Tuning Into Self
Recently someone asked me, “How do I become more self-aware?” Self-awareness has many implications for mental, interpersonal, and worldwide health.
A 5-minute practice I’ve found helpful to become more aware of our own emotions, responses, who we are, what we want is a simple Tuning or Checking in.
Tuning in can be a useful stand-alone practice to help with self-awareness, but it is also a way of knowing what we enter a particular situation with, and what is coloring our perception. I have used it before other practices such as bioenergetic grounding, tension & trauma release exercises, yoga or other practices, meeting new people, important conversations, exploring my own or other’s dreams, listening or moving to music. This checking in with body sensations is the beginning of many other skills such as emotional regulation, knowing what our emotions are so that we can use them as signals for decision making, communication, developing intimacy. Starting with knowing what we are sensing in our bodies gives us a starting point, a gauge. It helps us know how our perception is influenced by things other than what we are about to encounter.
Checking in with body sensations sets the stage for emotional regulation, better communication, emotional intimacy, and clarity.
When you first start this process, it will usually take you about 5 minutes. Once you are used to the practice, it can be quicker and can be done throughout the day or as needed. You can skim through the following text or use a recording the first time you do it. I have included some sensation words because most people will only identify if they have tight muscles or pain the first time they tune into their body.
Decide for today if you will do the process seated, lying down, or standing. Each of them has a unique benefit. What do you need today? You can have your eyes softly open or closed or alternate between opened and closed.
Put your awareness on each of your toes, the toe pads, the arch, the ankles. What do you sense? Is there pleasure? Are the feet and ankles spacious, open, airy, floaty, cool, warm, hot, or cold, condensed, open, heavy, light, something else? Is there tightness, tenderness, soreness, itchiness, electric feelings? Does each foot and ankle feel different? What about the back and the front? How do they relate to each other? If you are standing, where do you feel the weight in your feet? If you are lying down tune into where your feet and ankles meet the edge of your environment, the sheets, floor, furniture.
Move your awareness up to the lower legs and knees. Scan for any pleasurable sensations warm or cool, -releasing, flowing lightness, solidity. Now anything else- contractions, numbness. Does the back feel different from the front? Does the left feel different from the right? Is it loose, tight, solid, open, heavy, or light? Does it feel like a particular color, image, or emotion? Do you feel the air or your clothes, sheets or furniture touching your skin?
Now moving your attention to the upper legs and pelvis. Scanning first for pleasure. What sensations are here? Expansion, warmth, coolness, flow, fluidity, melting, or is it empty, thick, heavy, suffocated. Are the sides different? Are front and back different. How do they relate to each other?
Now your belly, and back, lower, and middle. What are the sensations? Are there emotions, colors, or images. Is it pleasantly full, warm, or cool, fluttery, comforted, expansive, squeezed, compacted or open?
Now your chest, upper back, warm or cool, flowing or still, streaming, releasing, jumpy or settled, empty or full.
Shoulders arms, hands-where is there streaming, flow, fluidity, warmth, coolness, congestion, frozenness, or heat. Tingles, prickles, clenched or open.
Neck, throat, jaw, mouth tongue, lips, cheeks, eyes, forehead, top of head, back of head. Where is it open, where does it feel closed. Are the sides different? Are front and back different?
Now scan your body as a whole. Where is your attention drawn? Where do you feel settled? Where is there activation? If there are emotions present, what are they? How do you sense emotion in your body?
Scan the back of your body and then the front? How do they feel different? How do they relate to each other?
Scan one side of your body and then the other? How do they feel different? How are they relating to each other?
Tune into your breath. Place your hand on the lowest part of your belly. Can you feel movement there?
Place your hand on your diaphragm & notice if there is movement.
Place your hand on your chest and notice if there is movement.
When you breathe is there a slight rocking of the pelvis and head?
Do you feel any impulses to move, yawn, breathe deeper?
Allow yourself to do that.
If this is new to you, listening to an audio as you go through the process may allow you to sense your body more and not have to think about the process. You might also benefit from listening to the audio while doing it the first time and then on subsequent days or times try it without any audio. We have a built-in tendency to scan for things to be fixed, so remember to tune into pleasurable sensations first.
I would love to hear your experiences with this or similar practices.