Ideally, our practices are those activities that shape us to be able to perform at our best. When we're not fully aware of our bodies, or our mental and emotional states, the practices that we do are simply habits, either helping us be more effective, or producing greater states of unconsciousness. Even though we're always practicing something, we're usually not aware of what we're practicing, or what our habitual practices produce for us. The basic practices that are described here can produce more openness, awareness, and greatly increase our ability to take effective action.
Your physical center is a few fingers below and behind your belly button, in your torso and close to your spine – a place to drop your attention to when you feel anxious, or don't know how to move in a situation. You can tap your belly to help shift your attention quickly, bringing you to an openness and greater willingness to see and sense what is happening without the distraction of your automatic ideas and opinions. Center is a bodily and energetic "base camp" that can be used to focus, learn, and move through transitions. It helps you to feel bodily present to yourself and your situation. The state of center is a balance point and can be a doorway to begin feeling your possibilities in the world, not as a rigid quality, but as a state to help you develop and access other parts of yourself. The power of center is in assisting you when you feel lost, anxious, or uncertain.
From center, you can then tune in to the flow of energy through you, and open those places where you are constricting your breathing and energy flow. Scan through your body from top to bottom, notice places where you are contracted or feel tense, and as you exhale, let some of that constriction move through you with your breath. Bring your awareness to your spine and feel your vertical line – your length. This is the dimension that helps you connect with and stand for what you deeply care about. By opening to the flow of energy through you, you can touch the core of the earth, bringing yourself to a deeper connection with ground, while opening to spirit through the crown of your head. When connected through your vertical line, you are the channel for bringing spirit to earth, and earth to spirit.
The dimension of width is the social dimension, and by opening yourself in the horizontal plane, you can hold more commitments, connect more easily with a community, and feel your place in social environments. Let yourself open to this dimension when you feel overwhelmed, alone and despondent, or wanting to hold all the commitments you have made to the people you care about. To maximize your experience of width, first focus on your center, then allow your energy to flow outward from your sides, until you feel expanded in the horizontal direction. Keep extending until you feel more open, yet not so far that you lose your center.
Extending forward, while maintaining your awareness of your back, history, and all that is behind you and backing you up, is the dimension of depth. To develop more depth, start by feeling the life in your own back, then extend behind you until you can feel what's there. With an awareness of your back, you can now extend forward with confidence and competence, leading others toward the vision that you can hold by maintaining your vertical line and connection to what's important, while moving your energy out from your center to the horizon in front of you.
These fundamental practices will help you feel life as a tangible experience, and your body awareness can then be used as a doorway to the realms of intuition, perception, and expression. These are not ends in themselves, but can help you move to a strong connection within yourself to carry into your dialogues with others, your work, and the deeper aspects of who you are as a leader in your family, business, community and the world.
Remember, we are always practicing something. So choose your practices to help you be the person you want to be!
Suzanne Zeman, MSC