A Closer Look
It has been said many times and in many ways that one should stay true to their principles, who they are, and the things they know to be true. They should not strive to please others by what they believe in, or act in such a way that is outside their own identity, and to always strive to be that person they want to be—the example for others to follow.
The problem with that is most of us prioritize “externally” oriented attention. We often think of focusing on something outside of ourselves, while paying too much attention to work, the TV, other people, traffic, our partner, or anything else that engages our senses. However, a whole other world exists that most of us are far less aware of; an “inner” world, with a varied landscape of emotions, feelings, and sensations.
Often, the internal world determines whether we are having a good day or not and whether we are happy or unhappy. That’s why we can feel angry despite beautiful surroundings or feel perfectly happy despite being stuck in traffic. A new pathway of attention may be just what you have been searching for your whole life. One that might just hold the key to your greater well-being.
Although this intramural world of feelings and sensations dominates perception in babies, it becomes increasingly foreign as we learn to prioritize the outside world. Because we don’t pay as much attention to the world inside, it often takes us by surprise. We only tune into our bodies when an alarm goes off and tells us that we are thirsty, hungry, exhausted, or in pain. A flush of anger, a choked-up feeling of sadness, or the warmth of love in our chest can often appear out of nowhere.
When we attempt to resist a certain thought or action, (trying not to eat junk food when you’re on a diet, or trying not to think about someone we recently broke up with), the effort can easily backfire under stress. Sadly, some people end up turning to drugs and alcohol as a last resort to quiet their minds. How can we train our interoceptive awareness? Walking, yoga, breathing, and meditation exercises are designed to increase our inward-looking awareness. exercises. For some, turning inward can be distressing because it may tune us into uncomfortable emotions. However, constantly distracting ourselves by turning outwards will not remove these pesky underlying thoughts and emotions. Learning to engage with them “head-on”, through dedicated interoceptive awareness, we may begin to experience the first time of healing.
Research shows that veterans suffering from trauma are at first wary of being present with the moment, emotions, feelings, and memories that can arise during these practices, but over time, those distressing experiences wane and heal. Best of all they feel empowered. No longer reliant on drugs or a therapist, they have learned to use their breath and thoughts to gain control of their lives. Leaning into our bodies has other benefits as well. We are so accustomed to directing our attention outward that we don’t even really taste the food because we are distracted by watching TV or in any other number of ways. Our greatest moments of happiness are the times we spend fully engaged and involved in a situation with a dog or another person. If we are distracted we are depriving ourselves of some of the greatest sources of contentment and enlightenment.
Next time you find your thoughts racing and emotions blaring out of control, instead of trying to talk yourself out of the situation or turning to a glass of wine, take some deep breaths and tune into your body, or go to a gentle and awareness-based yoga or meditation class. Despite our fears and trepidation of losing control of our emotions, we have an innate ability to calm ourselves down. Just take a deep breath and feel what happens, but never stop with one.
Our thoughts have a way of shipping fear into the crevices of self-doubt. Of sliding in criticisms and uncertainty at moments of triumph. Perhaps now you have found a way of shouting louder to drain away unnecessary and unforgiving notions.
Blessings my friends,