Aha! Parenting Blog

Practical solutions for real parenting problems

Go Out of Your Mind...And Into Your Body

"Body awareness is the first foundation of mindfulness...Thinking about sensations keeps us trapped in our heads, and perpetuates patterns of anxiety, craving, etc. By simply experiencing our sensations, on the other hand, we help to cut down on unproductive thinking and bring about more calmness...Most of us live rather too much in our heads, and when we find a way to bring our awareness into our bodies it can be a positive relief and even a great pleasure." -- Bodhipaksa

We're on the home stretch of our "mini-course" on Taming Our Inner Critics.  Today's strategy is about getting our inner critics to give us a break by getting out of our minds -- and into our bodies.  

Many schools of meditation focus on the sensations in the body as a way to bypass the mind. The body has its own wisdom.  If we can slow down long enough to really feel our bodies, we bypass all that negative chatter in our minds and tap into a deep spring of well-being. 

Want some ideas to give your inner critic a vacation by spending some quality time in your body?

1. Yoga was originally invented to disarm the inner critic and ready the mind for meditation. It's great for your body, too.

2. Try a simple moving meditation: walk.  Most of us find it easier to become aware of our bodies while walking than while sitting. Start by bringing your awareness to your feet.  Then lead your awareness through your body, relaxing each part of your body as you walk. Focus on your physical sensations -- how your foot feels against the pavement, the breeze on your neck. If thoughts come up, just say "Thought" and let them float off. (Believe me, they'll be back later.) Try this exercise while pushing your child on the swing; you may well come back from the playground relaxed and rejuvenated.

3. Massage is an immediate stress reducer.  Can't get your spouse to trade massages?  Too exhausted? Think mini-massage:  just make it a practice to trade hand or foot massages every chance you get. Forget about your endless list -- remind yourself that you're creating more love in the world!

4. Exercise of any kind will get you out of your head.  It also keeps your body young. No time to work out?  House full of kids?  Put on some music and dance with your kids!  Start a pillow fight. Let them win.

5. Yawn. Really! Yawning relaxes us and releases anxiety and pent-up emotion.  Researchers found that students who yawned deliberately for four minutes before taking tests raised their grade point averages. Yawning also helps us breath more deeply, which heightens our body awareness.

What’s miraculous is suddenly noticing that our mind has been quiet while we’ve been in our bodies...a relief and a pleasure indeed!

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