We notice what moves. This is part of the negativity bias in the brain. Being vigilant for potential danger helps keep us safe.
Are you held hostage by your primitive brain? This can be dramatic when there is a sudden threat and you instinctively protect yourself. In our culture of chronic stress, it is more insidious.
Bring your attention in to your body from head to toe. What do you notice first? Maybe you’re clenching your teeth. Holding your breath. There is tightness through your neck and shoulders. These are residual effects of stress and of tightening up for protection.
Part of the fun of having a pre-frontal cortex and modern brain development is that we also have higher capacities, like mindfulness and wisdom.
Notice what is also here. Bring your attention back into your body. You notice what is tight or contracted. Then you automatically start to relax it. “Oh, I’m holding my breath!” You let it go. “My shoulders are like cement.” As soon as you tune in, they start to soften. You might move them around a bit to relieve the pressure and help them relax. Tune back in to your body from head to toes. What is already relaxed? Sometimes our whole body is vibrating. More often there are a few tight spots and some that are more relaxed and a few areas that feel fine.
My work with people healing trauma is rooted in knowing the energy, feelings and sensation in our body. You might have a block in your throat or a pressure in your chest. Notice that you can still breathe. Notice the area around the sensation. Sometimes there is a defining edge and often the sensation gradually diminishes. Can you feel it up into your jaw? Down into your belly? Does it go to the edges of your body? It is helpful to realize that no energy goes on forever. Focus your attention on the space where you can no longer feel the energy.
The vast depths of the mind are still. Thoughts are like the waves on the surface of the ocean. In high winds and stormy weather, they toss us about and it feels overwhelming. We’re swept off our feet. Yet underneath the chaos, there is peace. Once you get to a certain depth, there are no waves on the ocean floor. We may have to remind ourselves again and again to come back to the stillness. To relax and breathe.
Tune in again to your whole body from head to toes. Notice the sense perceptions and feelings. Notice the movement of your body with your breath.
Become aware of the space itself. When you breathe in, your stomach expands into the space right in front of your body. When you breathe out, it falls back toward your spine and that space is now empty. Quantum physics tells us even our solid bodies are made up mostly of empty space. We experience the space our body is occupying as a series of sensations.
Cultivate the habit of directing your attention away from what reflexively catches your eye. We’re not fighting with our mind. We notice what is here, what is in motion and what is always changing AND we notice what is already and always still and unchanged.
Rest there. Try this 5 minute guided practice of breathing into stillness.