A Radical Ecology is embodied by and as being present. Being present to what you are doing. Being present to what is actually happening. Simple as it sounds it is elusive. Not because it is difficult, but because of the power of habit. The modern human mind has become deeply disembodied, because it takes its shape within a culture cut off from Nature. We value thinking over feeling, getting over sharing, becoming over being. Mind has taken power from the body. We eat according to mind-set schedule. Our foods are chosen and prepared according to information provided by other minds. We stay awake to finish the movie, the chapter. We no longer trust or listen to our bodies, where we are Nature. It is in this mistrust that we isolate ourselves most deeply from Nature. Lost to the wisdom and power of our bodies we stumble form one mind-game to another in a see-saw of hope and frustration.
This disembodiment has been learned. It can be unlearned. All that is required is that the habits that keep you disembodied be replaced by habits that embody you. These habits can be established within your everyday activities such as:
washing and showering
dressing and undressing
All that is required is that as you do these activities, and many others, you feel the sensations being generated by your body. The more deeply and continuously you feel them the more your mind will become embodied and you will feel more centred, calm and alive. Feeling sensations deeply and clearly is a priceless resource. It not only grounds your mind during routine everyday activities. It can also help you become more intimate with Nature and assimilate difficult experiences and situations. Feeling sensations deeply is the direct route into your Place of Greater Safety.
Feel the Sensations Feeling sensations is as potent as it is simple, as elusive as it is fundamental. You know that you are hungry, thirsty, tired because of the sensations being generated by your body. A sensation is always a conscious event; an experience of somatic intelligence at work. Sometimes you feel your heart beating, usually you don’t. When you feel your heart beating, your inhalation entering your body you are feeling sensations. The felt sensations are then interpreted by cognitive intelligence; your mind recognises the implications of the sensations you are feeling. By way of their tone, texture, flavour, location you know what you are feeling. The basics of your lived life, eating, drinking, sleeping, walking, reaching, grasping, are all driven by sensations, flowing from desire to satisfaction, from intention to achievement, from pain to relief. Much of your life is driven by sensations, while most of the rest is driven by the activity of somatic intelligence taking place below the threshold of conscious awareness. This means that everyday activity provides many opportunities to ground the restlessness of your mind. Mind is grounded simply by feeling the sensations being generated by your body. Even if your mind continues to elaborate, speculate or imagine, feeling sensations quietens it. Tuning in to your ability to feel sensations, whatever they may be, becomes as much of a habit as anything else has. By way of regular grounding in physical sensations a disembodied and unstable mind becomes an embodied and stable one. All you need do is allow your mind to relax and let go into your ability to feel. As you feel sensations being generated by your body, some more concrete some more fluid, some more anatomical, some more physiological, some more obvious, some more subtle feel them as clearly as possible. Allow your mind to express its dynamic nature freely, without trying to direct or control it. Invite your mind to become quiet indirectly by feeling as deeply and clearly as possible. The more deeply you feel the more quiet your mind becomes. The more clearly you feel the more grounded your mind becomes
Being Present Feeling sensations is the heart of being present. Your ability to feel is your fundamental ability. It is the most concrete expression of the intelligence of Consciousness. It is the core expression of your spirituality. To feel a sensation clearly is to integrate mind, body and spirit. To become intimate with your ability to feel is to discover who and what you most deeply are. Cognitive intelligence is grounded in spiritual intelligence by way of somatic intelligence. It is this integration of intelligence that provides being present with its satisfaction and nourishment. Your ability to be present is a function of your willingness to feel. To the extent that you have been intimidated by painful experiences you will be reluctant to expose yourself to the possibility of more. Fear of pain makes you unwilling to feel. This restricts your ability to feel safe as much as it does your ability to feel pain. An unwillingness to feel necessarily disembodies your mind. To avoid the possibility of pain you become marooned in the abstract, mutable realms of the imaginable and imaginary. You unwittingly substitute the intensities of emotional pain with a disembodied captivity in your mind. This captivity itself then becomes a problem and a source of its own suffering. Especially by way of the negative and destructive stories that it can tell you. Not least about what you, or they, should, or could, have done, but didn’t. Being fully present, then, means being fully embodied. Embodiment and being present depend on intimacy with sensations. Intimacy with sensations grounds mind in what actually is, releasing it from the distracting grip of speculation.
One thing at a time To be fully present to what you are doing is to enjoy an integration of the intelligence that you are. When you do more than one thing at the same time your intelligence is split. This not only makes it more difficult to do the different things well, but it drains you. This is even so when you are doing something simple like washing your hands, while thinking about something else, or listening to music. Music may well be delightful and nourishing, but it will be less so when your attention is divided. To really enjoy music you need to be doing nothing but listening or dancing to it. To wash well your hands, dishes, the floor you need to be only washing them. To drive safely you need to be only driving, not talking or planning. This is the simple heart of ‘mindfulness’. In the case of any physical activity the more deeply you give yourself to physical sensations the more effective that activity will be. Thinking about anything other than what you are doing in the moment, even the result, leaks intelligence and undermines that activity. This means that, whatever you are doing, feel as continuously and clearly as possible the sensations it is generating anywhere in your body. This will quieten and ground your mind into what you are doing, making it not only more effective but also more satisfying.
Water Bathing Whenever you get the chance listen to water flowing or running. You can do this even at home by running a tap, listening to water in a drain or gutter. Better by far, of course, is to listen to a stream, or river, waves lapping on the shore. Whenever you find yourself walking or standing in the rain. When you do, close your eyes if you feel safe and listen as deeply as possible. Invite your ears and all the muscles of your face to relax as much as possible. Become as intimate as possible with your ability to hear. Invite your body and mind to relax as much as possible into your ability to hear the rhythmic, melodies of water flowing, churning, pouring, lapping. Allow movement to express itself freely in response to any sensations, anywhere in your body. Perhaps rolling your body weight from foot to foot, heel to toes. Perhaps lifting and lowering a heel, then the other. Perhaps rolling one hip softly forwards, then the other. As much as possible without thinking, without trying, relax, into your ability to hear and feel as deeply as possible so that perhaps you begin to feel the music of water vibrating, pulsating cascading in and as your body.
Embracing Uncertainty Being willing to be vulnerable, means being willing to embrace uncertainty. The continuous need to know, to anticipate, to strategise are signs of a disembodied mind. The only things we really need to know are things that relate to things we have or want to do. Whenever you find yourself wondering about a future you can do nothing about, invite your mind to let go and relax into your ability to feel. Whenever you find yourself planning something you don’t yet have enough information about, invite your mind to let go and relax into your ability to feel. This world is an unpredictable place at the best of times. Most of your predictions will fall short. Better by far to learn to live with uncertainty, while enjoying the equanimity provided by staying in touch with your Place of Greater Safety.
Digesting aggression, and shock As a living compression of intelligence your body is exquisitely sensitive to external forces. This includes the aggression that can be directed to you through words and gestures, even without direct physical contact. The more disembodied you have become the less immediately will you feel it. Nevertheless aggression is felt in the tissues and cells of your body. They will necessarily respond defensively. You can feel this as pressure, tension or hardness in any or many parts of your body, including your brain. You may experience tremors or more intense shaking. You may feel nauseous or dizzy. If you are exposed to aggression, even verbally, find a safe space as soon as possible. When there sit or lie down and invite body and mind to relax as much as possible, feeling as clearly as possible the sensations being generated by your body. If you feel any sensations anywhere in your body that indicate a desire to move, express these sensations into very soft, sensitive movements without intensifying any sensations anywhere in your body. Without directing your attention anywhere in particular simply feel the flow of sensations being generated by your body as clearly as possible. Whenever you feel unpleasant sensations of dizziness, pressure, tension, hardness or heaviness feel those sensations as deeply as intimately as possible. So that within that intimacy the disturbance generating those sensations might be digested by the Intelligence of Consciousness. which always integrates towards wholeness. This will not only help you to settle and calm down, it will also minimise the dissonant residue of the original experience.