How developing body awareness and conscious presence has changed my life
Imagine you’re at the sink washing dishes but at the same time you’re thinking about what’s on at work tomorrow, the dinner party you’re hosting at the weekend and how you’re going to get the kids to their activities the day after next and so the cycle goes on. You might also be talking with whoever is drying the dishes. Washing the dishes is done on automatic pilot while the mind races ahead through the rest of the week. It’s likely you didn’t even notice the feeling of your hands in warm water.
I know I can relate to this. I’ve also at times noticed myself come to the end of my morning shower and I haven’t even felt myself use the soap because I’ve been thinking about something at work. Other examples would be eating dinner and not being able to remember what you ate and what it tasted like, or driving and arriving somewhere without remembering the journey – or some of it.
My life used to be all about what was going on in my head, an almost constant stream of thoughts, usually about something in the future that needed doing or a problem that needed solving, filling any quiet moment. I had never really considered the effect this was having on my body.
Then a few years ago I was listening to a talk by Serge Benhayon about how we treat our body and something he presented made perfect sense to me.
In this presentation, it was put forward that when we are engaged in one task but our mind is thinking about another we are essentially asking our body to be in more than one place at a time. Reflecting on my busy mind made me realise I was often asking my body to be in several places all at once. I got a picture of myself standing in one spot but my mind literally running ahead of me dragging with it duplicates of my body. For me it was one of those light bulb moments when I understood that our thoughts have a very real effect on our body, particularly the nervous system, which is in fact working overtime when we let our mind run away from our body.
We were asked to consider that our natural way is to actually have the mind focused on the activity of the body, or what we are doing in any one moment, and that we can choose to make this happen. So if we are washing the dishes it is possible to focus the mind on the feeling of the water on your hands, how you are holding the dish brush, or how you are standing. This is called conscious presence which is essentially about making a choice to not let the mind run ahead of where you are, but bring your attention to what you are doing at the time. The practice of conscious presence has changed my life in many ways.
I have come to understand that when we separate our mind from what our body is doing we are exhausting ourselves as our nervous system is being asked to be involved in more than one activity at a time.
As I started to experiment with conscious presence I started to realise that I was indeed very tired from all the mental activity, not to mention anxious and tense. When I was in this state of tiredness (pretty much always) I would reach for food and drinks to keep me going – you know, the sugar, coffee, chocolate, alcohol. Of course, these all have a negative impact on the body and they certainly don’t change or slow down the busy mind, nor do they change the underlying tiredness or exhaustion, they only mask it for a short time. And you often feel worse than before.
I’ve found that making the choice to be consciously present with my body has led to a clearer head, less tiredness and more energy, changed food and drink choices (I no longer drink coffee or alcohol nor eat sugary foods), AND I get more done in a day.