Learning to be at home in your body

Can you sense Spring in the air?  The promise of it, the feeling of hope it can elicit. Are you aware of a changing energy in your body? A felt sense in the body of playfulness, mischief or maybe even foolishness?  We are moving forward with the longer days, brighter mornings, birdsong. As our energy levels change with the seasons, we may feel a response to Spring in our bodies. It is time to push up out of the energy of Winter and emerge just as nature is budding and blossoming all around us. We can notice our shifting energy more intentionally with some gentle, embodying practices, being present in our bodies as we move through our days.  

Mindful movement is an embodying practice that I have grown to love, even though it can be challenging at times. It’s different to the more traditional forms of exercise that we are accustomed to. It isn’t about how far we move or how many repetitions we can get in, it is a slow form of focused movement. We place our full attention on our body as it moves. We feel our body in motion, and the energy shifting as we tune in with the wisdom of our own body. It is a wonderful practice that helps us to ‘drop’ our attention from the busy mind right down into the breathing body. It’s almost like a moving version of the body scan meditation; in that it fosters a deep sense of awareness of the body and helps us in how we relate to our bodies, developing a deeper appreciation, from the inside out.  

Having a sense of the mind and body connected and being in one place can be a rare occurrence, and is captured by James Joyce in the sentence, “Mr Duffy lived a short distance from his body”. I can really identify with the feeling of being disembodied. When I began my compassion-based mindfulness training, I remember having to have to look at, or physically touch, for example, my feet, to locate them during a body scan practice because I was not able to sense my body. Mindful movement is a great practice to inhabit our bodies and, as well as helping to clear the mind, can help to clear stagnant energy that may have gotten stuck in the body. Sometimes it can feel difficult to stay with the slow motion of the body because it can touch the edge of discomfort, and our mind may urge us to move at a greater speed, we may feel impatient. But that is the beauty of the practice, learning to stay with the slow movement, feeling every tiny, intricate sensation of our body in the moment, whether pleasant or unpleasant.  

Because I am familiar with feelings of disembodied and disconnection, I am in the habit now of regularly taking a pause and checking in with my body as I go about my daily business, feeling the contact of my feet on the ground as I stand or walk, noticing my fingers, hands and wrists as I type or drive, feeling the parts of my body that are connecting with the ground or seat, as well as the parts that are not touching anything, except maybe the air. I do this deliberate tuning in, now and then, on purpose, while I’m eating, driving, writing in my journal, and when practising mindful movement or dance. We can notice parts of our body that might feel tight or tense and with some gentle attention and movement we can help release and unstick physical or emotional tightness.

My interest in embodied, somatic practices is growing, encouraged by moments of being truly present in my body, that often-fleeting feeling of wholeness and presence. For example, in this moment I can sense my fingertips as they tap the keyboard, feel my elbows resting by my sides, my back leaning on the arm of the couch, my breath moving, the parts of my feet on the ground, aware of the space around me. By pausing and consciously nurturing a feeling of being at home in our own skin, even if for just a moment or two through-out the day, we learn to notice how different life feels when we’re at home in our bodies. These words from ‘The most important thing’ by Julia Fehrenbacher seem to fit here.

“I am making a home inside myself. / A shelter of kindness where everything / is forgiven, everything allowed—a quiet patch / of sunlight to stretch out without hurry, / where all that has been banished / and buried is welcomed, spoken, listened to—released. / A fiercely friendly place I can claim as my very own”.

Monthly mindful journaling workshops are running at CECAS on March 30, April 27, May 18 and June 22. Journaling is another way of being present and embodied. Each two-hour mindful journaling workshop will combine mindfulness meditation practices, reflective questions, poetry, and embodied writing techniques. Join me on Saturday, March 30, 4 – 6pm. €35 includes printable worksheets and audio recordings for listening at home.  

Weekly drop-in mindfulness sessions continue at CECAS, Myross Wood, Leap on Tuesday mornings through-out the year (March 5, 12, and 19) from 10am – 11am.  €12.  All are welcome to join this wonderful community of practice.  

For more information, phone: 087 2700572 or email: susanoreganmindfulness@gmail.com 

FB: susanoreganmindfulness


Susan O Regan

Susan O'Regan teaches mindfulness and self-compassion courses and workshops in West Cork.

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