How often are we really in our bodies?
For brief, glimmering moments every once in a while?
Even for individuals who practice mindfulness, we are constantly disrupted by our arising thoughts. We note this (“thinking!”) and return to the breath. Lather, rinse, repeat. And sometimes…for a second or three we are just breathing. Then taco trucks and to-do lists crowd back into our heads.
Even when we escape the mind chatter for a millisecond, the focus on breath is only one form of body awareness. It is a very small part of the entirety of the weird-ass organism we drive ourselves around in every moment of our conscious being.
When we talk about our 5 senses, we talk about how we use them to organize information from the outside world, but rarely do we use them to register what is going on inside of us. In reality, we are receiving internal sensory information on a constant basis but are rarely connected to that experience. There is nothing wrong sense-driven corrections being an automatic process. This is how our body and brain are designed to function. Continuous information seeking and responding and adapting to our surroundings based on that information. Micromovements to huge course corrections on a continual basis.
But sometimes the wiring goes wonky. You know. Our body and mind are over-eager and over-protective and start sending haywire messages that are overanalyzing current experiences and anticipating dangerous and damaging future experiences based on our past experiences.
It’s the very definition of a trauma response.
Any living animal will respond to changes in light and shadow. From amoebas to Homo sapiens, we perceive threat and duck. The difference between us and amoebas is that we can (at least on a good day), become aware of our instincts and challenge the efficacy of our ducking patterns.
This means being more aware of the interplay between our external and internal sense messages. And learning to tolerate our duck response without needing to always duck.
Want to get an idea of where I’m going with this? Try this exercise, adapted from Peter Levine’s fantastic book In An Unspoken Voice:
How did your awareness of the experience change once you were entirely dependent on your internal sense messages? Was it disconcerting at any point? Comforting? Did anything shift or feel different in how you connect with your self?