One of the first practices I teach my clients is a head to toe body scan. Over the course of our work together, in many different contexts and with many different prompts, we will do this practice together, hundreds, sometimes thousands of times.
This practice can be deceptively simple—observe without changing, your bodily sensations: temperature, movement, pressure. Stay with the sensations as best you can. When you notice yourself in your thoughts, gently tug your attention back to your sensations. Open up your curiosity. Observe in minute detail what the tops of your feet feel like and how those sensations juxtapose to the sensations in the circumstance of your ankles. What are the sensations of the tops of your feet and your ankles on the surface of your skin? What are the sensations of the tops of your feet and your ankles deeper in, close to the bone? Are these familiar sensations? Are they new? What emotions are currently in the tops of your feet and your ankles? What sensations tell you that those emotions are present?
This is a fundamental practice in starting a journey to making space for what is. This is a practice in creating more choice in your life. It is invaluable and incredibly difficult. And like most difficult things in life, it brings up all our smoke screens and excuses and habits and cultural norms.
So many of us have become familiar with a culture that teaches us to think our feelings rather than to feel. We have become familiar with a culture of figuring out what is wrong and what needs to be fixed. We have become familiar with a culture that is far more fixated on why than how. For some of us, these habits and cultural norms are unconscious, they are as invisible and as matter of fact as the air we breathe. For some of us, we can point out and notice these habits and cultural norms, but shifting them or finding an alternative is elusive and slippery.
Googlemaps is a familiar tool in many of our lives. An app or a url that lives on our phones and in our computer, Googlemaps boasts the ability to map directions from Point A to Point B. As it has evolved, there’s fancier things that come along—now my phone changes to night mode after a certain time if I’m navigating directions, I have options to change the route if Googlemaps discovers something faster, I can choose whether I’m walking, biking, using public transportation or driving for even more accurate directions and an estimated time of arrival.
In order to work though, whether in fancy night mode or in Beta, whether on your new IPhone 6s or on your Dell desktop that connects to the Internet with dial up, Googlemaps needs two things: a Point A and a Point B.
We live in a culture that is observed with how to do things faster and faster, most of us spend way more time on Point B than Point A. Some of us spend our entire lives trying not to think about Point A. Naming and being where we are presently is excruciatingly painful, full of shame and regret, and just not productive. (That productive comment has come out of my very mouth.) It’s far better to observe and focus and figure out and obsess over Point B.
We learn that Point A, i.e. the ways we hold our breath, the ways we shut down our sensations, the ways we tense our muscles, the ways we avoid our feelings can be skipped over and avoided. We learn that there is a right and a wrong way to be in our bodies and our sensations, that in fact there are right and wrong bodies and sensations themselves.
What happens instead when we focus on Point A, when we start with Point A? In my work with clients, that is precisely where we start. It is a challenging, sometimes terrifying place to start but I give my clients lots of strategies about how to toggle in and slowly build their capacity.
When we start with Point A, folks have a tangible skill that can change their lives. Instead of a costume, the practices are sourced and built and created from their core. The healing happens from the inside-out instead of the outside-in. This means folks are able to create brilliant, highly unique, super specialized ways of being with their sensations and heal at a pace that actually is sustainable to their unique self.
Creating healing practices that make space for where we begin, also makes more space for all of us. These practices make space for all our brilliant, funky, creative nuances and all the amazing, fierce, tender ways that we survive/d. They make this space without having to rush to a set agenda of what we wish was and what we think should be. And in the act of making space for what is, the possibilitiesand ripple effects that can unfold are far brighter, far bigger and far more enticing.