My work as a Somatic Psychotherapist, Personal trainer and Bodhisattva is to help others engage and participate with themselves. In doing so we create change. Most if not all of my clients are seeking help to understand and establish what changes they would like to make in life. After the clarity of knowing what you want gets established, then the work of change begins. How do I get from here to there?
My Zen teacher Reb Anderson once said during a Dharma talk, "You just have to know what you want.". He left that statement lingering in the thick air of a full meditation hall for long moments then followed with, "This is simple, not easy. This is the Buddha's way.".
The root of this teaching has stayed with me for 27 years. For an abbot of a Buddhist Sangha knowing what you want means being fully committed to end of suffering for all sentient beings. This is the Bodhisattva vow the abbott has taken.
For many of us knowing what you want starts with breakfast only to be followed by a myriad daily decision both conscious and unconscious. Then there are big decisions that shape our lives: Should I marry him? What is my next career move? What do I want to do with my life?
I have found that for all such questions the path to knowing what you want begins with self engagement, feeling the sensations, emotions and feelings that are constantly available to us in varying degrees. It is also my experience that once we are well on the path to knowing what we want, the vehicle for change is also self engagement. Why self engagement? Because we, our bodies, are the vehicle in which our entire lives happen. We are our vehicle to change.
There are four concrete steps to creating change in our lives using our bodies.
Sensation is something that is always there for us in varying degrees. It is part of the nature of being Human. Subtle sensation such as the feeling of pressure in the relationship of my hand resting on my leg, to the full body excitement of seeing your child's birth. Sensation is possible because we all have nervous systems that allow us to feel our internal selves and external world.
Awareness is the arrival of our "noticing mind". This is the mind of presence. Moment to moment engaging our noticing mind and allowing ourselves to feel our sensations. A "feeling" is the noticing mind's meaning making of a sensation. A sensation that has not been noticed for all intensive purposes is not there. A sensation which is felt is noticed, we are aware of that feeling and sensation.
Meditation is a tool for developing awareness or your ability to notice. One thing we do when we meditate is train ourselves to pay attention by brining awareness to our breath. Just as doing pushups regularly will strengthen your chest, core, back, neck, thighs, meditation will strengthen your body and brain's ability to communicate more clearly through your nervous system. Meditation strengthens the system that supports awareness of bodily sensation.
Possibility is the opportunity that arises with the awareness of sensation. If there is for example the awareness of tension in your neck, then the possibility of relaxing your shoulders may appear. If there is this sensation, then there is another sensation to be organized and felt. Other is possibility, possibility becomes the opportunity in change. Not liking your job is one layer of awareness that can lead you to identifying another job you may want.
Movement is the action of life, the transitioning from here to there. As we are in bodies and bodies are designed to do one thing, move, movement is the action of change. Movement is also where the four steps of change becomes circular rather than linear. In movement we have the constant opportunity to have further awareness of sensations that arise as a result of movement. The speed, flexibility, tension, intention and gathering that creates a movement's nature are all subject to change and therefore participation. Deciding to read this 10% slower may allow you to take in meaning more deeply or leave you feeling disconnected as the uptake of information is no longer stimulating.
Change is inevitable and a inherent part of life. Having influence over the change that is happening in your life requires these four steps of self participation.
Try practicing sensation, awareness, possibility and change today while choosing a meal to eat and notice how it influences your decisions.
If you are inclined to be the driver of your vehicle for change, I suggest you feel your hands on the wheel, butt in your seat and eyes focused forward. Participating with yourself this way leads to you being the creator in the journey of your life. The view up front is much better than the view from the back seat.