It goes all the way back to new pencils, squeaky shoes and the smell of floor polish mixed with autumn leaves — September is suffused with the juice of new beginnings, possibility, and growth.
Rising early these past weeks, I’ve been pondering my focus and intent for fall. This phrase keeps surfacing “Tension masks sensation, and sensation is the language of the body”.
Several years ago when I first read that quote by Nancy Stark Smith, it stopped me in my tracks: “Sensation is the language of the body.” It seemed to me a perfectly simple yet perfectly comprehensive metaphor ~ the essence of living an embodied life.
“That’s a conversation I want to be part of” I thought. “I want to get fluent in that language.”
It’s an idea that still intrigues me no end.
We spend so much time engaged mentally with the language of words. In practical terms, our language is inseparable from the thoughts that shape us. Our words are more powerful than we know.
Language is fluid and alive. We connect-in and we connect-out through the words we choose and use.
Like speech, sensation communicates. Sensation connects. The mechanisms for generating and perceiving sensation are amazing. They are as complex, nuanced, and adaptable as any grammar. Proprioception, neural maps, joint receptors, muscle spindles, nerve fibers and intricate feedback loops make up the syntax of sensation.
This orderly arrangement of impulses and processes gives us a physical “sense of self”and, by extension, allows us to experience being-in-relationship ~ to our physical bodies, to each other and to the rest of the world.
As with any language, as we gain fluency we perceive more subtlety and meaning. Developing sensory awareness opens the door to an ever wider range of expression and connection.
Sensation, Awareness and Mindfulness
Awareness of sensation is at the heart of cultivating mindfulness. This is true for formal meditation practice and for being more mindful in general. It is one important key to moving mindfully through the day.
Having a conscious movement practice can be a beautiful way to explore the language of sensation. For me, this type of practice is a very direct path to personal healing, insight and a way of connecting to the joy of movement itself ~ of being-in-motion.
In practicing and teaching Nia™ we often focus on five key sensations of Flexibility, Agility, Mobility, Strength and Stability (FAMSS). Learning to recognize and nurture our connection to these qualities as sensation then becomes a path to embodying them as qualities for life.
For example, how might we develop a more flexible attitude or approach on the job, in our relationships, with ourselves? How can we engage a sense of mobility or agility to skillfully juggle schedules and competing demands? Where do we recognize our strength and stability in challenging times?
As metaphors for skillful living, we could do a lot worse.
So, for the next five months, I invite you to consider with me each of these fundamental qualities: Flexability, Agility, Mobility, Strength and Stability. I invite us to play with the language of sensation, and in the process to explore the many other ways we might cultivate these qualities ~ in movement and stillness, in practice and in daily life.
Let’s lean into this metaphor a little and see where it leads.
October is nearly here, so let’s begin with… Flexibility!
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