Our greatest and most wise teacher has been given to us all: the human body. The body serves as the gateway for all experience, our cells holding and transmitting tremendous amounts of information. With such complexity, it stands to reason that our bodies are prone to periodic, and sometimes chronic, stagnation, lack of clarity, and overwhelm. Body awareness encourages us to develop a level of dialogue with body that empowers us to identify and actively shift unhealthy or unhelpful patterns, consistently moving us toward a state of greater presence and vitality.
Body awareness often initiates involuntarily when something in the body is nagging us – the onset of a cold or sharp pain in the low back. More severe illnesses, such as chronic fatigue, cancer, and severe depression, are often the last-ditch efforts of the body to get our attention. Sometimes the signs are not nearly so obvious – a growing sense of fatigue every afternoon or barely-perceptible, daily headaches. Regardless of the volume of the signal, these are all significant signs: the body telling us that we need to wake up and pay attention.
The beauty of the human form is that it possesses an infinite number of ways to transmit these wake-up calls. We have a choice to expand our bandwidth and pay attention to the full range of body-based signals, loud and quiet, obvious and hidden. With this increased level of sensitivity comes an invitation to delve into the root causes of our symptoms, both physical and emotional. As we unearth these roots and allow their stories to express through the body, we are slowly clearing out clogged or blocked pathways in the body and encouraging a more healthy expression to emerge.
Practice is the key to body awareness. While we can certainly wait for something alarming to show up in our body in order to get our attention, we also have the power to choose a more preventive, pro-active path of consistent listening and response. In this way, we are using the power of that which is an inherent part of us – our body – to its fullest extent.
The mind is a powerful thing. While it has the innate ability to act as a helpful organizer, problem solver, and traffic control center, it can just as easily pull us away from a balanced, well-tended experience into a world of cognitive overload and drama. Through conscious personal inquiry, we have an opportunity to invoke the mind as a powerful ally, rather than a destructive force, on our path to presence and self-discovery.
Personal inquiry involves developing a healthy, balanced relationship with the mind. Though it’s a grand idea to think about great spiritual masters that clear the mind completely, living only and always in the present moment, it’s not particularly realistic. Most of us live in a world of continual input that begs the mind to be constantly on. In order to thrive in an environment of such input, we must cultivate dialogue – conscious dialogue – with ourselves and with others, moving us away from dramatic stories or never-ending minutiae that can take us out of the here-and-now.
Conscious dialogue starts with the self. By consciously observing and cultivating an understanding of the wanderings and stories of the mind, we are laying the groundwork for shifting the attitudes and behaviors that keep us from our fullest, most authentic self-expression. This process requires patience and readiness to release old and unhelpful thought patterns as we move toward more healthy, present dialogue with the mind.
As we practice engaging the mind as an ally in this way, we open the door to the same consciousness in dialogue with others. Just as the mind can derail our personal sense of what is true and real, so can it take us away from meaningful, transparent interactions with others. Our ability to listen fully, to extend compassion, and to offer kind and discerning responses stems directly from the strength of our own, personal inquiry.
The path of personal inquiry is as rewarding, daunting, and revelatory as it is boundless. Willingness and practice are the two primary requirements for success on the journey. As we relax the ever-busy mind and enlist it as a compassionate partner on the road to greater self-awareness, we lay the foundation for strong, healthy relationships with our self and with others.
The spaces in which we live and work are extensions of our selves. We must attend to our spaces as much as we do to our bodies, minds and spirits, in order to fully support personal growth and self-awareness. Intentional space is less about having a stylish, Architectural Digest-worthy space, and more about understanding the flow of energy in an environment and how the occupants contribute to that flow.
Often the most obvious, tangible elements of a space are where an investigation starts. An annoyingly-cluttered office desk or messy, trip-over-everything closet usually stand out, asking us to make some kind of change. These circumstances begin to teach us how the organization and layout of our living and work spaces can slow us down, cause frustration, or leave us feeling less-than-comfortable when not attended to properly. As we become more attuned to how our external, physical surroundings impact us – colors, furniture placement, cleanliness – we can make choices and changes that will directly impact our moods, behaviors, and sense of well-being.
Beyond the external factors are the less-tangible, sometimes elusive, internal factors: our thoughts and practices. Whether a home or room is occupied by one person or many, all of the personal stories will be a part of greater weave of the space. What each person brings to a space is just as important as the space itself. By bringing attention to our personal attitudes and behaviors through personal inquiry, we can better understand how we contribute to our surrounding environment.
Learning to find the right blend of external and internal components makes for the strongest intentional space. As we experiment with blending these elements and paying attention to them on a regular basis, we bring a presence and intention to our spaces that will serve to strengthen us on our personal path.