Monday, August 15, 2011

Embodying presence

Being present is a practice that takes practice. I believe it is the most valuable practice we can have, because when we're present to ourself and others, we're showing love. Thich Nhat Hanh writes about the practice of mindful breathing to bring our mind and body together in his book, True Love. When you're breathing in say, “I know that I am breathing in” when you're breathing out, say, “I know that I am breathing out.” Constricted breathing technique


Our minds are often daydreaming or in a completely different place to our bodies. By practicing this simple exercise every day, as often as we can, we can bring our body and minds back together again. When we're in our bodies, or embodied and associated, we can feel, which is often the reason why we don't want to be in our bodies. It can feel too painful and we'll find numerous ways to distract our self. If we practice being present even for a few minutes every day, it gets easier and easier to be in our bodies. Very often when we suffer from anxiety and all the forms that anxiety takes, it is exactly because we can't stand to be in our bodies. We live in our heads where we try to control our thoughts so we don't feel so afraid and out of control. But thoughts will never change how we feel, only feeling can do that.

The capacity to self-regulate is another priceless benefit from practicing mindfulness and presence. Peter Levine writes, In An Unspoken Voice:

"In mammals, this capacity for self-regulation is essential. It endows the animal with the capability to make fluid shifts in internal bodily states to meet changes in the external environment. Animals with developed orbitofrontal systems have evolved the capacity to switch between different emotional states. This ability (known as affect regulation) allows animals to vary their emotions to appropriately match environmental demands. In humans, this highly evolved adaptive function, according to Schore and others, is the basis for the core sense of self. These same circuits in the orbitofrontal cortex receive inputs from the muscles, joints and viscera. The sensations that form the inner landscape of the body are mapped in the orbitofrontal portions of the brain. Hence, as we are able to change our body sensations, we change the highest function of our brains. Emotional regulation, our rudder through life, comes about through embodiment."

When we learn to be present with our self, we start to become friends with our sensations, emotions and feelings. We become less afraid of feeling uncomfortable and difficult sensations and emotions and as a direct result our resistance lessens. The amount of resistance is always in proportion to the amount of fear. Peter Levine calls this rocking back and forth between contraction and expansion, pendulation. He writes:

"I have named this shift from the feelings of dread, rage or whatever one likes to avoid toward “befriending” one's internal sensations pendulation, the intrinsic rhythm pulsing between the experienced polarities of contraction and expansion/openness."

2 comments:

trisha said...

i too am a big daydreamer, i often have to remind myself that i am actually here.

glad to know that there are other people in my group too.

happy that the riots are over there. i was quite worried about you.

checked the mail that night and was really relieved to know that you are safe and sound.

lots of love.

Noreen Barron, MA said...

Thanks Trisha, there were no riots in Ireland, it was the UK... have a great week, lots of love xx