Recently I was doing an early morning trail run along the Chattahoochee River here in Atlanta. It was going well, relatively speaking as I’m not exactly an aerobic monster, until I tripped over a tree stump and bit it. Hard.
But I wasn’t injured, I was actually exhilarated. Because the fall made me realize that right before the wipe out I had been pulled out of the present moment – stuck in thought - and a few scrapes brought me right back. It didn’t hurt because the acuity of the moment didn’t allow me to label it as good or bad. It just was. I got up with a newfound sense of presence and kept running.
When is the last time you felt something without trying to label it? It's as if we can't help ourselves...
My shoulder is stiff"
"My back hurts – right there (emphatic pointing)"
Does labeling change it for us in any way; are we suddenly less stiff or painful?
But moving in real-time frees us. We aren’t anticipating pain or tension, or remembering pain and tension the last time we moved.
You can talk about movement and self-control (I sure talk about it a lot) but until you learn to experience yourself in real-time, with all the nuances and errors, you are missing a fundamental wisdom that cannot be experienced otherwise.
So how do we do this?
Get out of your head and into your body
Feel your feet on the ground and sense your peripheral vision. Hear with your ears, not with your memories or expectations. Our conceptual self-awareness and our embodied self-awareness are separate brain regions. Thinking about your body and being in your body is not the same thing.
Try this: take 3 breaths and feel your feet. Stay aware and follow your breath all the way in and out. Then focus on your feet. What does the ground feel like? Can you feel one foot more than the other?
Chill out from gravity for a bit
Lay on your back and move slowly and curiously. You'd be surprised at how much muscular tension we've learned to create even when we don't need it. When you're resting, are you truly resting?
Try this: laying on your back with your knees bent, roll your legs side to side with minimal effort. Does one side feel more restricted?
Do you have to work hard to do what should be an easy task?
Shoot for 5 minutes and see if you don't get better at it as you go.
Go and just be!
Don’t project all your worries and insecurities into every waking moment OR movement.
If you find yourself locked into the future or depressed about the past take 3 breaths and find your feet.
Allow your awareness to be an agent of change.
"To know reality you cannot stand outside it and define it; you must enter into it, be it, and feel it."