A great deal of research is now available on the subject of mindfulness and the impact of contemplative practices on our health and well-being. Measurable benefits result from consistently engaging in present-focused states of being. Brain waves, heart functions and respiration become synchronized. The functioning of our immune and endocrine systems improves. As we feel more connected to ourselves and the world around us, compassion and empathy often develops naturally, resulting in more authentic interpersonal relationships.
We spend our lives unconsciously developing habits of thought and behavior. What fires together, wires together. When brain cells communicate frequently, the connection between them strengthens. Neural pathways are formed through repetition and then those pathways are more often taken, becoming reinforced even more. With enough repetition, they become automatic. Each experience, including our feelings, thoughts, sensations, and muscular actions becomes embedded in the network of brain cells. In the same way that dysfunctional patterns can become entrenched through repetition, we can also cultivate a responsive way of being if we practice on an on-going basis. The more we pause and pay attention, the more we remember to pause and pay attention. As we gradually become more aware of automatic patterns and reactivity, we have the option to change them.
Sensing does not have a ‘goal’ of relaxing or an ideal of how we should be, but of just being more fully attentive to what we are actually experiencing in any given moment, thus deepening our understanding of ourselves. Through direct sensory experience we find out how we, in particular, are. What we notice is that we are always in relationship: with gravity, the air, everything (whether we know it or not). Whatever is needed has the space to emerge naturally. Sensory Awareness experiments are just that: experiments. A seasoned leader has learned how to ask questions which deeply explore a broad range of sensory experience. Over time, we can internalize this consciously exploratory way of being and carry it into our daily lives.
You may find that:
- your ability to focus and pay attention is enhanced.
- cognitive flexibility increases.
- you have greater self-insight, curiosity and patience.
- you experience more empathy and compassion.
- you experience wonder and gratitude more often.
- you are better able to cope with stress and challenging situations.
- your listening skills improve.
- you are able to engage in your life with less effort and energy.
- you have a greater awareness of the interconnection present in all of life.
- you experience joy and pleasure in simple, every day activities.
- you become more responsive and less reactive.
Above all, you learn to trust the natural wisdom of your own responsiveness and aliveness.
Featured image, “Popcorn” © Robert Smith: visit his on-line gallery