Under stress, we automatically rush to our head, quickly trying to figure out how to get rid of danger & find safety, security, comfort. Increasingly however, we're feeling stressed almost continuously. Not surprisingly, for most of us, our heads have become home - an unhappy home.
Can you feel when your center of gravity is in your head? It's all thinking / self-talk / self-concern isn't it? Can you sense a heaviness between the ears, even a continuous mild headache, often with tightness in the jaw / neck / shoulder areas? While "in your head," you're disengaged from the here & now - "absent-minded", "spaced-out." Such inattentiveness creates the false impression of being uncaring, that you're ignoring & disrespecting people around you, and contributes to accidents - adding to our stress.
So under stress, we habitually escape into our head, often making the situation worse. We easily recognize the feel of this in our head as well as in the rest of our body - trembling, increased heart rate, butterflies in our bellies etc. We feel tight, alone, isolated, disconnected, anxious & afraid. Such unbalanced thinking is clearly useless, harmful, and feels wrong.
Balanced thinking - intentionally planning a project, preparing a menu, designing a garden, solving a math problem etc - is being fully engaged, in a relaxed, sustained manner, with what we're doing, being & feeling at home both in our body and in the present moment.
Full engagement means that our mind, heart & the rest of our body are working in harmony, in a relaxed, joyfully efficient manner! This feels good! "Flow" is one term used to describe the enjoyable state in
which an activity is performed fully immersed in energized focus & full involvement. We feel spacious, intimately connected & engaged with life.
When we care for a beloved young child, puppy or kitten, we joyfully hold them in love & safety. This is the easiest way of remembering the feel of fully engaging all of our intelligences: mind (reason); heart (emotions & connection to others & environment); and body (physical power & groundedness or connection to the earth / reality). It's a fascinating combination of nurturing, interconnectedness, power & groundedness - like a mother grizzly with her cub. Other examples of this felt sense: hugging a loved one or looking into their eyes (person or animal); doing work (or hobby) that we consider to be our calling; when we see, hear, or read about anything that deeply resonates or touches us.
We ALL know this felt sense of intimacy with the present! We know & remember this! It's a matter of remembering to return home to our whole self and learn to trust that it's safe & infinitely more pleasant to live our authenticity.
Mindfulness training very gently, very slowly, eases us back into trusting that it's safe to leave our disembodied stressed-out thought-world, and return to be grounded, at home in our balanced mind-heart-body.
1) Learn to recognize the unpleasant feel of being in your head: stressful repetitive thoughts, often with the feel of stress in the rest of the body.
2) Relax, allow, feel awareness descend from your head, down into the heart area. In the heart region, with infinitely patient practice, you will (sooner or later) feel warmth radiating in all directions, outside & within your body. No forcing, no impatience - patiently, gently, feel, sense your way along. This radiating warmth is the physical / energetic feel of your interconnectedness with others, the environment, life itself. This viscerally felt sense of connectedness is profoundly restorative & healthy (vs sad & unhealthy sense of isolation, "me against the world", loneliness).
3) The warmth extends downward to include your belly, within which your "hara" resides. The hara is the energy center in the middle of the abdomen, 2 inches below the navel, deep along the body's vertical axis. This is your body's power center, from where meditators, martial artists, opera singers & weight-lifters cultivate & generate power, the point around which gymnasts & figure skaters twirl, etc.
Even if your abdominal area feels unsafe, the hara is in a protected place, deep within the vertical core of your body. Far from being vulnerable, it is your own power center, never harmed, always reliable. The hara connects & grounds or anchors us to our body, present-moment reality, sanity, stability, the earth.
4) Keep noticing whenever you get lost in your head, and allow yourself repeatedly to sense your way back down to hang out in the heart & hara centers. See how it feels to perceive life from this balanced mind-heart-body perspective.
If this works better & feels healthier, saner & more joyous, then keep patiently, gently practicing - it just gets better & better, despite challenges along the way.
"All profitable correction comes from a calm, peaceful mind.”
St. Francis de Sales
(Hurricane Dorian was barreling towards us as I wrote this blog. The eye of the storm was expected to, & did hit our small city a few hours later. It was raining, windy, and ~80,000 homes had already lost power. We were without power, landline, cable & internet for over 24hrs, many trees were downed, along with power lines. Many remained without power for up to a week.)