This is one example of the kind of guided meditations I lead my patients in during clinical sessions. It is a simple way to begin the settling and embodiment process for those not used to relating to their body. It’s also the place to start when learning to self-regulate.
Self-regulation is a term used by the field of affective neuroscience to describe an individual’s ability to consciously and unconsciously manage and modify arousal states. It describes an the ongoing process of finding an equilibrium of the whole in the face of change. Learning how to self-regulate is fundamental to the manifestation and maintenance of health over time. The foundation of self-regulation is embodiment. The only way to begin learning how to be embodied is by developing a relationship with the body. This is done through finding the body in space and being present with the changes happening on a physiological level without expectation or judgment, but rather with an ever expanding sense of curiosity. Another word for this is mindfulness.
For those of us that are not used to feeling and relating to our body, self-regulation is a often a daunting task. It is hard to know where to begin and what to do as awareness of the body develops, since often awareness includes perceiving pleasurable and painful sensations that were previously unavailable to the conscious mind.
The teaching process begins with body scans. I teach my patients to do a body scan once a day before getting up in the morning or before going to bed. For those who have difficulty doing it on their own, I offer them guided meditations that I record like the one above, or I suggest that they run their hands across the different parts of the body as they scan them mentally. The patients of mine that are diligent in doing their body scans quickly develop an awareness of their body that they never experienced before. They consequently learn to become aware of the language of the body and how it conveys messages, both of pleasure and distress.
The process of embodiment is a process of discovery. Just like when we listen to a song, read a book or watch a movie for a second, third or hundredth time, we often discover something new that we hadn’t heard, read or seen before. Each time we do, we bring to consciousness a new thought, a new experience, and subsequently a new understanding of ourselves. The same is true with embodiment. If we are open to the repetition of a practice like that of doing body scans once a day, we open ourselves to the possibility of change. Change, small or large, shapes us into who we are. Experiencing life changes through awareness of the body not only provides us with an invaluable tool for survival, allowing us to manage illness before onset or debilitation, but also with a much richer experience of being alive.
We grow with our body, we change with our body, we laugh with our body, we cry with our body, and eventually we also die with our body. Embodiment allows us to not just live with having a body as if it were an unchosen obligation, but rather to live through the body, consciously experiencing it as a magnificent vehicle of life.
So please take a moment right now, five minutes, out of your day to experience your body with the guided meditation above. Five minutes will afford your body the time to self-regulate and find a new neutral from which to keep moving forward in your life today. Repeat this practice every day, and you will see profound lasting changes in your mind, body and life.
Samantha Lotti is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, acupuncturist and herbalist in Chicago, Illinois. For more information: www.biodynamichealth.com.