The Transformative Potential of Body-Mind Integration
Episode #4 of the course Embodied mindfulness: Tools for tuning in to your health, creativity, and purpose by Mina Samuels
Glad you’re back!
As we tune into our body-mind in the present, we gain better access to our vitality. Let’s talk about our physicality, our bodies. Though our body is inseparable from our mind in its functioning, it is simplest to think about movement in relation to our body (and let the mind do its part without worrying too much about all nuances of what the mind is doing to help us move).
If you are already active, fantastic. If you are not already active, now is a good time to get active, to participate in a sport, or to develop a movement practice. Elevate your heart rate. Sweat. Notice your body in motion. Being mindful and being active have many of the same benefits. Check out the suggested reading in Lesson 1. We can use our activity and mindfulness to support each other, reinforce the results, and create backup protection. The more we engage with our physical self, the better we can understand the body-mind connection. We saw in Lesson 2 how our body-mind is a system of connected intelligences. As we sharpen our kinesthetic intelligence, or our kinesthesia (the sense that detects bodily position, weight, or movement of the muscles, tendons, and joints), we tune in more deeply to the web of intelligences in our body-mind.
I study and write about the transformative impact of sports, particularly in women’s lives. It is still true that girls have fewer sports in their lives than boys. So, women who discover sports or return to sports as adults experience significant benefits that men may have enjoyed since boyhood. No matter which gender or non-binary identity you align with, being active increases our vitality. Because our body-mind is one unified system, when we access our physical strength, we can better access our power in other parts of our life. We bring the fullness of our vitality into everything we do. This is the crux of embodied mindfulness. Our whole self is implicated in any attempt to be mindful. To be fully mindful is an embodied practice.
While it is beyond the scope of this course to suggest workout regimens, I invite you to move more, if that is not already part of your regular routine. Moving can be anything from running to yoga, dance, fencing, and karate. The idea is to get your heart beating faster than usual and generate heat in your body.
Whether you have a multi-day-per-week workout regime or none at all, this lesson’s exercise is to incorporate mindful movement into your day. Ideally, you will do this walking or running, but it can also be adapted for other repetitive, continuous activities like cycling, rowing, swimming, or climbing stairs.
Begin with your right foot and count to ten steps. When you reach ten, begin again with the very next step, this time counting to nine. Begin again when you reach nine, counting to eight. And so on, until you count one. Then begin all over again with ten steps, counting down through one. Do it again. See how long you can maintain the mindful counting. If you lose track, do not judge yourself; simply begin again.
This exercise is a variation on the fundamental breath meditation, in which you count the in and out breaths up to ten and begin again. Meditative counting breaths is always more difficult than it seems. The mind wants to flee or it gets distracted. Here, we are adding movement and a countdown cycle. The added layers of complexity can create more focus or become confusing. In either case, your intention to commit to the exercise is what matters.
You will get better with practice. Some days, you will have more focus than others. Notice the ebbs and flows. Be curious about when you can be more mindful and when hanging onto the count is more challenging. I have noticed that when I do this exercise while I’m running, I run with greater ease. The focus of the exercise brings me more fully into the present. Instead of chasing the myriad thoughts jostling for attention in my mind, I trim the clutter and tune into the rhythm of my body moving in space. No judgment (sadly, there’s always a great deal of that at other times). I am noticing, just noticing.
Tomorrow, we will expand our noticing to include intention and the things that get in the way of our intentions, such as fear.
Notice the day!
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