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.
Our existence is rooted in the body. We know we are here because we have input from our senses that go directly to our brain and orient us to ourselves, to our surroundings, and to other people. Without these inputs we would be unable to function. Something we do every day, like walking, would become impossible. We wouldn’t feel our foot touch the ground as we take a step. We wouldn’t know to bend our knee and shift weight to the other foot while in stride. And we would promptly fall to the ground.
We obviously take all of this for granted, the continuous loop of information going back and forth between our senses and our brain. And for a good reason. Our attention needs to be elsewhere.
Illustration by Rex Twedt
There’s no one who hasn’t experienced the richness of their own blood when bleeding from a cut. To some people the sight of blood is gross or scary, to some fascinating and beautiful. The fact that we bleed when cut means we’re healthy, it means the heart, in conjunction with the blood vessels, is working well.
Everything we do, according to the body, involves the heart because the heartbeat reaches every part of our body. The heart beats in our eyes, in our mouth and lips, in our ears, in every millimeter of our skin. When we touch things, see things, hear things, walk, jump, breath, our heart is inherently involved.
Femme Assise Sur La Plage by Pablo Picasso
Two years ago at the end of February I was driving through the Italian Alps only 10km from my destination when my car hit a patch of ice and began to slide. On my left was the edge of the mountain. On my right was a wall.
I did everything I was taught in driver’s ed: don’t hit the breaks, don’t accelerate, don’t turn the wheel, and keep driving in the direction the car is already going. The only problem was that my car was driving itself toward the edge of the mountain. I had a plan though. There was a small patch of gravel, about 4 to 5 meters wide right before the road fell off into nothing. I was going to try to regain control of the car in that moment.
One second had passed.
Trajectoryfield 1 by Antony Gormley
Our brain is a magnificent tool. Beyond its intricately complicated physiological functions, it helps our conscious mind navigate the world. In milliseconds it can think through a circumstance, all the possible outcomes, make a decision, and initiate action on that decision.
Occasionally it helps us to get lost as well. We think ourselves into a rut; a conscious, mental and emotional muddle that sometimes we can’t get out of for months or even years.
Even when we may not be sure about who we are, what we are doing, or why we are doing it, we are physically never lost. We can always locate ourselves by locating our body.