Bioenergetics and Mindfulness

Bioenergetics and mindfulness

You have probably heard of mindfulness in many contexts. It is a popular term for a very old concept. This old concept refers to something that people do spontaneously; we become aware of the present moment, with all the subtleties of that moment. This happens many times each day. However, we also may spend a lot of time in unawareness, or mindlessness. This can happen when we are “lost in our thoughts,” caught up in some internal story or conversation, struggling with memories or worries, or otherwise on auto-pilot and out of touch with what is happening right now.

Bioenergetic bodywork helps us to focus on the present moment by focusing on body sensation, movement, patterns of tension and relaxation, and even emotion. These experiences of the body are sometimes ignored or even pushed out of awareness. Bioenergetics allows us to locate ourselves in our bodies and, perhaps for the first time, really experience who we are, right here, right now.

A mindful state can be attained by simply paying attention.  Right here and now, stop reading and pay attention to your body sensations.  Feel your feet on the floor, your seat in the chair, your hands in your lap.  Notice how much of your weight you can let down into the chair.   Notice the breath as it enters your body.  Notice where it goes, and how it leaves your body.  Notice how much of your body moves with the breath.  Now just let that breathing happen, giving it about 25 percent of your attention, letting the rest of your attention just float.  Notice what it is like to let your attention rest lightly on your breath.  Notice what it is like to allow your attention to float.   Notice what it is like to be fully attentive to whatever is happening with your breath, with your body, in this moment…this moment…this moment.  This is mindfulness.  This is being with what is, right here and now.

Top-down, bottom-up?

How do you learn new information? We usually think of learning as the process we tried to engage in school. Someone told us something, and we “learned” it, meaning that we could, perhaps, parrot it back, or maybe even state the concept in other words (“in your own words…”). However, learning happens in lots of ways. I have learned more through my cooking experiments than from any cookbook or cooking class. When I notice that my cake is flat, or that my smoke detector is going off, or that this soup is just not, ummm, right….then I have an opportunity to learn something from my body’s response. This is more bottom-up than top down.

When we feel a “gut reaction” or some kind of unaccountability in our bodies, and we acknowledge and use that information, we are using bottom-up processing to help us manage top-down information. We’ve spent years and years refining our top-down methods, and really ignoring the messages that have been available through less verbal channels. It makes sense, though, for us to use, actively and with awareness, all of the information we have to make decisions, to problem solve, and to just check in with ourselves.

Try this: take a moment to just sit and notice your breathing. You might find yourself paying attention to how your body sits in the chair, or how your feet feel on the floor, but try to attend to the ways that air moves into and out of your body. Then open up a little space to see what else is in there? What else do you notice besides the fact that you are breathing? What other sensations are available to you? Just check it out and see if there is anything happening inside you that you might not have been aware of before you took time to check in on your bottom-up processes.