BODY and BREATHING AWARENESS
Touch – Body Awareness
Humans have developed thousands of meditations with our kinaesthetic sense, the internal awareness of our own body. Our sub-cultures are rich in such exercises. To my knowledge, they are all effective ways of re-energising, real-ising yourself, and finding some peace, balance and happiness.
Our sub-cultures body awareness exercises prioritise the sense of touch, even how breathing feels with the sense of touch. But i believe animals sense of their world is experienced and understood not only with their tactile sense, but also by smelling, tasting, listening, and seeing.
There are many questions about inner body sensation which i would like children to clarify. What can they feel without any scientific knowledge? What is the natural approach to body awareness?
It seems practical first to learn about the sense of touch and I'd like to summarise a few ideas.
Our body shape develops like a 5 legged starfish, and every one of the 5 ends is hard (bony) and sensitive. Both the sensitivity and the hardness make good sense, because that's where our ancestors kept bumping into things.
As we evolved, we started moving in one direction and collected all the main sensors at one of the ends (the end which got the most bumps), with the other four ends doing what the main-sensor end told them ... and so we developed arms and legs.
It is interesting to realise that every one of the 5 ends can "feel, hold and do things". The hands and feet, feel, hold and do things with objects, and the mind feels (recognises, realises), holds (remembers), and does things with thoughts.
Inside our body, there are harder and softer parts, and sensitivity. I find the traditional ideas of earth, water and fire, a useful basic exercise to explore the inside shape and feel of the skin we are in. (Wind comes later with breathing.)
Firstly the five ends are earth, hard. The arms, legs and neck are softer with hard thin long things, covered with a sort of watery jello blubber. Then comes sheets of hardness: the hips, and the shoulders and rib cage; and then (very sensibly) the very softest area, protected in the middle.
And the whole thing has various temperatures, ... and where does it feel most warm? And how does your spine feel – does it feel hard? or soft? or warm?
And notice the heart beating. We know the beating comes from the heart, but i find it easy to feel as though the beating comes from the middle body and the belly. One of the questions i'd love parents to ask their two to ten-year-olds : "where do you feel the beating?"
I thought that i breathed into and out of my belly, and this somehow caused the whole body to expand and contract, i never questioned this. I was maybe lucky - i only practised awareness of my breathing when i was lying down and relaxed. By contrast, when sitting the feeling of expansion in the legs is minimal, because the buttocks are constricted; and when i try to quickly pack as much air into my lungs as possible, it can feel as though i'm pulling the air out of my arms.
I was also maybe lucky in that i never had biology lessons. When i was around 17 (after leaving school) i started reading and discovered we have lungs pumped by a diaphragm.
The anatomical science is good to know, but we seem to have forgotten the subjective feeling which has been at the foundation of every warm-blooded animals self awareness, over at least 150 million years ... and the sensation of breathing into my whole body, is an experience of integrity with myself, which i could never get with the scientific truth.
I'm speaking of a general need to be in touch with our feelings. Even if our feelings are irrational, (be they psychological or physical), to heal ourselves we must acknowledge them and work with them. It is irrational to believe i breathe into my belly and that the whole body expands and contracts. But that's how it feels. No animal or child could ever imagine the air goes first down the wind pipe and then back up into the lungs.
So, the first question i would love parents to ask their two to ten-year-olds is: "when you breathe, where does the breath go in your body?"
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