I’ve been taking full advantage of the Daily Presence card I created, each of which centers on a meditation connected to a different area of the body. My week has been one of the most stressful of 2019, so grounding myself in my physical experience is vital. For today’s practice, I focused on my digestive system.
I started by breathing deeply and listening to relaxing music. I imagined healing energy and warm light flowing through my digestive system, soothing any areas of discomfort and creating space for healthy consumption of nourishment. I imagined any toxins and negative energy flowing out of me, being pushed by each inhalation. Finally, I pictured myself soaking in a warm bath, satiated, calm and cleansed.
I rarely try guided imagery, but this one was effective in helping me feel more present in my body and connected to its processes. I am learning that, for me, I achieve much more internal stability by concentrating on a certain area of my body, rather than telling myself I have to be calm when my body is in an agitated state. It isn’t so much that I need relaxation, rather, I need a return to sensation when I’m stuck on focusing on my perceptions of the world. How is your digestive system today? What does it need from you?
For today’s Daily Presence mindfulness mediation, I focused on the physical experience I have of my heart. My week has been significantly more stressful than most, and I was not surprised when my finger pulse monitor showed my heart beating around 90 beats per minute even when I was seated (it is normally in the 60’s or 70’s).
The heart and the breath are intimately linked, so I concentrated on breathing deeply and in rhythm. When I checked my pulse a few minutes later, not only was it in the low 70’s, but I felt calmer as well. I suspect that what I call an “anxiety response” is primarily a racing heartbeat (along with other signs of sympathetic nervous system activation).
I realized through this meditation that I associate my heartbeat with sound more than any other sense, when in fact the way I experience it is through a felt sense. Yet, when I imagine hearing it slowing down, my body responds in kind. I would like to spend more time observing it rather than reacting to it, as I believe many of the impulsive decisions I make in life are aimed at slowing it down indirectly through altering my perception of the situation. This is why I love mindfulness so much. It puts me in direct contact with my inner sensations, and strips away the “story” that my mind creates to explain those internal reactions. What is your heart telling you? Through which sense do you connect most fully with it?
I tried my new Daily Presence deck that I created! My first card was blank which made me laugh, then I drew the upper back card. Each card is designed to be an invitation into a mindfulness and/or mediation practice involving a particular area of the body. As I engaged with this practice today, I connected deeply with past traumas, so please bear that in mind as it is a part of the content below.
I carry much of my stress in my upper back and tend to round my shoulders which puts it out of alignment. I also have physical problems with my spine in this area, so it is frequently a source of pain and discomfort. I like the practice of focusing (when it is self-directed) and listening to what my body has to say to me, but I can’t hear much from my upper back as it feels locked and numb. I suspect it holds much of my trauma in a way.
In order to try to be more aware and in communication with this area of my body, I first used my Chirp wheel to stretch a bit (not an affiliate link). I immediately heard my spine release which felt amazing. I then did a few chest opening stretches and finally used a heating pad to soothe my tight muscles.
As I sit here with warmth and relaxation entering my upper back, I realize some of what my upper back is carrying is a felt sense of the weight of both my past traumas and losses, as well as an anticipation of everything still left to do. During this time of year, I feel especially over-burdened and exhausted as I react to the lack of sunlight and cold. As I stay with the feeling, I’m reminded of yoga poses that open the chest, throat and pelvis areas, and how vulnerable and scared they’ve made me as they bring traumatic memories of sexual abuse to the surface. It is much easier to hunch my shoulders over, draw into myself and close off from others in order to feel safe and protected and in order to carry everything myself instead of risking connection.
I’m smiling now because when I pulled the “upper back” card, I thought it would be the easiest one to start with because I know I have tension there, but I realize now it is one of my most challenging physical spaces to breathe into mindfully and to listen to because it holds in so much suffering. My goal is to give it more awareness, to breathe and lift myself up there instead of shrinking inward when I notice it hurting. What is your relationship like with your upper back? What self-care does it need today?