Developing Self-Awareness: Traveling the Landscape of Your Body
The self-awareness practice asks you to focus on experiencing yourself as a body, who you ARE as a body, and what it is like being uniquely YOU, as YOUR BODY. This self-awareness practice is to know your humanness better. It is meant for you to become more aware of your unique body’s happenings and being, to know your body more intimately—with more focused conscious awareness—which is the opposite of ignorance, or ignoring yourself as a body, and unconsciousness. Why would you go for your annual physical to “see how my body is doing” or to “find out my level of physical health” once a year when you ought to be doing this responsibly for yourself ALL THE TIME! Be your own best doctor!
The video below talks a bit about the complications of focusing on the body when the brain is part of it!
How the hell do I focus on my body?
There are several ways to study your own body and develop awareness of it. To simplify—merely watch yourself BE your body and learn. That’s it. I can’t tell you when, where, for how long etc…but I will offer some suggestions about why (which I have done in the previous videos and practices) and how. Ultimately, this is YOUR course, so you can figure this out for yourself through trial and error.
If you find yourself struggling TOO MUCH in these self-awareness practices,
please click here to read important information about trauma and self-study.
- You can look at your body in a mirror and observe its contours, surface, color, etc…Notice the shape of the various aspects and elements of your body—your mouth, eyes, nose, your head, your hair, your limbs. Look at your fingers and toes and just “be” with them, nonjudgmentally, without labeling anything as this or that or such and such. Just notice. Your mind will think what it will as you attend to your body—it’s okay. Don’t try to stop it, but don’t control your thinking either, directing it. Let the mind do what it does, and continue to attend to knowing your body– experiencing its muscle, fat, bones, hair etc…
*I hope you can understand how observing and noticing yourself as a body is VERY different from obsessing, narcissistic or critical judgment. Most people never get beyond this sort of surface critiquing to know their bodies on a deeper, self-accepting and self-awareness level.*
- This suggested practice asks you to experience your body, its sensations within and on its surface, on purpose, and again, nonjudgmentally. I am repeating myself here because SO MANY of us need the constant reminder to be honest and not criticize ourselves! So, rather than getting carried away with the contents of the sensations and what they might mean—you are merely NOTICING THEIR PRESENCE WITHIN YOU AND observing their nature. YOU DON’T NEED TO DO ANYTHING WITH THEM. Your attention is very narrowly focused on sensing. You don’t have to JUDGE HOW THE body works—only observe sensations as they manifest within you. You don’t have to evaluate, analyze, criticize, compare them to anything else, use them to solve a problem, and so on…
- Practice mindful awareness of the present moment—of what is happening within your body, without expectations about what you will become aware of, without hoping for or fearing x, y, or z. You may notice yourself failing at this often. It’s okay– notice and try again.
- Notice Automatic processing happening in your body. In each moment your body is here and now, the senses do what they do—they are taking in sound, smell, sights etc…Your ears hear, your eyes see, your nose smells. You observe it doing its thing. Your heart is pumping, your digestive system is working, your hormones and lymphatic system are doing their work and your circulation is happening without your deliberate intent. Your nervous system is performing its functions in your ears and eyes through your face and down through your viscera—your guts and also connected to the various parts of the brain—the lower, mind, and higher brain—all functioning without your conscious consent. So, your brain-body is doing what it does—perceiving, thinking, imagining, and so forth… Observe the brain-body processes happening.
- Try this Alan Watts meditation.
Your goal isn’t to “get into a meditative state” as Watts mentions but to learn to listen to the senses—to allow them to do their thing and observe them. This meditation explains the process and how the mind will be involved. Perhaps if you do try to listen to your body after hearing Watts, you might like to write about your experience.
*As Alan Watts says in the meditation video, your mind can’t help but label and think to understand what it’s sensing and its okay- don’t repress the mind’s workings—that’s what it does. Your brain is part of your body!! It’s a waste of time and attention and energy to resist, try to stop, making thinking and feeling and emotions go away— they will not—they are simply the reality of being human. Rather, a better course is to be–– be like water—let what’s happening in your domain of experiencing flow—let the thinking, sensing, and feelings be what they are and try not to interfere. Just flow with what is and who you are as body with a brain and mind that thinks.*
- Loads of people study their body through movement. Many runners, swimmers, hatha yoga participants and so on focus their attention on their bodies while moving, usually through repetitive movement where the mind is not actively or deliberately “thinking” and where the focus is NOT on performance. Being with your body, fully in it, as it expresses itself in movement is a way to know it more deeply and intimately. See what works for you.
- Loads of people study their body through Sitting still or lying down, or simply standing still, observe your body.
- Meditation, obviously, is an amazing and therapeutic practice for mental, physical and spiritual health. It’s a nice tool, useful for focusing on your body and what’s happening with it, in the moment. I am all for meditation. But, as you are likely aware, there are many apps and various kinds of meditation types to the point that it’s actually become VERY confusing and overwhelming. We in the West love to SELL products and services, thus we have capitalized on meditation and mindfulness as a commodity to sell for relaxation or comfort or whatever else. To relax and be comfortable is NOT WHY WE ARE STUDYING OUR BODIES in this course. Discomfort and stress will very likely be in your body– just simply notice them.*Did the monks and yogis use apps and look outside themselves for externals to know their bodies, to become wise and well? Was knowing themselves merely to live a relaxed and comfortable life? Exactly. That all being said, however, like the short, guided meditation I shared above from Alan Watts, guided and other forms of meditation that help you to focus on your body may be just what works for you.*
- Hatha yoga, which incorporates meditation, movement and stillness can be helpful for observing your body and its sensations. I found Bikram’s brand of hatha yoga practice as my tool for self-study of my body and the body-nervous system and brain nexxus. Find what works for you to help you learn more about your body.
Don’t deliberately plan to USE your body—just observe it.
Don’t deliberately plan to USE your mind—just observe it.
Don’t deliberately plan to USE your emotions—just observe them.
Find a quiet space where you will not be interrupted and pay attention to your body.
Keep it simple.
*Be your body. Be with it, observe its existence, its processes, its nature.*
Writing about your body and all its fun sensations!
Spend time doing a body awareness audit and write about what you know about your body.
What more would you like to know about your body?
Do you know your blood pressure range?
Do you understand how particular food makes you feel?
Are there patterns of feelings in your body that you notice in your day after a particular sort of food or drink you consumed?
Have you ever paid attention to the direct impact that food has on your excretory patterns?
Are your bowel movements regular, difficult, easy?
How about sleep? What does it feel like when your body is tired? What are your sleep patterns? Do you wake up often? How long do you sleep?
Are there patterns of feelings in your body that you notice in your day after a particular sort of night’s sleep?
What impact does movement have on your body? Do you experience muscle fatigue after some sorts of movement as opposed to others?
How often do you do rigorous movement?
How often do you move or not and how does your body feel in or after each state?
How does excessive stress manifest in your body?
When you are nervous or worried about something from the past or something in the future, where does the stress manifest in your physiology? (Some people get headaches, belly aches, shoulder tension, jaw stiffness, all over muscle soreness, breathing patterns, etc…)
What does it feel like in your body to be disgusted? Joyful? sad? ecstatic? disappointed? embarrassed? proud? confident?
Try to notice the next time you catch yourself having a strong emotion or sensation and curiously learn about its manifestation in your body physiology. It’s kind of a fun experiment for instance to notice your face get warm or hot when embarrassed. Here’s a fun one: try to notice your bodily responses and sensations AFTER you fart in private versus farting in public.