Tag Archives: Body Wisdom

Come to Your Senses

Alan Davidson is the founder of ThroughYourBody.com

Come to Your Senses: Hit Your Sweet Spot With Your Five Vital Intelligences by Alan Davidson

“Mr. Duffy Lived a Short Distance from His Body”

This line comes from Irish novelist James Joyce’s short story, ”The Dubliners.” In his writings, Joyce examines the journey of the human soul in the modern world. He also shines a light on the importance of Physical Intelligence in Being Human.

I can identify with Mr. Duffy. I have lived a short distance from my body most of my life. I was afraid of my body—the intensity of feeling and sensation. I had no idea how to access the wisdom my body has for me. When I began to realize how my Five Vital Intelligences—physical, emotional, mental, moral, and spiritual—work together, I began to find some real answers about how to live a happy, human life.

Since 1988, when I started massage school and began my own work with body/mind/spirit integration, I’ve learned to trust and depend on the sensations in my body to guide me to what is truer for me.

I used to depend much more on thoughts and ideas to make sense of my life. I understand now I must use my mind and what I feel in my heart and body. To rely solely on one Intelligence is to be left using one cylinder in a five-cylinder truck. If we don’t trust our minds and our bodies, hearts, actions, and spirits, how can we get the whole picture of our Body Wisdom and how best to move forward into our lives?

In our “modern” world we are asked to do just that: to divide ourselves from our bodies and to depend exclusively on one cylinder of being a human—our reason and our thinking mind. We separate ourselves from the wisdom of our bodies, which is nonverbal experiences—highly indescribable in words and largely metaphoric and symbolic in its language.

For instance . . .

You stand looking out over the ocean, or sit in a hot tub with snow falling on your head and you have a feeling in your heart, or you hear an idea whispered in your ear, or you see a picture of an answer to a question you have been pondering. The experience comes and goes quickly, but it fills you with knowing, a moment of recognition, a whisper of truth, a nudge to “go here now.”

But in the next moment your mind says, “Oh that can’t be right,” or you forget the moment entirely—when really, those are the moments given us by our bodies, in concert with our souls and the spirit of life, which are meant to guide us to heal. To change this, we must do other than Mr. Duffy—we must come home to our bodies.

We all have the capacity to peak our Physical IQ and live through our bodies. There are many paths to reclaiming our body’s treasure. You can go to Tai Chi, you can lift weights, you can master Aikido, or you can plant roses in your garden.

The universe is filled with the glittering treasure that is our bodies. As the Sufi poet Rumi wrote many centuries ago:

Jalaluddin Rumi founded the Sufi "whirling dervishes"

It’s the man who was looking for the treasure… Don’t ever think of him as the seeker, though. Whatever he’s looking for, he is it himself. How can a lover be anything but the beloved?

Our bodies hold a unique place in our lives. They are our oldest and dearest friends. They are our homes—the places where we live every moment of our lives. Our muscles and tissues record the passing of time, visible in our very gestures: a gentle tilt of the head, the sway of our hips, the slump of a back.

So, the more we champion our Physical Intelligence in our daily lives—and in our spiritual lives—the more wise, and kind, we become. There are many practices that we will find to suit our individual souls. I want to share with you two that have the deepest meaning to me: Sense and Center.

Sense

Martha Graham "The body never lies."

Sensation is the language of the body—a language many of us have ignored for most of our lives. To feel the sensations of our bodies is to actually experience ourselves—raw, life coursing through us, present in the most immediate sense. The sensations of our bodies ALWAYS happen in present time. It’s impossible for our bodies to happen in the past. That’s why Martha Graham, the great American dancer and choreographer, said, “The body never lies.” It is immediate truth. The mind weaves the stories about what those sensations mean, pulling us out of the raw experience and into the past as we mentally seek the meaning in what has just transpired. Stories never happen in the present moment; they are creations of our afterthoughts.

Sensing meditations have been around since the Buddha. A fundamental part of Vipassana (Insight) meditation is gently focusing the mind on the sensations of the body. This takes our awareness away from the stream of thoughts and thinking and onto/into the present moment. Here’s a very simple sensing exercise.

Sensing

Sit completely relaxed and comfortable. Turn your attention to your feet. Notice the sensations of temperature, pressure, or vibration; the feel of your feet pressing against the floor; the sensation of fabric or temperature on your feet.

Sense your hips pressing against your seat opening to the sensations of pressure, temperature, or vibration.

Sense your hands resting.

Sense your head balanced on your neck and shoulders.

Sense the air moving in and out of your nose and throat.

Sense your chest rising and falling with each breath.

Sense your belly moving as your breath moves in and out.

If you notice yourself thinking, instead of sensing, very gently focus your attention once again on your feet and start again.

Centering

Centering is a key element of all the martial arts, from Aikido, Tai Chi, to Tae Kwan Do. This simple, yet profound, practice asks us to drop into our center of gravity. The Asian traditions call this part of the body, located about two inches below the navel, the tan tien in China or the hara in Japan.

Start by resting your palm against your “center.” Really sense the warmth and gentle pressure of your hand.

Centering Right-to-Left

Slowly move your body weight to the right; shifting as far as you can without falling sideways. Come back to center.
Sense your body.

Slowly shift your body weight left as far as you can. And come back to center. Sense your body.

Centering Front-to-Back

Slowly lean your body forward as far as you can without falling. Pause and sense the unusual sensations of tilting in this way. Come back to center. Sense your body.

Slowly lean your body back as far as you can without falling. Pause and sense your body in this unique pose. Come back to center. Sense your body.

Centering Up-and-Down

Rise upon the balls of your feet and clench the muscles in your feet and ankles. Stretch your legs and torso up, squeezing your leg, belly, and chest muscles. Clench your shoulder muscles, tighten your jaws, and squint your eyes. Walk around a bit all tightened up like this. Stop.

Completely relax your body. Soften knees so they are relaxed over your ankles. Soften hips so they are resting over your knees. Drop your shoulders so they are aligned over your hips. Relax your neck and head so it floats over your shoulders.You have just centered in the three planes of movement: right-to-left, front-to-back, and up-and-down.

With your palm resting on your center/tan tien/hara start to walk easily, sensing your body centered as you move.
As you sit or walk or rest in this place of centering, let your mind relax into not knowing. Trust your body to move easily, organically. It’s what it is created to do.

Our Physical and Mental Intelligences are not meant to be stripped apart from each other. If we separate them, keep them at a distance from each other, we must live a short distance from ourselves—as the Dubliner, Mr. Duffy, did.

If we work to bring them into unity with each other, it is like a golfer hitting a golf ball in the “sweet spot.” For you non-golfers , a golfer loves it when they hit the ball on exactly the right spot on the club. It feels and sounds really great, and it flies to exactly where they want it. Even the best golfers practice and practice to increase their chances of finding that sweet spot the next time they swing. Like getting the sweet spot in hitting a golf ball, we can’t hold onto the unity of our Five Intelligences at all times. We lose it and have to find it againSense and Center, Sense and Center, Sense and Center—over and over again. We have to keep practicing.

Be Brilliant.

Sensory Amnesia or Sensory IQ: You Get to Choose!

by Alan Davidson

Your body is your oldest and dearest friend. It is the map of your life. Your body has shared every single joy with you, and all the heartbreaks, too. The passing of your years is etched in your body, deep in your muscles; in the tell-tale way you tilt your head to laugh, thrust your hip in defiance, or shrug your shoulders in surrender. The grace of your bones moving through life, each joint molded by facia, tendons, and ligaments tells the tale of you. Do you notice?

When you listen close enough to your body, it has secrets to tell you; secrets of power and wisdom. Your body has the secret of the universes resting in the pulsing of your cells. Few of us realize the intricate power coiled in our gums, guts, and groin. Your body promises a power waiting for you to focus your attention and relax into your own wisdom. Do you notice?

Raw sensation is the language of your body. The un-sexy, un-glamorous primal immediacy of hot or cold, bitter or salty, bright and color, pungent and loud are the simple keys to your body’s power and wisdom…Do you notice? What do you sense right now?

Sensory Amnesia–“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body,” said the Irish author, James Joyce. Mr. Duffy, a character in “The Dubliners” lived as many of us do. At best, rapt by the seductive stream of ego/thinking in our minds and split from the life of our bodies. The average brain thinks 70,000 thoughts a day (and sadly for most of us it’s the same 70,000 thoughts day after day after day).

Or at worst, many of us live afraid of the raw intensity of our bodies and craft lives disassociated from the sensations of touch, smell, taste, sound, and sight. Sensory Amnesia is what I call this divorce from our senses, our split from our basic body wisdom. The antidote for healing this great divide…

Raising Your Sensory IQ!

The absolute foundation for each of your Five IQs—physical, emotional, mental, moral, and spiritual–is sensation. Your body is riddled with sense receptors communicating non-stop with your brain–to the tune of 4 billion bits per second (Physical IQ). Every feeling has a sensation (Emotional IQ). Every thought, subtle as it is, has a sensation (Mental IQ). Every action, of course, has a sensation (Moral IQ). The flow of life force energy—prana or chi—through your body has a sensation; as well as every state of being—Joy, Peace, Gratitude, Big Mind, Compassion, Stillness of Pure Being–all have a sensation (Spiritual IQ).

Your Five Vital Intelligences/IQs

Debbie and Carlos Rosas first introduced me to Sensory IQ dancing Nia in Santa Fe. Sensation is the language of your body; a language many of us have ignored (or misunderstood) for most of our lives. Feeling the sensations of your body is to actually experience yourself; raw, life coursing through you, present in the most immediate sense. The sensations of your body ALWAYS happen in present time. It’s impossible for your body to happen in the past, or in the future.

Martha Graham, the great American dancer and choreographer, said it this way, “The body never lies.” It is immediate truth. Your mind weaves the stories about what those sensations may mean—pulling you out of the raw experience—and into your stories, past or present. Stories never happen in the present moment; they are the creations of your thoughts and not the THING itself.

Sensing meditations have been around since the Buddha. A fundamental part of Vipassana (Insight) mediation is focusing the mind, gently, on the sensations of the body. This takes our awareness away from the stream of thoughts and thinking and onto the body and into the present moment. You have over Forty Thousand distinct sensations available to you through your senses. What! 40,000? Who knew?

Raising your Sensory IQ is noticing just how many of the sensations are happening in your body right now. Do you notice?

Sensation: Language of the Body

Each one of these forty thousand qualities, 44, 435 to be exact, is distinct from all the rest, and elegantly simple. Each sensation is a conscious experience, unique in itself. Each one may be connected with others in various ways. A large part of your thinking is your interpretation of these intricate complexes of your sensation.

The senses we best know–Touch, Sight, Hearing, Tasting, and Smelling are Elemental Sensations. You also have organic sensations in your guts, bones, joints, and muscles.

Touch:
You have Four Unique sensations of Touch: Pressure and Temperature. Your touch receptors are widely scattered through your skin and body.

You have two sensations for pressure–they range from Light to hard (and include pain).

You have two sensations for temperature–they range from Hot to Cold.

Taste:
You have four sensations of Taste: sweet, sour (acidic), bitter, and salty. Your taste receptors are of course found on your tongue. Eating is one of those complex sensations including taste, smell, touch (texture), not to mention the stories we tell about the flavors and foods we love, or love to hate.

Hearing:
Your ears can perceive 11, 600 sensations of sound, all available to you (unless you, like me, are hard of hearing because you went to way to many screeching concerts and/or spent way too many nights at the loud, throbbing disco).

Those 11, 600 sensational sounds fall into two categories, Tone or Noise. Tone is the movement of air particles in regular and continued sound waves. Tones are ‘high’ and ‘low,’ ‘harsh’ and ‘clear,’ ‘shrill’ and ‘mellow,’ as well as the musical scale. We detect volume through tone.

The sensation of Noise is the quick and irregular/shock or concussion of the same air particles.

Sight:
Your eyes can perceive 32,820 sensations of light. You have 3 receptors in each of your retinas that register the sensations of Brightness and Color. Those three receptors, six for both eyes, allow for the delight of –Light to Dark and the Full Color Spectrum. Those six receptors create your experience of the play of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple, filtered through Bright white of black dark.

Smell:
You have an unknown (and probably unimaginable number) of possible smells. You have 191 receptors that lie on a thumbnail-sized patch of tissue in your upper nasal passage.
Remember you have 3 receptors in the retina create the 31,000 sensations of light you can see). The smell of something  is determined by vibrational frequency of its molecules. Smells fall into groups of similar qualities, and form a graded series, like those in tone/hearing or brightness/sight.

Sensory IQ Meditation: Everybody Sense Your…

Sit completely relaxed and comfortable. Turn your attention to your feet. Notice the sensations of temperature, pressure, or vibration; the feel of your feet pressing against the floor; the sensation of fabric or temperature on your feet.

Sense your hips pressing against your seat; opening to the sensations of pressure, temperature, or vibration.

Sense your hands resting.

Sense your head balanced on your neck and shoulders.

Sense the air moving in and out of your nose and throat.

Sense your chest rising and falling with each breath.

Sense your belly moving as your breath moves in and out.

If you notice yourself thinking, instead of sensing, very gently focus your attention once again on your feet and start again.

Quick Sensory IQ Test for Feeling Great!

We each have five vital intelligences; physical, emotional, mental, moral, and spiritual. Each of these IQs can be measured, and more importantly, boosted.

Sensation is the language of the body. Mastering the four pillars of physical IQ; strength, flexibility, grace, and bearing, rest on your ability to sense your body. They fall into three main categories: pressure, temperature, vibration?

Here’s your quick Sensory IQ test:

Sit or stand quietly for a moment.

How many different sensations can you feel right now?

One, two, three?

Simultaneously?

The more sensations you can focus on, the better to peak your physical, emotional, mental, moral, and spiritual IQs.

Here’s a wise tip: most of us get so busy with our lives we rarely notice any sensation at all. So if you’re tuned in to one or more you’re doing sensational!