Last week I had my Rolfing appointment with David McDonald http://www.sanctitycenter.com and during this experience, I mindfully brought my attention to the sensations of my body as he targeted areas of tension and injury. As he moved into these areas, I noticed how my first thought was, "wow is this painful." I realized in that moment how easily my mind could pull me away from the gifts of the moment.
Knowing that I could at that moment be swept away into thought and miss the experience of his healing touch, I instead brought attentive breath and my focus back to the muscular area where so much tension resided. As I dropped into the area of tension, I sensed the tightness in the muscle and felt how with breathing how it loosened the area.
My thinking was attempting to drive this experience, but I kept very active attention on my breath and the deep massaging that David was doing. This process of struggling with my thoughts and returning again to the mindfulness of the moment went on for the entire hour of the Rolfing.
Over the years I have realized how often I have taken an uncomfortable encounter and brought thinking instead of mindfulness. I let go of my physical resistance to what I might previously perceive as pain. Instead of intellectual thinking, the process became a very healing experience of touch.
How often have you taken a touch experience and got lost in your head of thoughts? You can get lost wondering what it meant or didn’t mean and then your entire experience can be lost before you appreciate it. As a Sexuality Counselor, I often hear patients express negative associations around being touched by their partner. When patients explain where their thoughts go, it’s most often that their thoughts are in a circle and cycle of negative thoughts.
Our histories, patterns and life experiences are held within our neurobiological system. The process of changing thoughts, emotions and behavior patterns becomes the work of presence which is done in a state of mindfulness. If you are aware, we are able to be mindful of the patterns we don't desire and choose the thoughts that create a new pattern for yourself.
Mindfulness of touch may mean for each of us the ability to be free from interpreting stimulus like touch or contact with our environment as “pain” or something inherently negative. If we are able to stop the thinking of our brain that does it’s job by default, to think, and instead just be with a sensation as it arises we will encounter life with freedom.
Choosing to live life with this perspective does take courage to be present verses drifting from one thought process to the next. In the words of Gandi, “Freedom doesn’t mean the absence of restrictions. It means possessing unshakable conviction in your choices in the face of an obstacle.”
Sherri Aikin is a Fellow of Integrative Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, Sex Counselor, Mindfulness Facilitator, and Life Coach.
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