We all inhabit a space inside of ourselves. I invite you to take some time to discover and explore that space and what it says about how you approach your life and the world around you.
We are easily stuck in our beliefs, thinking our way of doing things is all we need to know or maybe even believing it’s what works best. We all have our set traits and tendencies. We can call this our personality or our essence. The hazard in that is if we don’t explore our inner world we can become stuck or fixated. We develop patterns of thinking, relating to others, and making decisions and we can lose access to a deeper consciousness. Recognizing what parts of ourselves we value and identify with and what parts we tuck away and ignore can help us live richly balanced lives.
Since the beginning of civilization, going back to the ancient Greeks, humans have been understood as having three distinct centers: the body, the heart and the intellect. Whether we know it or not, we call one of these centers home. It’s where we live and it’s what guides us throughout our entire lives. Understanding this provides us with a construct to know two important things: where we feel most comfortable and where we need to grow. We may prefer to be more intellectual, more kinesthetic or more heart-centered but the real work is in having access to all three and learning to integrate them.
The most important component in this process of integration is someting I call presence. Presence is your connection to wholeheartedness, openness, curiosity, delight, groundedness, joy, creativity, playfulness, spontaneity. It’s an internal place that we long for throughout our lives!
If we don’t learn to cultivate and nurture presence we might find ourselves just managing symptoms. Symptoms can often show up as feeling stuck in patterns that repeatedly cause us problems. We might feel a deep sense of discontentedness, anxiety, hopelessness, anger or frustration. We might find ourselves repeating behavior even when it causes us pain and disruption.
Many of these feelings arise because certain parts of the self are not being invited to a seat at the table. This may be because we don’t value one of these three centers, or we have a misconception about it. As a result, we may not put much energy into it. We might overvalue the intellect and not put much effort into our emotional intelligence or physical well-being. Or we might love to be physically active but forget how to speak from our heart.
People tend to seek therapy because they are tired of dealing with negative feelings and relationship disappointments. Examining personal history and trauma is critical. Knowing the blind spots in self-awareness is too.
So you might want to ask yourself some questions:
- Do I tend to think my way through issues and try to find a fix?
- Do my emotions sometimes get the best of me and I find I can’t think clearly?
- Do I notice the physical symptoms, discomfort, digestive issues or other ailments that show up when I’m distressed?
Of the three centers the first place to start is in your body. Our body houses all of our physical sensations and without connection to our bodies, we have a tendency to become numb. Our bodies bring us to the immediate moment, the NOW. Numbness results when we disconnect from our sensations and have a hard time feeling ourselves. This has nothing to do with whether or not you work out or are busy doing things. This is about being present in your body. Our bodies are entirely capable of operating on autopilot while we are emotionally absent. We can drive, eat, run, have sex, all while being completely disembodied. I sometimes refer to this as sleep-walking through life. What tends to get our attention is when the body hurts. Then we wake up.
Rather than waiting for a physical pain to awaken us it is entirely possible to develop a practice that connects us to our physical sensations, providing a gateway to the robust emotional world inside each and every one of us.
Have you found a way to connect to your body? The most ancient and universal practice is the practice of connecting to your breath. This is done in most religions throughout the world. It does not have to be thought of as a spiritual or religious practice. It can be hard for all of us to remember the simplicity of this practice, as we are mostly trying to keep up with our busy lives. Remembering that we have our breath with us all day long is a practice all by itself! Create a simple practice of noticing your breath throughout the day.
Walking and breathing is a practice. Sitting quietly, stretching for 10 minutes or dancing in the kitchen is a practice. The how doesn’t matter. The intention of being a fully present human does. So take a few moments to check in with yourself. I invite you to inhale deeply and exhale fully. Express gratitude for this moment and the incredible opportunity we have to be fully alive. And let me know what you discover.
There is no advantage to being one third of a human being.Russ Hudson author of The Wisdom of the Enneagram