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The Five Inner Senses of Embodiment
Embodiment is a radical science, life-changing method, and lineage of ancestral wisdom that improves physical, emotional, and social well-being. Its key revelation is that the body has a mind—a power, presence, and awareness—of its own, and this awareness shapes us as much as we shape it. Many people are aware that well-being requires a strong mind-body connection. What isn’t yet common knowledge is what the body part of that connection entails. Over the last decade, science has shed new light on the factors that lead to well-being, but some of the most important insights into the body’s true potential haven’t yet reached mainstream understanding. From a young age, most of us are familiar with the five major senses that help us process the world around us: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Yet no one tells us that we have inner senses, too, which help us perceive the world inside
Why Optic Flow Restores Us
Boosting optic flow is a powerful and effective way to nourish physical and emotional well-being. Optic flow refers to the unique sensation that occurs when you perceive your environment actively moving in relationship to your body’s movements. What’s at play here? As you walk, bike, run, or swim, objects in your environment appear to move. During a walk, for example, objects grow larger as you approach; this lets you know you’re getting closer. During a swim, you perceive the bottom of the pool (or lake or ocean) receding underneath you, or objects on the side moving as you turn your head to breathe. In optic flow your eyes move, continually updating your brain on your location. That’s not all optic flow does for you. Your visual system links closely with (read: is part of) your autonomic nervous system. Activating your sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system ignites the stress response. This dilates
Neuroplasticity, boundaries, and the body
In a multiple-slide post on my Instagram feed, I talked about neuroplasticity, the science of change (and, um, how things can stay the same) in a 10-frame post. But that doesn’t lend itself well to this format, so here’s the text for you. Neuroplasticity refers to the role of the brain and nervous system (which includes the autonomic + enteric nervous systems) in helping create change. In this post, I’d like to apply that very cool science to the art + practice of setting good interpersonal + intrapersonal boundaries. Emerging research suggests that we can target a behavior we’d like to strengthen (or extinguish) by focusing not just on the practice itself, but on the prelude and postlude that precede and follow it. This helps recruit our attentional centers to pay attention. It supercharges our motivational system. And it deepens the relationship we have with the behavior we want to
Empathic Differentiation Practice
This practice, the Empathic Differentiation Exercise, is the icing on the cake of boundary practices. It’s particularly useful for empaths and highly-sensitive people. It is most effective when you’ve just had an experience of emotional contagion—when you’ve been “infected” by someone else’s emotions and can’t figure out how you feel or what your needs are (a common happening for empaths, as I can attest). This practice depends on doing regular Embodied Check-Ins (directly below) so you know the topography of your own emotions: where they show up in your body, the range of “forms” they can take, and how intense or invasive they feel. Then, when you’ve had a potentially contagious encounter with someone, do the Embodied Check-In. You already know what it feels like when your own emotions are present in your body, and where they are present. (This isn’t to say that what’s really yours always presents
On Russia’s Genocide of the Ukrainian People
When my mother was just 7 years old, Hitler began World War II by invading Poland, aided by the Russians. Soviet forces came in the middle of the night, took her family from their home, and placed them on cattle cars in a long train to Siberia. They took hundreds of thousands of people; many died of cold and illness on the way, and still more in Siberia. My mother and her family spent two years as prisoners of war in a Soviet internment camp. The Russian soldiers were brutal. I am the eldest of three. My entire life, I’ve had a visceral, irrational, mystifying, embarrassing fear of running out of food despite always having enough to eat. During Covid, we skyped with my aunt, who is 90. She too was the eldest of three, with my Mom and a younger sister. She told us the fear of going hungry made
Protected: Why Mess with Savasana?
There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.
Body Clocks + Biorhythms: Immunity, Mood, and Well-Being
A few weeks ago, I did a post on Seasonal Affective Disorder that advised exposure to light early in the day (within two hours of waking) and recommended other practices. That post lacked context, and prompted the apology post you’ll see after it. At the time, I promised to provide that context. Here it is. Almost all species have internal rhythms and a sense of time, which are the focus of a field now known as chronobiology. We have internal circadian (24-hour) clocks that generate and shape daily cycles in our physiology, emotion, and behavior. Most organisms inherit the ability to track time on this 24-hour scale. For example, bees use their clocks to visit flowers at the appropriate time of day so they can feed when flowers are open. Birds use their biological clocks during migration to compensate for the changing position of the sun throughout the day. Other
The Art of Inquiry: How to Create and Undo + Create Ourselves:
You know those rare moments when an idea, person, or experience moves you from a static place to a place of disorganization and discomfort, but ultimately, transformation? One of those occurred for me in March of 2017. I was in the middle of a strength training session in the gym, casually listening to an On Being podcast episode which featured the poet, theologian, and social healer Padraig O’Tuama. His words hit me mid-pullup, echoing in the special way that signals things will never be the same. The passage: “There’s a Buddhist concept,” says O’Tuama, “where if you’re asking a poor question—if a question is being asked, “Are you this or that?” Robert Pirsig says that you can answer, according to his telling of the Zen tradition, you can answer with the word mu, m-u, which means, “Un-ask the question, because there’s a better question to be asked.” The question
How sexual harassment impacts our sense of personal space
Proprioception is our sixth sense. It encompasses our awareness of movement, the position of our body and its parts in space, how we occupy space, balance, the senses of effort and force and heaviness, and our posture or shape. Proprioception also includes the space around our bodies—and sometimes others’ bodies too. It involves a symphony of actions, reactions, predictions, and functions in which multiple instruments playing both in harmony and in a state of intelligent entropy. Proprioception is not just part of our sensorium. It’s a scaffold for our sense of self. And an integral part of proprioception—and thus, our sense of self—is how we negotiate peripersonal space, the area that surrounds our bodies. Peripersonal space is brought to us in part by the frontal and parietal regions in the brain. These regions team up with peripersonal neurons throughout our bodies in a mutual and multi-sensory network of visual, auditory,
Neuroplasticity is a Social Construct
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s capacity to change with experience—plastic meaning mutable. If we play the piano once, we briefly stimulate the piano-playing centers of the brain, and not much changes. Play every day for a year, however, and the brain transforms in several ways. It can grow new cells. It can enhance cell size or cell activity. It can prune away pathways that are no longer used, a process known as neural sculpting. And it can forge new relations between entire networks of cells; this is called connectivity. These cellular changes occur in service to getting better at what we practice—in this case, playing the piano. We practice other things, too, some of them not so harmless. Neuroplasticity is also a social construct. It evokes the way communities shape themselves through practice. We change or stay the same because of and in relation to one another. Think of the