time’ to reconnect myself when I feel my mind and body are not communicating or just when I fancy 13 minutes of fabulous free relaxation.
Finally I added another daily routine that was described in the book, but isn’t put forward as a mandatory daily practice – the 10 FINGERS OF GRATITUDE. This once a day exercise was all about remembering and positively appreciating the small things in life. One for each finger.
It’s not particularly difficult and yep, I even remembered to do this one each day. It was fun to find 10 things, never difficult, and turned out to be an incredibly useful tool to break little spirals of negative thinking, worrying or stressing out about something. Highly recommended!
So OVERALL, how do I feel at the end of week 2? I certainly feel calmer, more relaxed and have a greater ease with the world. I’ve started sleeping so soundly that almost nothing wakes me and things I would have seen as mountains a couple of weeks ago are definitely down to little bumps in the road. I feel that I’m working more efficiently, getting more done with less effort, and my creativity is starting to seriously fizz.
I really realise that my thoughts are just thoughts. I can control them – though I have much more to learn to do that effectively. I can change them. I can watch thoughts and feelings float by like clouds in the sky. Acknowledging their existence, but not letting them control me. And those thoughts do not define or even create my reality. (Yikes – getting a bit philosophical in my old age!)
Right now I’m amazed at what 2 weeks of mindfulness practice can achieve – how will I feel by the end of the 8 weeks? Right now I feel like I’ll be unrecognizable!
Next week, I’ll be moving on to breaking those ever decreasing circles …
“Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.”
― Louis L’Amour
- Is Life Trickling Through Your Fingers? The ‘Real’ Week #1 (gatehouse13.com)
- Mindfulness for Beginners: Week #1 (nlp13.com)
- 7 Ways To Relax (zensvibe.wordpress.com)
- The Mind Body Weight Loss Connection (lifereachfitness.wordpress.com)
- Meditation for Daily Self-CareChances are you can’t visit (turnanewleafmassage.wordpress.com)
- Taming the Monkey Mind: Taking the Monkey to the Gym (actionpotentialwellness.wordpress.com)
- Spend ONE Hour with Headphones to Help Heal Your Mind – Your Body will Follow (briancimins.com)