Part One: Feel Your Way to Real
Unaware of what we are avoiding or why, we multi-task our way through our days, rarely immersed enough in any one moment to fully feel much of anything. Our body awareness is lacking.
While simultaneously watching the morning news, eating breakfast and reading the cereal box, we are already half-heartedly thinking about the day ahead. With one foot involved in the task of readying ourselves for what lays before us, the other has already stepped into it.
The ride to work is often a blur, essentially an unavoidable inconvenience taking away from otherwise productive time that could be spent doing … something. It’s no wonder we are exhausted before our day has even begun.
Then there’s the mostly numb version of ourselves that navigates the way home, on auto-pilot, while we review what happened and ponder what’s next.
At the end of the day, many will find it difficult, if not seemingly impossible, to shut it all off as the mental chatterbox continues … for many, long into the night, robbing us of much needed deep, restful, restorative sleep.
In fact, insomnia is estimated to affect more than half of the U.S. adult population. According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 58 percent of adults reported having insomnia at least a few nights a week.
There has developed such a disconnection between our minds and our bodies, many of us have become lost in an endless stream of mental chatter that is so busy, we have become like heads walking around without bodies.
We become so lost in the thoughts, the storyline, the collective dream we are all having, that we no longer have a relationship with, or even feel, our bodies. Yet it is a connection to what is happening inside our bodies that connects us to our center and grounds us.
Most of us believe we are healthy enough if we spend time and energy focusing on caring for our physical bodies, as well as intellectual pursuits.
But very little attention is being paid to our emotional wellness, which is the very energy that fuels us, and it affects the quality of our lives.
For many, long after they have cared for the needs of their physical body and stimulated their minds with intellectual pursuits, emotional health is the last frontier.
Emotions are felt in our bodies, and in a world where everything has become so intellectualized it’s easy to see why so many are afraid to stop long enough to allow one to register. As Eckhart Tolle said, “Emotion is the body’s reaction to the mind.”
We have no practice being with our emotions and have learned to fear them rather than honor them as the valuable tools for insight into ourselves that they really are.
In his bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman describes this as “a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use them to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
And the first step in the process is to gain self-awareness by observing oneself and recognizing a feeling as it happens.
Our bodies are always communicating with us. The messages usually start out as subtle sensations in the body that we can only truly access when we take the time to feel what is happening inside of us in the present moment.
This we cannot do when lost in the maelstrom of thoughts filling every crease and crevice of our minds. Often the body’s messages, those feelings, do not have a chance to bubble to the surface of our awareness, and simply register as discomfort somewhere in the recess of our mind.
Most of us, having never been taught the value of tuning into bodily sensation as an opportunity to gain self-awareness and, therefore, a level of emotional intelligence, get real busy in an attempt to run away from and avoid whatever it is that we haven’t even taken the time to name or acknowledge.
As books like Feelings Buried Alive Never Die and You Can Heal Your Life so effectively point out, our feelings always have a message for us.
And if we choose to ignore them–if we do not practice body awareness–our body starts sending louder, more obvious messages which will, if denied long enough, eventually manifest as dis-ease in the body.
Denying our feelings is like holding a beach ball under water; it cannot be held down forever, and eventually will push its way to the surface.
We have become a numb society. After years of being told it’s not okay to feel anything other than happiness and joy, we have disassociated from the very energy that courses through us, reminding us that we are alive.
The guilt and shame connected to our emotions has accumulated over generations, and we’ve become better and better at denying what we feel, driving that energy deeper into our nervous systems because we’ve never been taught the value of simply allowing it to pass through us.
We are having to come up with new names to call the physical manifestation of dis-ease in our bodies, as stuck emotional energy eventually wreaks havoc on our nervous and endocrine systems.
The nervous system is like our electrical system; the endocrine system is our chemical makeup. When these electrical and chemical systems reach a point of overwhelm and confusion, the rest of the body receives too much, or too little, of something vital to its healthy, normal functioning.
Usually at the first sign of this imbalance, traditional Western medicine seeks to return the body to homeostasis with drugs, essentially introducing another chemical into the mix.
While masking one symptom, another series of side effects are created, and the original source of the problem remains.
Over time, if those side effects are enough of a nuisance, one or more other drugs are introduced, and before you know it you have a chemical cocktail with which to flood your system on a daily basis.
And if an organ or other part of the body creates enough problems, aggressive, invasive surgery is often next on the agenda.
Yet while we are busy chasing symptoms, the root of the issue remains unacknowledged, and unaddressed.
For most, our parents, and their parents, and their parents before them, never received true, healthy guidance on how to recognize and manage emotions, and so were ill-equipped to offer us any true emotional support. We never learned how to practice body awareness. And over time many stopped questioning . . . anything.
We have been pulled so far from our center, it’s no wonder something as subtle as an emotion is seen as more of a nuisance than anything else. But we are in a new age now, when at least some are starting to question the answers, where a growing number of inquisitive souls are seeking new ways to be in this world.
And as we evolve out of thousands of years of being told what to think, we are now ready to learn how to think, and how to feel.
This new level of open, expanded awareness for which we as a species are now ready includes at its very core emotional intelligence. And we will never reach a level of true intelligence around our emotions without the ability to recognize that we are having one.
No journey of self-discovery can go far without a willingness to recognize what it is we are feeling.
In a world with so much mental noise and external distraction vying for our attention, something as subtle as a feeling can be easily ignored. But without a willingness to see, own and understand the subtle energy that moves through our bodies, we can never truly know ourselves.
Read “[Body Awareness] Reveal Your Authentic Self, Part Two: The Body is the Subconscious Mind” here.
Erica Boucher is the author/creator of the book and life coaching program, Showing Up Naked; and founder of Empath Yoga, a 200-hour yoga teacher training. She also hosts annual yoga retreats around the world. For more information on Erica’s book, life coaching program, yoga teacher training, and upcoming yoga retreats, visit www.EmpathYoga.com. This article was excerpted by permission from the book Showing UP Naked: Peeling Away the Layers to Your Authentic Self, by Eric Boucher (Earth Harmony Publishing, 2012).