What does it mean to inhabit our body? To live like an animal, whose presence is in the tissue of our physical experience? To know ourselves as embodied creatures?
This morning I had a glimpse of this. In my morning meditation practice, I began to land in my pelvis in a way that sitting became completely effortless. Something aligned in my spinal column, and I was simply upright. I felt my pelvis plug in, or I felt myself plugged into my pelvis, in a way that settled my physical presence into a natural uprightness. I know that years of yoga, meditatoin and belly dancing have helped me to develop muscular holding for this alignment to happen. It was as if everything came together and clicked somehow in my body. I “got” something on a physical level. I could feel a deep support of my body to just be. It was like a sandbag in my pelvis supported the rest of my body to just relax and let go. Sort of like one of those blow up, punching clowns that we had when I was a kid.
Sitting still does not come naturally for me. When I go to a movie, I seem to fidget for a while until I settle into a position that seems to work for me. I feel every nook and cranny of my body that does not feel just right, and like Little Red Riding Hood checking each of the Bears’ beds to find the one to sleep on, I move into many positions ‘til I find one that works. It is like this for me in other situations as well, attuning to my body in a way that my physical ailments or discomforts seem to take over my experience. I feel preoccupied and make sure each part feels just right before I settle into what’s in front of me. This is a curse and a blessing at the same time.
It is rare that I sit in one position long enough to then get up and feel my foot asleep or my back screaming out to me. I don’t tend to disengage from the felt sense of my body long enough to tune out the arising discomfort. Instead of being entirely focused in a mental way and forgetting about my physical experience, I tend to feel my physical body and its fidgetiness can keep me from settling into the moment and the task at hand. Today was different. I felt deeply attuned to my body in a way that supported a concentration on my mental and physical levels simultaneously. I was inside my body much the way my dogs seem to be, their physical presence just being. But a dog does not have a neo-cortex to contend with, lucky critters.
Inhabiting our body means that we pay attention to our physicality moment to moment, even when we are engaged in a thought provoking conversation or project. We stay present with out bodies, how they feel, what they are doing, what they seem to be conveying to us, at the same time as we focus on the cognitive task at hand. Unbelievably enough, our mind is so intelligent that it can handle BOTH of these at the same time. This takes mental effort in the beginning. In the Diamond Approach, we have a simple practice to constantly sense our arms and legs. For years it takes methodical work. Then it seems to come more naturally. One way to begin to develop this is to set a timer each hour and then take a few minutes to breathe into 10 or more body parts to feel yourself actually residing in your body. Sounds elementary, but with the deep and mostly unconscious conviction in this culture that our thinking is what matters most, baby steps is where we begin. Other strategies I use are taking a moment to breathe into my belly every time I use the bathroom, and feeling my feet on the floor as I walk from one area of my work space to another. You will be amazed at how much more efficient with your time and energy you are when you regularly bring your awareness into your body parts. This morning when my body started to align, I noticed that my mind at first became caught up in a sea of thoughts, each seemingly important, which is usually how my meditation begins. As I continued to focus on the sand bagging in my pelvis, these thoughts began to lose their sense of urgency and I could feel myself inhabit my body so deeply that my neo-cortex just relaxed and became still.
I reckon that to inhabit my body means that I reside in it, live from it, and experience life through it all the time. It comes to mean that I conduct myself in a way that constantly reminds me that I occupy a physical form as well as a mental one. Then my life begins to be experienced from this dwelling place as much as (or more than) it does from my thinking mind. In this way a more encompassing presence naturally springs forth from the person that I call “me”. Life inherently becomes more alive and wonder-full.