Feeling anxious constantly? It could be because you're lost in your head and never present in your body
Being anchored in your body comes with a whole lot of physical and mental benefits
For those who aren't familiar with the idea, this question might seem weird. For the uninitiated, it might sound hokey-pokey thing. But hear this out before you give up on something that could potentially transform your life!
Most of us spend our waking hours in our head—thinking. We are either worrying about something we ought to do that day or get worked up over what happened in the past that could have been different. No matter what the content of your internal monologue is, the majority of your day is spent inside your head. Well, isn't that how humans are supposed to be? Nope. We are human beings, not human doings or human thinkies. We are out body first, then our thoughts, identities, opinions, and feelings.
The modern world often revels in our ability to think. We assume thinking is the highest form of intelligence, one that distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We believed that the greatest statement ever made about self-awareness is Descarte's famous line "I think. Therefore I am." Well, for the Western mind, the Latin philosopher's statement does seem like the most profound observation about oneself. But Eastern philosophers and mystics mock this belief and claim that identifying ourselves with our thoughts is the main reason for all our misery.
We fear that when we stop thinking, we will stop surviving. It's no wonder that majority of the population is ridden by anxiety and are at an increased risk of mental illnesses. Take a moment to reflect over some facts. All the primary functions needed to survive are taken care by the body all by itself without any conscious effort by us. Breath is involuntary. So is digestion. Blood circulation. Throwing out waste. Pumping blood. This doesn't mean we regress back to a point where we lose our ability to think. It actually signifies moving ahead to the next step in contacting an innate intelligence that goes beyond effort and conscious thought. Some of the most creative geniuses talk about how their best pieces of music or art happened when they were not consciously thinking, but when they got to a point where inspiration flowed through them.
Going back to Descarte's belief, spiritual leader and author Eckhart Tolle points out the flaw in his bestselling book, The Power of Now. He argues that for you to be aware that you are thinking, an awareness beyond thoughts is necessary. A thought doesn't recognize another thought. A consciousness that's beyond tiny little million thoughts is the one aware of them. His take sums up what most meditators around the globe and Eastern philosophers claim: Who we are is beyond what our thoughts claim to be. We exist with or without constant thoughts to keep us occupied. And thinking is simply one small part of our consciousness, one function that we can choose to use to get some practical tasks done.
There we go again. Philosophizing the topic in our head instead of real experiences in the body.
Being in your body means being completely present in your physical reality. It doesn't mean thinking about the size or shape of your body, neither does it involve doing things for your body, like feeding it or taking care of it.
Most of our awareness about our body is of what we see in the mirror or actions we do by using our body. But what if you could simply feel your body from within? Have you closed your eyes and explored what it is to be within your body? The physical sensation that we experience when we feel our body from within is our inner body or the energy body. It's the source of chi or prana (life energy).
Here's a step-by-step process to ground yourself in your body
1. Every day, set ten minutes to simply be. Put your phone away and cut off from all kinds of external stimuli. Pick a spot that's comfortable and relaxing. Close your eyes. The first thing that is likely to hit you is a string of thoughts in your head. "This is so weird. What the hell am I doing? Is that my phone buzzing? Shit, I forgot to turn off the TV. Didn't I have to call someone today?" It doesn't matter what the content of your thoughts are, don't bother to pay attention to them. Whatever it is, you can deal with it after ten minutes.
2. Turn your focus to your body. You can start with the surface first. How is the temperature? Which part of your body feels hot? Is there a spot that feels cold? Do you feel a slight breeze grazing you? Is it dry or humid? Don't label these conditions. Instead, feel them in your body. Keep your eyes closed throughout the process.
3. What about textures? Can you feel the texture of the mat/couch against your legs? How does the fabric of your clothing feel against your skin? Does it feel soft? Rough? Once again, try to not give it a verbal label. Instead feel the softness, the roughness, the gentle tickle of a stray strand or thread against your skin.
3. Next, shift the focus to within the body. What are the sensations you feel? Is there any pain anywhere? Don't think about it. Physically check in with your body. Next, are your muscles tight anywhere? Do you feel any physical tension, stress, or a knot? Pay attention and feel it.
4. Is there a particular area that feels heavy or light? Do you feel free and airy in some regions (e.g. limbs) and blocked and knotted up in other (e.g. tummy)? You are now getting in touch with the inner space of your body.
5. Body-scanning is a good technic to go further within. Take a few deep breaths. And visually imagine scanning your body with a sieve. Imagine a thin sieve or thin wall of laser beam going through your body. You will begin to feel sensations or an energetic pulse in certain areas. This is us entering our primary home on earth—our body. Continue to experience what it feels like to be present in your body and outside your head.
Simple ways to stay rooted in your body through your day
1. Engage all your five senses. Look at people, things, surroundings, colors, forms, shapes, textures without mentally labeling what you see. Perception happens first, identification/mental labeling happens later. We are so lost in our ability to separate the two that we don't ever look without telling ourselves what it is that we see.
When you eat your food, smell the aroma, feel the texture, take in all the flavors through your sense of taste. When you run a shower, allow yourself to step out of your head and step into the physical sensations of water running against your skin, the sound of water, the smell of soap/body wash, and the warmth/coolness of the air around you.
2. Whenever you find yourself lost in anxious thoughts, bring yourself back to your physical reality. Anchor yourself in the moment by taking in the sights, sounds, smells, textures and the physical flavors of the world around you. Take a couple of deep breaths to relax and re-enter your body.
3. Use movement, fitness, and workouts to enjoy being in your body, not as a means of punishment or strict regimen to get results (demanded by your mind). When you run, feel how it is for your limbs to hit the earth, feel the perfect synchrony of your bones and muscles as you take every step. If you are cooking, break the constant stream of internal monologue in your head and pay full attention to the physical task at hand.
4. Slow down. S L O W down. Slow D O W N. Did your mind feel a need to skip the repetitive words and get to the next point? That's the mind's compulsion to always get going, be fast, do as much as possible in as little time. Busy getting somewhere, but not really anywhere. Break this pattern consciously. Walk slowly. Talk slowly. Eat slowly. Sip your coffee with awareness and gratitude. Your world takes a different dimension when your pace changes.
5. Enjoy silence. Silence between conversations. Silence between words. Silence in nature. The more you tune yourself to stillness outside, your inner silence deepens. This allows you to sink past your heady thoughts and fall into the deeper abyss of your physical reality.
Benefits of being grounded
1. You think less, you worry less. You feel less anxiety, fear, angst, stress, depression.
2. Unlike what you might think, your cognitive skills improve drastically. When you do engage in thoughts for solving a practical problem or making a decision, there is much more clarity and a razor-sharp focus with less background noise or worry.
3. You feel a deep sense of calm that comes with being anchored in your body.
4. Everyday drama and external situations, people, their words, make less impact on you. Because when you are in your head, you think about what they think. Their opinions, beliefs, views about you matter. But when you are present in your body, your sense of identity is grounded in your physical reality—a deep existential reality that cannot be invaded by anybody's thoughts.
5. The above benefit leads to feeling a calm confidence and self-worth that cannot be ruffled by external situations or people.
6. Your health improves. The reduced level of stress does a host of good to your body: lower blood pressure; lower cortisol production; better blood circulation; your breathing is deep and relaxed, aiding better oxygen supply; hormone production gets regulated; your brain chemicals are in place. Also, being aware of your inner body channels your chi (life energy) to work on those physical knots and tension points that are caused by stress, anxiety and chronic emotional upheaval. A lot of psychosomatic symptoms disappear.
7. Creativity flows effortlessly. Intuition is sharper. Communication happens from a more authentic place. You are much more aware of your emotions and allow them to be without numbing them with rationalization.
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