Synopsis: getting in touch — the interconnection between body, mind, feelings, and “teachings” is not so clear to them.
How come I feel the same? I thought this would change everything!
In the July 09 issue of Shambhala Sun, there’s an article called, “Taking Mindfulness to the Mat” (pg.43) The issue, btw, is about yoga and meditation. The author, Frank Jude Boccio, mentions the Buddha’s four foundations of mindfulness — body, mind, feelings, and dharma (teachings.)
I thought of the article having just worked with a client who was new both to me and to bodywork. I realized that I tend to assume that people “get” what I do, prior to my explaining it, especially if they found me on my website. This week, with 3 new clients, I discovered that the interconnection between body, mind, feelings, and “teachings” is not so clear to them.
Let me talk briefly, then, about these four foundations
Why am I the way I am?
In the West, there is a disconnect between the body and the mind, and one way this is described is ‘horse and rider.’ The mind is assumed to be the important part (the rider,) and the body is the conveyance for getting about (the horse.)
There is no clear distinction between ‘parts,’ and what we think of as mind is actually our childish egos, spinning stories. (Ego differs from mind, as we shall see.) We are quite clearly BodyMinds. The “systems” exist simultaneously, and inform each other. Dividing ourselves up is simply a convenience, and not a particularly helpful one.
The body, in a sense (he says with a smirk) speaks its own language. Aches, pains, tightness, illness, disease — this is the progression of bodily communication.
The body, however, is not at war with the mind or with the self.
Because of our tendency to go into our heads and tell stories, our bodies get the short shrift. There is information to be gathered, and our body wants to be heard, but we scare ourselves with all that “roiling, messy stuff” below our necks.
Many are the clients who do the following: they sense bodily tension and pain, notice a feeling of anxiety (actually a vibration) and rather than explore what might be hidden beneath the pain and feeling, they “go for a run.” They do something to distract themselves. Some overeat, some do drugs, some drink to excess, some lift weights, some work endless hours, and almost all of them blame someone else for the way they are.
The body is simple.
There is a tightness and a stressor, and the body wants to get it out by expressing it. In bodywork, we press on the stuck places, and often out comes the emotion.
Now, of course, nothing ‘gets out’ without permission.
One of my clients (a runner!) was tight at the heart level. Pushing on the sternum and the upper back created an opening for his tears, which flowed freely. When I pushed on his legs, however, old conditioning kicked in (so to speak…) He said, “I was really angry, and wanted to pound something.” He, however, pounded nothing. He just sucked up the pain, and re-buried the anger.
No permission, no expression.
The body is telling you all sorts of things. If you are wondering about specific aches and pains, check out the bodywork section of our website. You’ll quickly discover what the zones of the body are all about. You can also e‑mail me with questions.
So… are you making up stories??
I’ve lately been telling clients, “Be mindful of mind.” When I say this, I am encouraging clients to watch the operation of their minds.
Many people think that meditation is about ‘not thinking.’ This is not so. Meditation, or mindfulness, is about not attaching, or clinging, as you think. Perhaps the Buddha’s greatest insight is this “suffering is caused by clinging.” No clinging, no suffering.
We think, all the time. Look around the room, and name stuff: picture, phone, toaster, whatever. Now, focus on one thing you really like, and think, “Mine!” Notice what happens.
You likely go into a story about the thing—where it came from, what it means to you.
Now, imagine the thing broken or stolen. Notice how quickly the simple act of observing (picture, phone, toaster, whatever) turns into clinging.
This is where mind goes off the rails.
Ego creates clinging, and the main thing ego clings to is “my story.” I think it kind of funny that the past is often called one’s ‘history.’ Which clearly reads, his-STORY. Ego picks and chooses how you describe you—what to leave in, what to take out, what you like, what you hate, and emphatically, who is to blame.
Ego, then, is a difficulty.
We’re stuck with it, however, so the goal here is to loosen our grip sufficiently to “get” that the ego is simply a mental device that likes to tell stories.
This is being mindful of mind.
In my clients’ case, my goal is to help them move past their ego stories. Part of this happens in bodywork, as they give themselves permission to express their emotions, and deal directly (without story) with their bodies. Mostly, it’s about letting the body do what it needs to—shake, cry, rage, go ecstatic, whatever.
Whatever you repress (cling to) you become. So, doing the difficult thing is often the best thing for getting past blockages.
As we do bodywork, my clients observe their process: “What arises? Are they thoughts, feelings, or judgements?”
It’s really a chicken-egg question — which comes first, the thought or the feeling? Rather than cling to looking for an answer, let’s just say that feelings arise.
Feelings are both the bodily sensation and the emotion beneath it. Feelings are not the judgements!
So, pain at the sternum is a feeling, as is the sadness or grief “beneath” it. As with mind, the work we do is to help clients to be with their feelings without judging or labelling them.
Labelling is normal, and we learned it from mom and dad.
Parents teach us which emotions/feeling are acceptable (the happy ones) and which are to be repressed (the angry ones.) The repression is either direct (“Don’t do that!”) or indirect (“You have nothing to be sad about!”) We learn from the cradle to have judgements about most of our felt-experience.
Our goal in therapy, and here with this blog, is to help you to feel your feelings, without attaching judgements. Exercise: In the Shambhala Sun article, the writer suggests you sit in meditation pose, with hands palms down. If you watch your feelings, you might experience heaviness or groundedness. Reversing your hands, palm up, you might notice, openness, lightness, responsiveness. Those are feelings.
“I HAVE to be open!” is where egoic judgement comes in.
We suggest becoming more and more open to the direct feeling and expression of… feelings. They don’t mean anything, and cause untold damage if they are held in.
Teaching is the point of this blog. I attempt to help you to look at your self and life in another way, to, in a sense, hold yourself loosely. I present both eastern and western ideas.
Perhaps the key one, which I just turned into a tee-shirt, is “100% self-responsibility, 0% blame, judgement, “knowing.”
We’ll look at a series of ideas that help with this walk in coming weeks.