When the body hurts, it is understandable that we seek distraction, medication, or a place and time other than right here and now. When thoughts are stuck in disgust, fear, inadequacy, shame, or dislike, it is understandable that we try – mentally – to go elsewhere. It follows that we distract ourselves with food, drugs, mindless exercise, social dramas, or other abstractions and entertainments.
In attempting to escape discomfort, this path of mentally leaving the body leads us away from healing, away from our aliveness, away from our humanity. When we step into an abstraction, into some “better” place, we desert the body and our breathing.
The good news: this path is not one-way. The moment we step onto the path, we need only one ounce of attention that says, “Hey, wait a minute. You can walk the other way on this path.” And so we turn around and walk the other way.
Into a space where there are no distractions. No screens, no devices, no music, not even a picture on the wall. Into a sanctuary where there is you, you, and you. Your breathing, your living body, and your observation of your own mind. Concentration, attention, and stillness.
In this space, there is also a simple, constant voice of precise instruction. Guiding my mind with every word. Telling me which body part to move, and exactly when and how to move it. And then I just hold, in stillness, with normal breathing. Paying attention.
In those moments I realize that the body is so intelligent, so capable, a marvel of miraculous function. I also instantly forgive myself for all the years spent escaping, blaming, wishing away, harming, or criticizing the body. Because the moment any of us goes back towards the body and its aliveness, the moment we pay attention, breathe, move just an inch, and hold still, the moment we involve our whole self…..we just feel so much better.
And then I realize that THAT is where I want to go, the next time that my body or thoughts are unpleasant. I want – and I choose – to take the path back into my body, rather than away.
Ann Chrapkiewicz, M.A. (Medical Anthropology, MSU), founded Bikram Yoga Capital Area in 2013 and teaches there daily. She can be reached through her website, www.byca.yoga