Tip of the Week - Subtle Body Awareness
Are you in touch with all of you?
Have you ever noticed how at the physical (gross-body) level, we talk a lot about "mind, body, spirit", but we don't talk as much about "heart, gut, we-space, or subtle-body"?
What if there were potent, powerful subtle aspects of yourself that you could access and strengthen?
For example, let's take the subtle side of your brain. Day-to-day experience puts our brains in a state called "beta-brain", a frequency of vibration right around 12 Hz to 40 Hz. Beta-brain is fantastic for focus, getting tasks done, and navigating logistics. It's also great if you need to run from danger. However, we have other brain-wave frequencies we can cultivate, like alpha, delta and theta frequencies. Any inexpensive binaural-beat-app can help you explore these other brain-frequency meditations and brain states.
In these other brain-wave states, we experience the world around us differently. We may even experience an expanded state of consciousness. Our perception is modified. It's a lot like tuning a radio to a different station, and picking up different news or new information.
Besides altered brain-states, there are other aspects of human capacity beyond the purely physical, for example, intuition and the felt sense. Do you have a felt sense of your personal space? Have you ever felt the way a great actor can fill a theater with an enormous presence? Do you remember ever suddenly feeling someone across the room staring at you? Have you heard stories of martial artists who can feel attackers approaching from behind, even with a blindfold on? Have you ever had "a gut feeling" about someone, even though you had no evidence about it until later?
Some traditions refer to this felt-sense, our mind's eye, and other intangible phenomena as the "subtle body". For thousands of years, maybe longer, there have been practices among the mystics that cultivate and leverage this felt-sense, also sometimes called Chi, or Qi, or the energy body. Psychologists studying this 'energy body' have discovered that we emit an electromagnetic toroidal field that emanates from the heart, and another that emanates from the brain. The science of limbic resonance often studies the effects of this subtle, intangible yet very powerful subtle-body aspect.
Imagine hearing someone insist that, from now on, all humans were to abandon all absolutely functional right-arms and never use them again. The ban on right-arm-use would permit left-arm use only! Anyone using their right arms would be ridiculed, villified and shunned. If someone tried to pass a law about this, you might think them a touch insane, right?
Likewise, when we neglect or dismiss available aspects of our wholeness, this self-disconnect and imbalance can be very subtly crazy-making. Man disconnected from the subtle gifts of nature destroys the very environment he needs to thrive. People disconnected from subtle non-verbal communication in others can become relationally dysfunctional, or worse, socially isolated. The more we cultivate our whole humanity and whole capacity, the more able we are to mobilize resources in the moment as needed.
Practices such as values-based empathy, nature mysticism, Qi gong, Tai Chi (Tai Qi), Tonglen, Reiki (Rei Qi), Psycholagny, Cranio-sacral work, Telepathy, lucid dreaming and communicating with the elementals, all depend on cultivating subtle-body skills.
For some, subtle-body practice can even overlap experiences that go beyond the ego, beyond the body (ex: out-of-body experiences and remote viewing), and beyond the individual mind (ex: Jungian collective unconscious). Some refer to these as "transpersonal" experiences.
In any case, human beings are capable of experimenting with and accessing subtle-body wisdom. If it helps you, you might think about subtle-body awareness as "tuning into your inner radar", that really quiet part of you that only comes out when the mind is silent, like while camping, meditating or while walking in nature.
Try the practice below to support your subtle-body cultivation.
And remember, if you don't get anything during this practice quite yet, be patient. Give it time. The more you cultivate a no-mind, non-beta-brain state, the more your pure observer and your capacity to tune into subtle body phenomena will grow. In time, you will more naturally and more absent-mindedly notice information on your inner radar. Some people naturally have more dense neural connections between the auditory center and the emotional center of the brain. Some of us have to build up that circuitry with practice. Just keep observing. And breathe.
9 Steps Toward Increased Subtle Body Awareness
1. From a comfortable seated position with your feet on the floor and your back straight, begin taking longer, slower, deeper breaths. Notice how many seconds it takes to inhale, and how many seconds it takes to exhale. On the next breath, see if you can extend the count even longer. On the next breath, allow your belly to expand even more on the inhale, and compress even more exhale out on the exhale.
2. On your next few long breaths, start scanning your body, and relax. Let your feet soften, and your ankles. Let your calves melt toward the floor, and your knees. Let your thighs restfully soften, and your pelvis. Let your belly relax. Let your fingertips, palms and wrists soften. Let your forearms and elbows relax. Let your upper arms, shoulders and neck soften. Continue breathing long, slow, breaths. And relax. Let your face, ears and scalp relax. Take one more deep, long breath.
3. On the next breath, imagine circulating an imagined "energy body". On the inhale, imagine energy cascading down the front of the body, filling your belly and pooling down in the pelvic base. On your exhale, imagine energy floating up from your pelvic base, flowing up your spine, flowing up the back of your neck, passing over your tongue, along the roof of your mouth, and tumbling back down the front of your body on the next inhale again. On the next inhale, circulate the energy down the front, pooling in the bottom, up the back on the exhale, over the tongue, down the front on the next inhale.
4. If you have not done a circular breath practice like this before, or haven't done one in a while, allow yourself another 5 breaths of this "energy body" circulation. Notice any sensations in your body.
5. Now, imagine a sphere in the core of your body, behind your belly button, about 4" below your navel. Maybe the sphere is the size of a golf ball, or a baseball, or a volleyball. What size is your sphere? Does it have a color or a texture?
6. Continue your long, slow circular breath. On your next inhale, see if you can expand that core sphere, like blowing up a balloon. Take your time. Watch what the shape does as you inhale with the intent to expand your subtle body sphere.
7. On the next inhale, as you expand the sphere, take note of the sensations and information within that sphere. Just notice, observe, matter-of-factly. What sounds are in your sphere? What movements? What shapes or images does your minds-eye see as you explore your growing subtle-body sphere? Focus on this for a few more breaths.
8. On the next inhale, see if you can expand the sphere even more. Again tune into the very edge of your sphere. Tune into the sensations, movements, objects and sounds there, and within your sphere. Do this for a few more breaths.
9. On the next inhale, expand even more, if it will let you. With practice, you will be able to expand the sphere to envelop your entire body, or the room, or the entire building. You may even be able to expand your subtle-body sphere far beyond the state, or the planet. Practice sensing another person's personal space, even from across the room. Practice sensing the energy body of a nearby tree or plant. Just observe and watch, matter-of-factly. What information or images or sounds or phrases come across your inner radar as you circulate your breath and expand your felt sense? Now feel, see, listen and sense for input beyond your own sphere, outward into the expanse of the Cosmos itself. What information or images or sounds or phrases come across your inner radar as you circulate your breath and expand your felt sense? Just observe.
10. When you are ready, wiggle your fingers and toes, and slowly begin moving your body and awareness back to your usual state. Open your eyes.
Just as we can tune our presence outward to the space around us, or inward to tune into the body, or even deeper inward to tune into inner guidance, we can also tune our presence to information and guidance around us.
Try sitting in this practice beside a tree, and lay your hands on the tree. What images, phrases, felt sense, or communication do you observe on your inner radar? Just observe it, just notice, matter-of-factly.
Ask a friend permission to practice this practice with them. Sit beside them, and try tuning into them. From the inner radar, what images, phrases, felt sense, or communication do you observe on your inner radar when you tune into your friend? Just observe it, just notice, matter-of-factly.
In the practice of tonglen, we help each other reduce stress by silently breathing in their sadness, despair, or loneliness, and breathing out compassion, love and companionship into their subtle field.
In shamanism, we tune the inner radar to the subtle body of nature. Try to feel the subtle body sphere of a river, or a mountain, or the wind, or a forest. Offer them appreciation and love. What do you detect on your inner radar after you have done this?
The more we integrate and cultivate our subtle and transpersonal aspects, the more whole, balanced, and resourced we can become. Circular breath practices can help us reduce stress, feel more grounded, and grow patience and tolerance. Listening beyond ourselves helps us grow humility, wisdom and understanding.
Like organs in the larger body, our practices and choices help make the world we live in. Practicing subtle-body awareness, we help cultivate a more vital, connected, understanding group body.
Thank you for your part in fostering an increasingly wonderful world.