My meditation teacher commented once on how much bodily tension he saw when students typed on the computer. People put their whole body into hammering these sensitive springs that actually work best with a light touch.
Try it next time you’re on a keyboard. Relax your forehead and eyebrows. Soften your jaw. Move your shoulders around for a moment and allow all of those muscles to relax through the whole of your upper back.
Notice how you are sitting and get into a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths then bring your hands to the keyboard.
Type with your fingers. Notice the sensation of movement of the muscles in your forearms. Consciously keep your shoulders inactive. Notice if there is any tightness in your face or jaw, neck and shoulders. Is your breath even and relaxed? Keep typing and check in with yourself, your whole body from head to toes, and with your breath. Use it as a mindfulness practice.
This simple practice has obvious applications in life that extend far beyond typing. Most of us habitually hold so much tension in our body and mind.
When I was a single parent in my early 20’s, I went to the dentist because I could no longer eat without pain. He noticed I was clenching my teeth very tightly. I learned to put a bit of space between my upper and lower jaw so that even though I was still clenched through that area, my teeth no longer hurt. Over the years, through yoga and meditation, and by healing trauma, the tension itself is now gone. I have also trained myself to watch my body. When my shoulders tighten up, I notice and I relax.
Where in your life is contraction and tension making it harder for you?
Catastrophic thinking is a good example that, at times, would apply to all of us. We dread seeing that certain person and entertain thoughts of worst case scenarios. We predict in our mind the cutting things they might say and strategize how to protect ourselves. We feel that helplessness in the pit of our stomach. By the time we’re actually in the situation, we’re so stressed that we’re not really present. We might be holding our breath. Our shoulders are up around our ears.
Another approach is to acknowledge the dread and difficulty. We could inquire to see why we’re so stressed and use tapping or other tools to lessen triggers from the past. We know how to work with relaxation and evenness of breath to support our nervous system.
We could consider a range of options that we don’t even think of when we’re so caught up. Then if we are in the situation, we can “type with our fingers”.
Our habits of tightness in the body, unhelpful thinking patterns and the effects of stress are not as intractable as they seem. We may have had them for most of our lives. They feel familiar and like they will always be here. We are actually not doomed to repeat the past.
Stress is a response to a threat of some kind. Mindfulness inquiry is a way to get to know our system. What is unresolved from our past that is causing us stress now? Then we are able to use the tools of relaxation and breathing to heal our system and bring our files up-to-date.
We are complex systems and we are also quite simple. The practice of paying attention and relaxing our body can have a profound effect on our day. We build strength and resilience. Our perception of threat becomes more realistic and present moment based. We heal. We have space to enjoy our lives.