Head Shoulders Knees and Toes
I have been studying the work of Dr. Peter Levine, founder of Somatic Experiencing, a pioneering somatic approach to treating trauma. One effect of trauma on people is a disconnection between body and soul. He writes that skin numbness is a common manifestation of that disconnection. He offers a simple exercise that helps to increase sensation and woo the soul back into the body.
He suggests that when you take a shower, you use one of those pulsing shower heads. Focus all of your attention and awareness on the areas of your body that the shower stream contacts. Notice the quality of the sensations that arise. He writes:
"Hold the backs of your hands to the shower head; then the palms and wrists; then both sides of your face, shoulders, underarms, etc. Be sure to include every part of your body; head, forehead, neck, chest, back, legs, pelvis, hips, thighs, ankles, and feet. While you are doing this, say, "this is my head, neck," etc. "I welcome you back."
I was very interested in this. It seemed not only like a gentle effective way to unite body and soul, but a terrific mindfulness practice. I have been looking for ways to help people bring the benefits of mindfulness to their daily routines. It is so very hard for people to take the time to remember to build in reminders to be mindful, let alone to sit in formal meditation.
Wouldn't it seem that weaving mindfulness practice into already established routines would be helpful? You have to shower everyday, yes? Why waste that time in lala land worrying about your day when you do it? Instead, you can actually focus on the present moment sensory experience of your body as Dr. Levine suggests.
I tried this practice and like it very much. The novelty and insistence of the water pressure made it easy for me to remember to be attentive to the present moment. I also shared the idea with a friend who added washing dishes and cooking to the list of daily activities into which we can easily build mindfulness.
So simple. So clarifying and life enhancing. Just focus on one thing at a time on the activities that we do every day. Just try one to start with. And voila! You are on the path to building your mindfulness muscles and a fresher more vivid way of living!