You know that feeling, when you get a nasty cold or flu and you no longer feel you are inhabiting your body? Many individuals walk through their entire lives in this state of unconscious disconnect where body and mind work independent of each other. When this becomes the norm there may be few moments of experiencing real presence in this moment. There is no connection to internal subtle sensation. There is no ability to step back for a breath giving us time to tap into our inherent intelligence before acting on urges produced by an untamed mind.
When manipulated by mindless habitual thought patterns and actions the body often responds by restricting movement and getting stuck. Compounded by stress that consolidates in muscles and connective tissues, minor or major skeletal compensations present as discomfort and or shifts in posture, balance or gait. When communication is poor between the mind/body and the body/mind, awareness may only occur when experiencing pain. This type of suffering can become so daunting that there may seem to be no relief in sight.
Embodiment is the ability to rest into a felt sense of presence which occurs by paying deep attention to union of body and mind and the sensations being experienced in the present moment. It is conscious awareness of what you are sensing and feeling in real time by tapping into your full complement of sensory-motor neurons.
Remember when you dramatically lashed out in an overblown fit of rage without knowing what set you off? Why couldn’t you see this reaction coming? What inner reserve could you have tapped into that may have prevented such an uncontrollable response? Or immediately after eating that chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting you think you are still famished and won’t be content until you eat that second cupcake? But your mind didn’t listen to your body and before you could stop yourself you noshed it down only to experience an uncomfortable overstuffed midsection with a dull sleepy mind? You question why you overindulged yourself yet again. An untrained mind is often messy, unruly, and uncontrollable and these kinds of scenarios are what happens when the mind has little connection to the body
Experiencing deeper body awareness, or becoming embodied at a more subtle level can help to soften such episodes, however inquiry into this realm can prove difficult or daunting to many, especially those who suffer from chronic pain where the mere thought of deeper body sensory inquiry may be unbearable. A trained yoga therapist can help you explore these sensations in a safe space, assisting you into positions of comfort which upregulates your relaxation response, where body awareness becomes accessible to be cultivated and nurtured.
Here’s an exercise that may help you experience body awareness. Close your eyes. Take a nice deep breath in. On a longer slower exhale think about your favorite song... or maybe a favorite meal. Using internal dialogue, how did that make you feel? Was it physically pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? Did it make you smile or your mouth water? Body awareness is experienced not only through our sensory visual, audio, olfactory, tactile, and taste organs, but several other deeper internal sensory organs which govern body temperature, hunger pangs, or physical and emotional pains our nervous system may or may not have control over. For instance there are nerves in our large and small intestines that may sense unease or danger before our thinking brain does.
Awakening to the subtle felt sense of body awareness is to become consciously aware of how and when your senses cognitively make themselves known to you. There are many ways to begin this journey.
The limb of yoga where movement through asana is practiced can help to bring attention and feeling to the physical body. An example is to focus on watching your breath as it moves in and out of the lungs while lying flat on the ground, with knees bent place the souls of your feet on the floor about two feet apart and allow the knees to drift to one side. As participant and observer, connect the breath to changes in sensation of the targeted stretch along the path of the inhale, at the top of the inhale, back through the exhale and at the end of the exhale, repeating this a few times.
Overtime cultivating this ability allows the conversation between the body/mind-mind/body connection to deepen. Heightened body awareness, builds self awareness, the ability to know what drives one’s own feelings, desires, decisions and actions. With self awareness comes greater self regulation including the ability to move and act with forethought leading to better and healthier choices, and less suffering.
Experiencing body-awareness is not easy for many people, and for some an exercise similar to the instructions above may not work. This is when introducing cannabis in the therapeutic setting might be considered. For some cannabis can aid by helping the mind “drop in” connect and fully pay attention to one’s own body sensations as they arise.
Microdosing cannabis opens the door to embodiment for some clients.
Dosing should be titrated to the clients prior history of cannabis use. For comfort, the American Cannabis Nurses Association ACNA rule of thumb is start low, go slow. There are strains that offer a body high and stimulate that need for movement in the body, and there are strains that offer a head high and a body feeling that feels absolutely no urge move. Finding a strain that allows you to come both into your head and body might be the best plan when exploring body awareness. And though it is important to know what strain you are taking, it is also important to know that Every. Body. Is. Different. and therefore may respond to dosing and methods of delivery differently. It is helpful to keep a cannabis journal.
Once you experience the feeling of embodiment it becomes easier to re-experience it. The more the conversation between your mind/body -body/mind strengthens new neural pathways will form in the brain that help you change unhealthy habits and allow you the ability to move through life with less pain and suffering. Learning how to sense, feel, read your body and tame your mind is the ultimate goal of embodiment, and it is within your reach.