"Body awareness is the foundation of mindfulness... Thinking about sensations keeps us trapped in our heads and perpetuates patterns of anxiety. By simply experiencing our sensations, on the other hand, we cut down on unproductive thinking and bring about more calmness... Most of us live 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 Spring Cleaning for Your Psyche series, which has been interspersed with our regular posts about kids and parenting for the past month. We've talked a lot about Changing Your Mind and how you relate to it. Now, let's talk about some ways to send your mind on vacation.
Today's strategy is to put your inner critic down for a nap by getting out of your mind -- and into your body.
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 ready the mind for meditation by increasing awareness. 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 "Thoughts" and let them float off. (Don't worry, 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. Too exhausted? Think mini-massage: just make it a practice to trade hand or foot massages every chance you get. Set a five minute timer and forget about your endless list while you lose yourself in the healing you carry, always, in your hands.
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! Or start a pillow fight and let them win. Laughing is always a bonus.
5. Yawn. Really! Yawning relaxes us by releasing anxiety and pent-up emotion. In one study, researchers found that students who yawned deliberately for four minutes before taking tests raised their grade point averages. Yawning also helps us breathe more deeply, which heightens our body awareness.
The miracle here is that you'll suddenly notice that your mind has been quiet while you’ve been more deeply in your body. A relief and a pleasure indeed! Why not make it a daily habit to go out of your mind for 20 minutes every day?
We're on the home stretch of our Spring Cleaning for Your Psyche series, which has been interspersed with our regular posts about kids and parenting for the past few weeks. Did you see these posts?
Go Out of Your Mind...And Into Your Body (this post)
How to Love Being with Your Kids? Dive Deeper.
Let Your Heart Take Over