(By Paolo Propato, LAc) My son likes to call the body the “meat suit” that just takes cues from the brain, helping it get from point A to point B. Instead, I like to think of the body as the most highly sophisticated antenna in existence, transmitting and receiving all types of information that connects us to the world. Our unconscious mind listens to this all the time, but sometimes we need to fine-tune the conscious mind to listen better.
For instance, take the very ground you walk on. Whether you are walking on soft moss, asphalt, tiles, pebbles… these all have a different effect on your joint angles and motor function, your vestibular sense, even your emotions. The body even senses electron exchange with the earth, if we permit it to have direct contact through our skin to conductive surfaces like soil and water. The sound and vibration of our foot falls, the temperature of the ground, the pain or pleasure of certain pressures and stretches on the foot, different types of footwear… it’s a never-ending exchange of information with your entire body, if you tune in and listen, and your body can learn and adapt from this information. I was told by one of my acupuncture teachers that in Japan, stroke patients are sometimes told to walk barefoot on a rocky beach as part of their rehabilitation.
To take another example: our emotional environment. Our very thoughts affect the functioning of the body, and just think of all the things that influence our thoughts on a daily basis!
Depending on whom you’re spending time with, you may feel more joyous, more stiff, relaxed, guarded… all with different impacts on your physiology. Maybe that news program or violent, suspenseful show affected the quality of your sleep, which the next day affected your hormones, your exercise and eating choices, and even your self-esteem. This principle extends even to the habits of your inner monologue. We all know if you are anxious, your entire body feels different than when you are excited, or when you are in love. It’s all information you can pick up on, if you can be mindful of it.
One of the beauties of acupuncture is that it doesn’t add anything– it just communicates with the body’s own intelligence, helping it find a better way to organize by giving a hint here and there. The same thing goes with other “suggestions” one can receive from the environment. What is your contact with the ground, or your emotional environment, or any other information telling you right now? Are you giving too much of yourself? Are you not moving your body enough, or in some cases too much? Are you relaxing? Having time in nature or with activities you enjoy? Are you eating what your body truly needs? These are not questions of judgment, but questions sometimes your body already knows the answer to, if you can find a way to tune in and listen.
Once I heard a story of a traveler who journeyed to meet a master that lived as a hermit on a mountaintop. When the traveler finally arrived he found the master sitting under the shade of a tree. The man humbly walked over and said, “Master, I have traveled a long way to be here. Can you give me any guidance for my life?” The master looked up at the man and with his finger wrote in the dirt: “Awareness.”
The traveler reads the word and a bit puzzled asks, “What does that mean?” The master just wrote, “Awareness means awareness.”
The traveler was frustrated to have come all this way for such a simple message. “I came a long way. Surely you can elaborate a bit more than that!” The master looked again at the man and wrote in the dirt, “Awareness means awareness means awareness.”
The other day my son and I were talking with a few people around a table, at one point he whispered in my ear, ”Daddy, relax your shoulders, they're all the way up to your ears.” Later I told him I was proud of him that he was aware of my posture and even how I was feeling emotionally about the situation around the table. I felt like that traveler in the story– my whole life I had been journeying up that mountain to find wisdom, but all the advice I needed was a kid saying, “Awareness.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.