After many years of running weekly mindfulness sessions I keep being struck by how little the mind features in ‘mindfulness’. Mindfulness is mostly a ‘return to the body’. The mind is notoriously elusive concept in philosophical and scientific language.
In the Chaplaincy we start each Mindfulness session with some simple stretching exercises to help people physically settle after a morning’s work. Today my colleague asked the group if there were any particular exercises that they wanted to do. One person asked for something for neck ache. This elicited the disclosure of neck and back ache throughout the room. Not a surprise I guess from a group of people in academia sitting at pc’s all day every day.
The comments reminded me of Bessel van der Kolk’s argument that most of us can do more to befriend our bodies. Here are some quotes from Bessel’s book ‘The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma’.
“In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.”
“Mindfulness not only makes it possible to survey our internal landscape with compassion and curiosity but can also actively steer us in the right direction for self-care.”
“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.”
“As I often tell my students, the two most important phrases in therapy, as in yoga, are “Notice that” and “What happens next?” Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts.”