The What and Why of Embodied Mindfulness
Episode #1 of the course Embodied mindfulness: Tools for tuning in to your health, creativity, and purpose by Mina Samuels
Welcome to this course on embodied mindfulness!
I’m Mina, author of Run Like a Girl 365 Days a Year: A Practical, Personal, Inspirational Guide for Women Athletes and other books, articles and blogs, and I’m also a playwright, performer, and speaker. I study, write, and speak on the transformative impact of the body-mind connection and how it nourishes our authentic self, as well as teaching embodied theater workshops.
Over the next ten days, we will explore the deep connections between our body and mind. We will learn how to tap into the unified system of body-mind to improve our health, increase our creativity, and pursue our purpose. I call this practice embodied mindfulness because we not only notice our body with our mind, we also get physical. I will encourage you to move, to get active. We will embody our mindfulness. I combine the two elements because they are both essential for our health and wellbeing.
Being mindful decreases anxiety and depression, improves cognitive function, and reduces distractions, among other benefits. Similarly, being active can help us overcome depression and anxiety, improve brain function, and extend our quality of life, again, among many other benefits.
So, let’s get mindful and mindfully active—for the health of body and mind. But that’s not the end of the story. Of course, we want to live longer and better. But why?
Because we can do more with our time in this world.
Our robust health is here to serve us, not the other way around. Most of us are not on this earth for the purpose of being healthy and fit (professional athletes excepted). Fulfilling our purpose, along with finding and acting on the meaning that is our compass and fills everything we do with intent, is the goal. Our health is not the destination; it is one of the key resources that helps us achieve that goal. When we treat our health as the end objective, we can generate negative stress in the act of trying to be more mindful and active. We may set a goal of meditating for 30 minutes every day, and then when we don’t meet that goal, we feel like a failure. If we are active just to get thinner, we will beat ourselves up that we’re not thin enough (never mind by what flawed standard we are judging the result).
Pilar Gerasimo, a journalist and social explorer, writes that being healthy is a revolutionary act by which we reclaim our vitality that is both our individual right and our collective responsibility. Bring the energy to your life that you hope for from others. How we are in the world matters. You know people who make you feel good, just by being around them. That’s who we want to be. That’s what our vitality is for. This responsible-vitality business could be a heavy burden. It’s not. Adopting this perspective of resource-not-goal adds lightness to our practice of mindfulness and physical activity. Instead of imposing the pressure of performance, we are lifted in the updraft of energy that purpose creates.
Right and responsibility are big words, but that doesn’t mean they require big action. Our first responsibility is to the small, everyday things. Most actions we take have the power to make the world a better or worse place, mainly by being mindful of how we treat the people around us. Did you smile at the barista when you got your morning coffee? Or were you scowling for your caffeine, your mind already hours ahead into your day? Every individual action counts. Small actions add up.
Let’s tap into our inner revolutionary and nurture that crucial resource—our vitality—through embodied mindfulness.
Wherever you are right now, bring your attention into the present moment with gentle energy. Notice what you notice. Do you notice thoughts (future planning, revisiting the past, judgments, etc.)? Emotions (restless, calm, frustrated, etc.)? Physical sensations (discomfort, pain, temperature, etc.)? Outside sounds? Notice that you are noticing. Throughout the day, take one minute at least once an hour to notice where you are, what you are feeling (physically and emotionally), thinking, and doing. Set a timer on your phone to remind you to notice, if that helps. Do not judge yourself, if you forget to notice. Recommit to noticing.
This is the first (and most important!) step in being mindful.
Tomorrow, we will dive into the science of our unified body and mind.
Notice the day!
Embodied Mindfulness, Mina Samuels speaking at The Battery in San Francisco
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