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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.