The beauty of Twitter is that I was alerted to Mark Goulston’s article Dancing with the Amygdala. He offers a great checklist and protocol to calm the nervous system down after a distressing or upsetting situation.
As well as using techniques to cognitively reframe the thoughts about the situation, he suggests one of the ways to ‘dance with the Amygdala” is to practice basic body sensation awareness. For many people this sounds a lot easier than it is to practice.
This focused awareness is fundamental to Core Process Psychotherapy. You are invited to experience a present moment relationship with your body sensations and to ask ‘what’s happening now?’ or ‘where am I feeling that just now?’
Body sensations come in many textures, for example, experiencing tightness, contraction, tingling, aches, warmth, coolness, spaciousness and so on. When we attend to the body in this way we dive underneath the story line of ‘this happened and then this happened’ and we connect with the deeper wellspring of our bodymind.
This enables the nervous system to slow down which is often experienced as a felt sense of more space in the body. This is because that is exactly what you have done – created more space to breathe and to be. It is a profoundly kind and compassionate process to just meet yourself as you are!
So a good way to start is to begin simply by paying attention to your body sensations – for example:
- Notice how your body feels as you stand under the shade of a tree and then move out to standing in full sunlight. Notice the differences in temperature and where you feel that in different areas of your body.
- Pay attention to how it feels to sit in a chair – ask yourself ‘how does my back feel against this chair?’ or what does it feel like where my legs meet the chair?
- Notice your feet on the floor, what does contact with the floor feel like? How do your feet feel against the fabric of your socks or inside your shoes?
- Following the normal pattern of your breath. Try to notice the cool air as the breath comes into your nostrils and the warmth as the breath leaves your nostrils.
- Notice how it feels when you wash your hands in warm water and then cold water. What are the differences and similarities?
- When walking try to pay attention to how it feels for your body to move as you lift a foot and place it on the ground.
- When swimming, noticing how it feels when your arm moves in and out of contact with the water.
There are many ways to practice awareness of your body sensations and my invitation to you is to begin to pay mindful moment to moment attention! I wish you well on this journey to meeting yourself and hope you enjoy the dance!