Have you, like me, ever wondered…
Self-awareness: friend or foe?
Self-awareness is something that has intrigued, perplexed, delighted, and infuriated me for years. Both the topic itself, and the experience of it.
In my last Gentle Nudge to you, I wrote about the mind/body connection and how viewing my mind as part of my body (not a separate entity that needs some kind of manual hook-up, like installing a washer/dryer) has helped me better attune to my myself and my needs.
This felt, sensory understanding of my body, plus a number of other practices (and lots of time) have helped me build my self-awareness and ability to treat my body with more and more sensitivity and compassion.
Self-awareness is a funny friend, though. I’ll just say what massage therapists and bodyworkers probably aren’t supposed to say: I think self-awareness can really be a pain in the you-know-what!
I mean, who wants to be more aware of pain, illness, stress, discord, that “feeling in your gut” that something’s off or needs tending to when you feel like you don’t have time, or money, or just. don’t. wanna?
Or perhaps equally as troubling, don’t know HOW to deal with it?
Whoops, here comes another thing I’m not “supposed” to say: There have been times when I would have gladly traded in my heightened physical/emotional self-awareness for “simpler” times when it was easier for me to gloss over, push through, or justify pain, illness, stress, etc. that was actually, at times, rather serious.
It was easier and more familiar to not hear my bodily cues that something was amiss, something that really needed and deserved my attention, something that needed me to shift how I operated in a way that might be highly unfamiliar or uncomfortable.
Now for something that probably won’t surprise you: Despite these feelings, I now always come back to gratitude; gratitude for my ability to listen to my body in ways I never thought possible; to have opened a smoother conduit between its physical cues and sensations and my ability to consciously perceive them, and respond in ways that better serve me more quickly.
Creating a regular practice of receiving bodywork (among other key things) has been instrumental in this shift.
Most of the time, massage and bodywork are lauded for their ability to help reduce pain and discomfort, aid relaxation and better quality sleep, help you heal from injury and surgery, manage stress, depression and anxiety, etc. This is all awesome.
What’s talked about less is their ability to help people become more self-aware.
This is a HUGE part of my “why;” why I do this work. Yes, I love love love helping you feel better in your body, I love talking about the body and sharing my knowledge and experience, I love thinking about how it works and I love helping you deeply relax, release pain and discomfort, move with more ease and flow, and feel more nurtured and cared for.
And I LOVE sending humans out into the world who are more self-aware and embodied, because it is my firm belief that the planet NEEDS more self-aware, embodied people.
Because deeper self-awareness allows you to do the thing I talked about earlier: it enables you to hear the signals your body is conveying (through pain, illness, fatigue, emotion) but that your rational mind may not have picked up on yet. In doing so, you can respond faster and more effectively to stress in your life, giving you the opportunity to become more resilient in the face of all the stresses we face in this day and age (and doesn’t a planet full of more in-tune, resilient people sound good?).
Deeper self-awareness allows you to:
:: treat something before it becomes an out-of-hand problem
:: do simple (but so, so powerful) things like take more breaks from your computer to stretch and move around and get some fresh air
:: not wait as long to see a doctor or wellness practitioner
:: change the way you’re doing something (in your relationships, work, eating habits, self-care habits, living environment, schedule, etc.) so it’s healthier and more sustainable for you
:: become better at tracking sensation in the body and understanding what feels good, what doesn’t, what’s actually working/helpful, and what’s not, and how to tweak things so they’re more effective for you
:: become more aware of how you’re feeling emotionally and when you might be repressing emotions that need release or attention.
Bodywork does this by creating the space for you to slow down, to connect to what and how you feel via touch, to move “stuck” energy so you can actually feel MORE (which will enable you to be more self-aware!).
One of my favorite things to hear is that self-awareness gained during session time translates into you being able to sort out an ache or pain and discover a way of moving or a tool or resource to help you feel better. You become your own best healer (and what’s better than that?!).
“Awareness also means learning what the signs of stress are in our own bodies, how our bodies telegraph us when our minds have missed the cues. In both human and animal studies, it has been observed that the physiological stress response is a more accurate gauge of the organism’s real experience than either conscious awareness or observed behavior. ‘The pituitary is a much better judge of stress than the intellect,’ Hans Selye wrote. ‘Yet, you can learn to recognize the danger signs fairly well if you know what to look for.'”
– Gabor Mate, M.D., from When the Body Says No
Your Gentle Nudge is to practice one or both of the following simple self-awareness exercises (with thanks to Irene Lyon for teaching me the first):
1) Bring your attention to your hands. Are they cold, warm, sweaty, soft, rough? Make very slow, subtle movements and sense the air against your fingertips and palms.
If that’s feeling easy, you can add another layer and notice simultaneously how your feet feel and what they sense.
Then, notice how you’re breathing and see if it wants to change in any way, and then allow it to change organically. Let the body breathe you (yes, I know that’s corny, and I love it : )
You can add one more layer by scanning the horizon with your eyes to bridge the connection between internal self-awareness and awareness of your environment (this will require you to look up from your screen. I know. You can do it).
2) Notice the support of whatever surface you’re making contact with, whether that’s a chair, bed, or your feet on the ground. Notice where your body and that surface make contact, and allow whatever’s supporting you to really support you, to whatever degree feels available. Sink in. (Sometimes it helps to close your eyes for this one.)
These are practices I recommend playing with frequently, throughout the day (especially anytime you’re feeling stressed, spacey, antsy, or overwhelmed). They will become more automatic and easier with practice, and you’ll gain new information each time.
>> And of course, I would love to see you soon to help you deepen your self-awareness and inner resilience! Have you set up a session for this month yet? If not, I encourage you to do so. Click here to claim your time and check it off your to-do list.
With love + self-awareness,
P.S. Know someone who could benefit from reading this and learning those simple self-awareness practices? Go ahead and forward this along to them, and/or share on social!
P.P.S. After you’ve tried the self-awareness games, I’d love to hear what you thought or learned! What surprised you most? What felt easier and what felt harder? Any questions come up? Leave your comments below, I’ll respond to each one.