The following is an excerpt from the Ebook "Shaping a New Body Narrative." You can access the full ebook and participate in the Body Connect meditation program that goes along with it.
Cultivating body awareness is different from training or conditioning; it brings mind, body, and spirit together in moments of focused, deliberate, open perception.
To have breakthrough in body awareness, it helps to be open to the possibility that your present idea about your body is incomplete and contains mistakes. There's nothing unusual about or wrong with that. Your brain works hard to simplify and condense information, and you can more or less get away with generalized and limited perceptions of the body as you go about life. But there is always something new to learn about the body, and always a new way to experience body presence.
Suspend your beliefs about your body
Let go of what you think you know about the body. Shifting awareness fully into the experience of what you feel allows you to gently and gradually deepen the mind-body connection. Approach the things you do as if you’re not exactly sure how it will feel. Over time this practice can generate a fun, ongoing storyline to your life, one that you get to build on each and every day as you come to notice the body’s patterns in more detail and with more context over time. An open mindset gets you connected with yourself, and it brings wordless coherence to everyday life. It can be a familiar, steadying feature that’s there when you’re not quite sure where your life is headed next.
A “relationship” mindset is key for training proprioception
When you think of the body parts in segments, for example “arms,” “legs,” “back,” you may inadvertently limit the kinds of movements you can engage. On the other hand, when you start to experience the various “parts” of the body in relationship to one another, something important happens.
For example, reach your right arm over your head and leftward. Lean to the left a bit for a sidebend, reaching as much as you can through your fingers. Even if you reach far, you may not get much stretch. You need to anchor down through the right side of your pelvis and ribcage, pulling the opposite direction. Ah, see? When you move like this, what is an almost imperceptible difference from an outside perspective can feel like a dramatic change on the inside.
Rest & Reflect
Practice without rest is like eating without digesting. To deeply internalize the lessons from your practice it is important to allow the body and mind to rest and recovery. I regularly find that after spending a bit of time away from one of my physical practices I actually come back noticeably more competent and skilled. By leaving space for my mind and body to process and work together during that down-time, I get to return to my practice with deeper understanding of my own body how it connects with my equipment. As a philosopher friend of mine put it, it allows us to return “more in relationship.” This seems to be supported by practicing meditation, which provides a baseline reference for how the body is feeling and functioning.
By providing expert touch and instruction, a teacher can orient your awareness to parts of the body that you previously hadn’t been aware of, and can show you how that muscle or joint is supporting your action, among other things. Cultivating body awareness is different from training or conditioning; it brings mind, body, and spirit together in moments of focused, deliberate, open perception. Working with a qualified teacher is a wonderful way to enhance body-awareness and support your explorations of movement and sensation.