Living in the Moment: Body Awareness (5/5)
It is Sunday night. You have to get up and go to work tomorrow morning. You start dwelling upon this thought, “I have to go to work tomorrow.” You cannot help it, you imagine yourself sitting at your desk, staring at a stack of papers and a computer, and having to deal with overly demanding people all day.
You worry. You try not to, but you just cannot help it.
What is one to do?
I do not know if I have an answer for you, but I know what has worked for me.
Last post we noticed that: Sometimes it seems like we are living in the present moment. Sometimes it does not. However, really we are always living in the present moment.
So why does it sometimes seem like we are not?
I know that I feel present when I am consciously aware of the physical sensations of my body.
And I do not feel present when I am not consciously aware of the physical sensations of my body.
I think it is that simple.
‘Living in the present moment’ has very little to do with time, and very much to do with body awareness.
[Seeing this, and using the right words for the right experience (i.e. replacing the expression ‘living in the moment’ with ‘living in the body’) has really helped me.]
So why do we use the expression “living in the moment” when we really mean “living in the body?”
I think it is because often when you think about the past or the future you imagine yourself to be not only in a different time but also in a different location. And usually when you imagine yourself to be in a different location, you lose touch with the physical sensations of your real body.
Thinking about other times and other places is not the real problem.
The real problem is that we have developed an unfortunate habit of losing contact with our bodies whenever we imagine the past or future.
It happens like this: You are at home Sunday evening, and you start thinking about school or work tomorrow, that meeting, that report that is due, that test. And you can’t help it, you imagine yourself to be there, not just in a different time, but also in a different place, and therefore, you lose touch with the body. However, when we imagine ourselves to be in a different location, our body-imagination is usually very superficial. It is not simply that we replace the awareness of our real body with a comparably realistic imagined body awareness, but rather we are simply not deeply grounded in any body experience whatsoever. That is the problem.
It is a problem because when you think about the future this lack of presence in the body can cause you to worry. (Or at least it can greatly contribute to your worry because lack of body awareness makes you feel powerless – you are not in control of our own body.)
How do you feel when you are worried? You are anxious, you are shaking, you are nervous, you are vibrating too fast, you have butterflies in your stomach, you are dizzy, etc...
Your body is trying to tell you something. It is saying, “Be physically present. Experience me! Be in contact with me please.”
Therefore, the first thing to do is to get physically grounded in the body.
Try this exercise:
Sit down in a chair. Close your eyes and become aware of the physical sensations of your body – become physically grounded. Be in the body. Feel it. Breathe, and breathe deeply. Keep coming back to your breathing if you get distracted. Feel relaxed – that is, feel that your muscles are heavy and supported by your skeleton. Notice that you are supported by the chair and by the floor. Let yourself sink into every corner of your body. Take your time. Enjoy being so relaxed.
Next, still with your eyes closed, imagine that you are actually sitting in a completely different chair in a different location, but do not lose awareness of the physical sensations of your real body. That is to say, visualize a new environment – news walls, colours, furniture, books, dishes, etc – and yet at the same time never lose contact with the physical sensations of your real body.
Next, imagine yourself sitting in various different locations: in the kitchen, at a friend’s house, at the beach, and yes, at work – and again, the whole time never lose awareness of the physical sensations of your real body.
Now try this exercise again but add one relatively superficial difference – pretend that it is tomorrow while you imagine yourself sitting in different locations.
The key is never to lose contact with the physical sensations of you real body. And therefore, even though you are thinking about the future, it will still feel like you are living in the present moment.
In summary, I want to tell you the three things that I do when I want to stop worrying about the future. First, I make sure that I am physically grounded in my body. Second, I make sure that I am prepared, to the best of my ability, for the future. Often my preparation involves picturing myself in a different time and place while never losing contact with the physical sensation of my real body. And finally, again to the best of my ability, I try to surrender to the uncertainty of life by giving up my need to control what I simply cannot control. This has really helped me. I hope it helps you too. However, it does take practice.
Given enough time I hope you will find that your worries about tomorrow have been gently replaced by a deep confidence in your ability to handle tomorrow’s challenges and yet still honour the reality of the always already now moment.
Let me know how it goes.
[P.S. I may not be posting for a while. My wife and I are expecting our second child to be born any day now. (The due date was December 9th, 2009) Things are about to get wonderfully crazy around here. Until next time – peace to you all, and Happy Holidays! Bye for now. Tallis]