I taught a deeper lesson on mindbody wellness in this video!
Before you dive deep into this article, ask yourself “How am I feeling right now?” A common answer is “I’m fine” or “Doing alright, and yourself?” because it’s one of those questions asked without the intention of truly checking in with how we’re feeling.
Most people will ask this question to their mind, waiting for a cognitive answer to surface. This answer will be the sum of your thoughts on an experience, but not necessarily how you’re feeling. This is a true testament to just how powerful the mind truly is. Even though it’s not where feelings are experienced, this is where the question is answered.
Another way to check in with how you’re feeling is to ask yourself “what’s going on in my body right now?” Weird right? I bet you wouldn’t think to check in with how your body about how you’re feeling today.
The truth is that’s where the sensation of your feelings are being experienced. But before you understand the body, let’s venture into your mind.
Everything originates from a thought. Your beliefs, ideas, assumptions, and worries all begin in the mind. Therefore what you think you then become. But what if you’re not paying attention to what you think?
Well, your thoughts are creating the life unfolding before you, whether you are aware of that fact or not. Of course, the goal is not to suppress your thoughts or control them, but instead, learn to guide them in the direction that aligns best with your desire.
A good place to start practicing this is detaching yourself from thoughts, seeing yourself as the observer of the experience rather than the experience itself. By understanding the power held behind your thoughts, you’ll begin to appreciate the personal power of the mindbody connection.
Imagine your thoughts as cars speeding down a highway, while you, the observer, sits quietly on a bench watching them pass. Watching for the first time will absolutely be overwhelming. Your natural instinct is to jump in because you identify yourself with the mind and feel the urge to control these thoughts, their speed, and their intensity.
These thoughts surface within you but are separate from who you are because you are not your thoughts. You are the awareness of those thoughts. At first, it may feel extremely difficult to watch the speed and intensity that these thoughts are forming at, you may even feel compelled to attach yourself to one trying to stop it.
These thoughts have always been going at this speed, with this amount of intensity, the only difference is you are just now tuning into that experience. You have the opportunity to become the observer of your experience each time an intense emotion pops up, leaving you with two choices. Either reacting with emotion or responding with awareness.
An emotional reaction to something is a sign that you’ve been consumed by the emotion you are experiencing. That emotion decided to take the reins and decide the next best course of action.
This means if you were observing thoughts of anger you’d follow the urge to attach yourself to that thought, leading you into more anger. When you choose to respond, however, you recognize that emotion is a part of your experience, but you are not that emotion.
In other words, you are feeling anger but you are not anger. If you were observing thoughts of anger you would continue to until it dissipates or transcends to another emotion. To respond to a situation means to first become the awareness behind your experience so that you may decide what to do rather than be led by that emotion.
Practicing mindful awareness of your thought patterns and the ways you choose to handle them is a simple and challenging practice. Simple in its nature of just being with how you’re feeling rather than doing something about it.
Challenging because it’s the opposite of what you’ve trained yourself to do all these years. Each time you observe, detach and respond you are strengthening the mindbody connection by separating yourself from it.
Let’s revisit the question “how are you feeling today?” a question exchanged so often from person to person that you can answer on autopilot. The question itself asks you how you’re feeling yet people rarely take the time to check in with what they’re feeling.
Instead, they are likely to rely on what their mind tells them about how they’re feeling. Now that there is a separation from you and the mind, and you understand the difference between reaction and response, it’s time to move onto emotions in the body.
Emotions appear in the body as physical sensations, arousals, or reactions to what’s going on in the mind. These emotions show up differently and in many different forms, but the sensations are quite similar. Heart palpitations, dry mouth, tight chest, tingling sensations, and clenching just to name a few.
For instance, if you were to have a negative thought pop up you’d likely be fixated on the narrative in your mind and forgetting about the body you’re in. When you finally bring your awareness back to your body all of the sensations will overwhelmingly hit you at once. When you take the time to sit with each physical sensation as it arises you are awakening to how your body experiences your emotions.
This simple practice helps you gain clarity on your emotions, how you’re feeling, and the power of their presence. Without practicing awareness of how your mind and body are connected you may miss opportunities to get ahead of your emotion and you end up allowing them to dictate your day.
Identifying The Connection
Practicing mindful awareness with your thoughts and physical sensations takes patience and consistent practice. As you begin to identify the connection between your mind and body, you’ll also begin to identify who you truly are.
Because you are not the mind that creates the thoughts, nor are you the thoughts that you think. Just like you are not the body you have and the sensations you experience. The mind and body will always be a part of who you are, but it is not who you are.
Each time you choose to become the awareness behind your experience you create more space between what is happening and your response to what is happening.
Identifying the connection and separating yourself from the experience are both simple practices that can be very challenging. A great place to begin cultivating this practice is by identifying your dialogue separately from your bodily experience.
This is best practiced when an emotion is present but not too overwhelming, this will be the practice for the overwhelming moments. An emotion we are all familiar with is feeling anger, so let’s use anger as an example.
With most intense emotional states you will likely find yourself tangled up in the dialogue going on in your mind, so let’s begin by bringing attention into the body. Notice the sensations you are feeling in response to anger and where these sensations are showing up.
Once you’ve tuned your focus on the body use the tool of a deep inhale and a long exhale to relax into the moment. Repeat as many breath cycles as you need to before finding a sense of inner calm, even alongside your anger.
Now that you’ve brought down the intensity and separated yourself from the experience, turn your attention toward the mental chatter. If this too feels intense for you come back to the breath as your guiding tool of relaxation.
A helpful tip is to place your right hand on your belly as you witness the rise and fall of your breath. This can act as a tangible representation that there are constant fluctuations happening within you, the rise and fall of the belly, the ever-changing sensations in your body, the rapid moving thoughts in your mind.
Once you’ve invited an inner calm into the dialogue of your mind, you can begin asking yourself proactive questions. Rather than focusing on what you don’t want to feel, turn the focus toward how you would like to feel.
Start by asking these questions:
What am I thinking right now?
How am I feeling right now?
How is it appearing in my body?
Am I holding my breath or breathing deep?
How can I accept what has already happened?
What action can I take to create change?
What is the next best step for me to take?
How will this action bring me closer to how I want to feel?
Be patient with yourself as you ask questions with unpleasant answers and bring a genuine curiosity to this moment. This practice may seem simple, and possibly uncomfortable, but it is a very important step toward a happier and more aware version of self. The beauty of this practice is that it is always growing with you.
Be gentle as you begin to discover parts of yourself for the first time, show the compassion you would a friend going through a lifestyle change. Practicing mindful awareness is portable and the right time is always NOW.
Remember all change starts with becoming aware and they all begin with you.