The shortcut has to do with feeling emotions in my body. I’ll begin by sharing a bit of background knowledge about emotions and sensations. As humans, when we have emotions such as joy or fear or sadness, we also experience corresponding physical sensations in the body. For example, we might tighten our belly or chest when we are afraid, or our body might become heavy when we feel depressed. Feeling the physical sensations of emotions in the body can help us to integrate our emotions. There is a mindfulness expression, "Feel it to heal it," that relates to this idea.
The shortcut I found was to feel the sensations in my feet. I discovered that if I feel my feet and mentally name difficult emotions, such as fear or sadness, I can integrate the emotions without having to make direct contact with my core where the intense sensations reside. This discovery enabled me to somatically integrate challenging emotions with less vulnerability and discomfort. The process of moving around my core constituted a sort of shortcut to feeling better with less emotional distress. Woot! Woot! Over and over again, I would notice a negative emotion, label it, feel my feet, and then take the next right action. Over time, my mental circuitry became accustomed to moving around rather than through any discomfort in my core.
The first weekend of my yoga therapy training, I was directed to spend many hours focused on making small, mindful movements with my hips, shoulders, and pelvic area while I focused my mind on the sensations of my core. I was forced to put my brain in touch with some of the areas of my body that I had been circumventing with my mindfulness shortcut. After that weekend of training the pain in my low back started to diminish. Small mindful movement coupled with mindful awareness of the core of my body started to heal the pain.
That's when I realized there aren't actually any mindfulness shortcuts that don't have a cost. I had thought that I was able to "get away with" ignoring parts of my body because it wasn't affecting my emotions, but the lack of attention to my core had started to affect me physically. This is one of many reasons why awareness of our whole selves is both crucial and powerful. When we try to circumvent awareness, we do this at a price to our own well-being.
It is with humility that I write this blog. The old acronym feel it to heal it really is true. I'm glad to know that subtle, mindful yoga is a path that I can follow to bring myself back to my whole body. I invite you to be curious about what practices might help you to increase your sense of embodiment. How can you help yourself to inhabit your whole body with awareness?