Body and Body Awareness
It is important to understand that the body and the mind work together. In deep meditation, one starts to experience the different layers of the mind, and finds that what we think of as the conscious mind is generally pretty much the last to know what’s going on.
The diagram below shows a flowchart view of how mind and body work together, and helps to explain why awareness of body sensations is helpful.
To start with, sense objects (everything outside of us) are constantly coming into contact with our sense receptors (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin) and the sense receptors then send a signal to the brain.
For instance, suppose that your eye sense receptors are sending signals to your brain from the picture below.
The unconscious mind recognizes the signals it is receiving from the eyes as a spider and assigns a judgment based on your past experience. Based on this judgement, chemical and electrical signals are immediately sent to all parts of the body. These signals create physical sensations in the body, and thoughts in the conscious mind – pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral according to the judgment.
Since this is just a picture, you are probably not experiencing a very strong reaction right now. However, if the spider was crawling up your leg you would probably feel stronger sensations.
Sometimes, the conscious mind recognizes that we are having these sensations – generally as an emotion. Often however, we simply react automatically and ignore what is going on in the body.
Automatic reaction confirms not only the belief held by the mind, but also the chemical pathway in the body, and makes the same reaction more likely to happen in the future. Mind and body build a biochemical reaction system that is ready to go instantaneously and automatically. The more the pattern is repeated, the stronger it gets.
If I am afraid of spiders and I am unaware of my own reactions, then both my mind and my body will make sure that I become more afraid of them each time I encounter them, and I will have to live with the resulting uncomfortable feelings that this entails.
This same system explains why we get more of what we focus on. Both mind and body actively entrench - and make physical - whatever we deeply believe in, and whatever we allow ourselves to repeat.
Working closely with the body in counselling can help to develop awareness of body sensations. Doing this helps to unlock memories, emotions, and tensions that may have been held for many years. Unlocking these held tensions in the body helps to change the mind as well, and to gradually produce an ability to live with a greater sense of well-being, comfort and confidence. Since any kind of holding in the body can eventually turn into physical illness, unlocking these holding patterns also helps to promote better health.