Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mind and Body

It’s so easy to get absorbed in our worries, plans and dreams in this busy, high-tech world that we lose touch with ourselves. Somehow when we spend too much of our time in our head we become disconnected with our physical and sensory being. We may easily come to think and feel like it doesn’t matter so much if we don’t give our bodies enough rest, hydration, nutrients and movement. Or if we stuff processed food mindlessly into our mouths while trying to zone out in front of the TV.

Luckily exercise, especially mindful exercise, is a great antidote to the many ills caused by overthinking and the harried “monkey mind.” Exercise naturally leads to a more focused mind, elevated mood and honoring our bodies. It can help us to get back to sensing, being and reconnecting with ourselves. More like we felt as children in wonder over the magic of experiencing our world in the moment. 

Any exercise, including walking, weight lifting, etc., can help integrate brain and body - especially when done mindfully. But some exercise modes, such as yoga and tai chi are specifically designed to focus our awareness on the here and now. Those disciplines in particular teach you to breath slowly and deeply, noticing and concentrating on the sensations of your physical self, including the activation of your muscles.

One of the greatest benefits I’ve received from exercising regularly, especially practicing tai chi and yoga, is to have reawakened my sensory system and developed a more unified sense of my mind-body. I'm more often present and aware, experiencing more moments vs. being on autopilot. In general I feel I'm living more fully and intentionally. A greater sense of mind-body unity has made me feel more confident, positive, relaxed, patient, empowered and spiritually centered. Not that I never feel agitated, anxious, bummed out or disconnected, but just less often and less intensely.

The body and mind are one and the same on both a physiological and spiritual level. And the mind-body system works much better in harmony, when our sense of the here and now is not always ignored and suppressed. The good news is that if we consciously choose to spend more time focusing on our sensations and reconnecting with ourselves we will feel more comfortable in our own skin. We will develop more energy and will power to shape not only our bodies but our lives.

Being dominated by non-stop thinking can leave us feeling unhappy and stressed with little relief except to sedate ourselves with food, medications, alcohol or other less-than-healthy relaxation options. As an alternative, we can choose to relax and reconnect by becoming mindful of our breath, noticing our surrounding and the sensations of our body as we exercise and/or even when we go through the activities of daily living. Mindfulness makes us more aware and boosts our feelings of gratitude for the many blessings of our life - which is the key to happiness. Try it! All you’ve got to lose is some stress, disconnectedness and self-doubt. And maybe even some extra weight!

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