My Body Lies Over The Ocean
A pair of recent conversations sparked yet another look at how one’s relationship to their body is many things…
But one thing it surely ain’t, is simple.
There are all sorts of metaphors out there about what a magnificent, complex miracle of a machine the human body is. There are no small wonders about the body’s capacity to sense, to move, to heal and so much more.
Truly cool, wild stuff when one pays attention.
Unfortunately, we live and work in ways that encourage us to disconnect – to dis-integrate – from our own physical selves. Omnipresent screens, long hours spent sitting, education that elevates the cognitive over the sensory, emotional, and intuitive take their toll over time.
As a friend in academia often reminds me, the weighted intellectual focus, and even academic environments themselves, can begin to have folks think of themselves as “minds on sticks.” (I find the image cartoonishly amusing.)
I think one of the cool things about the body is that it can only live in the present moment. Sure, you can summon memories, worries, fantasies and projections that trigger emotions that in turn produce sensations, but no matter how far back or forward the mind travels, those physical sensations are felt in the here and now.
That translates to the body providing a reliable, accessible pathway to the present moment.
I was going to add “easily” before “accessible,” but truth be told, while our own body is always with us, the disconnects mentioned earlier have been very well trained and practiced.
We don’t have to cover much distance to reach the body to restart connections, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take some effort!
It’s no mystery that just about every meditative tradition invites both new and experienced practitioners to focus on their breathing in general, and “this breath” in particular. After all, it’s pretty much impossible to focus on THIS breath happening yesterday, next week or at your last job.
I’m often asked by the men I work with about ways to begin to feel again. Some are asking about emotions, some about physical sensations, some about both. Because emotions are a combination of thought and sensation, the starting place for both is the body.
Practices of reconnecting to the body start in the same place as meditation: beginning to notice the breath, learning to notice sensations – from muscular tension to what air feels like on your skin, from awareness of the cloth as your sleeves touch your arms to what you sense as your fingertips tap keys on your computer…
All as it’s happening in the here and now.
While these few awareness practices may seem simple, they’ll begin to yield noticeable benefits quickly. You may find that you start to slow down, have better focus and aren’t so quick to get hooked or triggered.
In other words, you’ll be on your way to disengaging your inner autopilot – and to living more in the present.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone as a kid making a hash of the lyrics to the old Scottish folk tune, which I heard as:
My body lies over the ocean
My body lies over the sea
My body lies over the ocean
Oh, bring back my body to me
Now there’s some crazy, strangely useful wisdom…