When asked what gift he wanted for his birthday, the yogi replied “I wish no gifts, only presence” – Anonymous
In a world that is increasingly at war with itself, we can often feel like we need to armour up on a daily basis to ‘do battle’ with this crisis, that crisis or the next impending crisis. This causes our bodies to perpetually be in a state of ‘fight’ or ‘flight’. Hit the caffeine ‘fix’ on top of that and it’s a full house of bodily anxiety, fear and dread in full anticipatory alert waiting for the next crisis to land in the inbox. This often leads us to feelings of overwhelm, powerlessness and despair. So how can we navigate these feelings, take back our power and become empowered?
Being Present in the Body
Whether we recognise it or not, the body is always in the here and now. The heart beats in the present. The breath inhales and exhales in the present. Our bodies move in the present. It’s our minds that are always obsessed with what has happened in the past or projecting into the future. Listen closely and you can hear the body speak – a quickening of the heartbeat tells us we are anxious, the stomach churns in nervousness, the dry mouth freezes our fear, the shallow breathing tells us we are stressed. These are patterns that often send signals to our minds, who then take all that anxiety, fear and stress and multiply it by 10. And so the negative feedback loop begins and rather than deal with it, we distract ourselves, grabbing another coffee and having a quick chat with a colleague about what you saw on Facebook that day. However, the feelings stay in your sub-concious, just waiting to bubble back up.
You cannot separate your mind and body. No matter what you think or what our bosses tell us about not bringing our emotions to work. The body is always in the present, always feeling. The trick is to anchor the mind there.
However, facing what our bodies are telling us in the present moment can be scary. We’ll do anything (cue another coffee or discussion about Facebook) except lift the lid on what is happening in our bodies. Yet if we want to change, transform and heal we’ve got to feel it to heal it. True healing can only happen through an honest, compassionate relationship with our bodies.
When we learn to fully inhabit our bodies, we still feel the anxiety, fear, helplessness, anger (or whatever emotion it is) but we don’t attach our mind to it. Emotions are like waves, they come and go. We learn to feel it, and ride the wave, understanding this is the present moment, and who we are ‘now’ but that we need not act on it. It just ‘is’. Eventually the wave dissipates, the calmer waters come and the negative emotions give way to clarity. With Practice we can arrive at this state a lot quicker.
Becoming Present in our Bodies
When we practice yoga, we learn to work with our body, taking a deeper seat within, without allowing the mind to take charge. This is how we become compassionately curious. We meet ourselves, in the now – without judgment or coercion from the mind. It is the moment we take personal agency and responsibility to ourselves.
Through my yoga practice, I have experienced deep in my soul what it means to be present during movement to promote inner agency over external authority. Because once you have felt this high on life, you can’t forget the feeling. Learning to feel the sensation of my heart opening and feeling the blood flowing through my veins, breathing in life I become clearer ‘That this is who I am in this moment’.
In sensing more clearly who I am, I learn who I am not. I have clearer boundaries. As I inhale I feel what I need to feel. As I exhale I let everything go that does not serve me and step into a way of life that makes my heart sing.