Embodied Mindfulness ~ A guided practice and discussion with Kent Brun
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy supports you in exploring your embodied experience to gain greater self-awareness, process unresolved emotions and trauma, reduce stress and anxiety, uncover limiting core beliefs, and take meaningful steps toward a more authentic and empowered life.
Embodied Mindfulness ~ A guided practice and discussion with Kent Brun
This blog article was written for Stretch Vancouver
In the summer of 2013, I sustained a brain injury that forced me to drop out of school and take a significant amount of time off work. Many people are aware that a concussion can lead to headaches, nausea, dizziness, pressure in the head, difficulty focusing, and sensitivity to light and noise, but not everyone knows that anxiety and depression are also common symptoms. I had every symptom in the book and was also in a lot of physical pain.
For months my doctors told me to do nothing but rest (we know now that a gradual return to activities better supports recovery than long-term rest). During that time, I barely left my house because I was completely overwhelmed by the outside world and would often break down into tears. I felt imprisoned by my symptoms. My nervous system felt raw and fragile, and I was triggered easily. I remember days where I would lay on my couch and just cry and cry, not really knowing what I was sad about. I felt isolated because my injury was invisible; the people close to me couldn’t understand what I was going through. Unable to do the things I usually derived purpose from, I felt like my entire life was on hold, as if I was waiting around to get my life going again. This waiting caused me emotional distress. Then one day, in a flash of awareness, it dawned on me that my life wasn’t on hold – it was still happening, RIGHT NOW. Life was going to continue ticking along, moment by moment, whether I was present to it or not. I realized that I could either choose to continue resisting the what-is, and spin in the frustration of not being able DO my normal life, or I could let BEING be enough, whatever that looked and felt like in the moment. In the midst of a thick mental and emotional fog, the awareness that I could choose to let BEING be enough was like a beacon of light, and it also challenged my perspectives on self-worth. Like most of us, I had been assigning value to my life based on what I was doing and accomplishing. Despite having an established meditation practice for years, and even taken a week of silence at an ashram, I had never had the opportunity in my daily life to stop doing everything and just BE for weeks on end. I don’t think I have ever really considered the worthiness of my “beingness” in the absence of action, outside of meditation. This difficult time was a blessing in disguise because it became a bridge between my meditation practice and my life, and it deepened my understanding of mindfulness. I returned to a regular breathing and mindfulness practice, and these practices became the medicine that brought me back to myself in a whole new way, with more compassion, kindness, gentleness, and a greater sense of self-worth.
Video by Hossein Meimani for STRETCH
I remember feeling confused about the concept of intention. It was almost 10 years ago, and I was training to become a yoga therapist. My intention was to support individuals on their journey to holistic wellness, but I was being told by my teachers to “let go of outcome”. How could I hold the intention to help my clients heal (or have any intentions at all for that matter) and simultaneously not care about the outcome? It felt like a paradox.
I reached out to Elissa Cobb, one of my yoga therapy teachers, for guidance. She told me, “As soon as I focus on controlling the outcome, my intention ceases to exist…I have to let go in order to receive what I want.” Her perspective felt radical at the time, and it sparked a new understanding for me about the nature of intention that continues to inspire my work with clients today.
At the time, my confusion had sprung from a false association between “letting go” and not caring, when in fact the opposite is true. Letting go of outcome doesn’t mean you don’t care about your goals or your vision, it means that you are freeing yourself to be fully present in the moment so that you can actually manifest what you want. Manifestation isn’t magic. It happens incrementally through the moment-to-moment, day-to-day choices we make. Where your attention goes, energy flows.
Here’s why intentions focused on a specific future outcome are often unsuccessful:
1) As much as we try, (99.99% of the time) we are not in control of how things turn out in the end. All we are in control of if how we show up in the moment.
2) When we try to control the outcome, and only look to how we want things to be different in the future, we lose sight of how we are showing up in the moment, and we are at a greater risk for experiencing stress and anxiety.
Anxiety is a future-oriented mood state characterized by worry, and stress often comes from feeling overwhelmed by looking ahead to everything that has to get done. As Seneca the Elder said, “we often suffer more from imagination than from reality.” Michael Lee, the founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, taught me that intention is about how we BE. And how we BE informs what we DO.
Intention is the PRACTICE of FEELING what you want, and the more you practice it, the more you manifest it! Intentions are manifested through the practice of Embodied Mindfulness. Rather than saying you want a certain thing to happen, ask yourself how it would FEEL if that outcome was already a reality (yup, right now!).
For example, let’s say you want to accept yourself more this year. What does acceptance FEEL like in your body? Is it light, open, soft, warm, connected? Your body is constantly sending signals to your brain for interpretation. A study found that people felt happier when they held a pencil between their teeth rather than between their lips – a fake smile tricked the brain into feeling happier!
So think of your intention as the mindful practice of “faking it till you make it”. Just like when you first started practicing yoga (or any other activity that requires technique), many of the poses probably felt awkward and uncomfortable, but as you continued to practice, those poses started to feel more natural and even pleasant. If you want to master anything, you have to practice.
The question is, what kind of experience do you want to manifest? Once you identify one to three words that describe how you want to feel (such as “Open”, “Connected”), let those words be your guide, like a mantra, and start practicing. Feel the energy of those words in your body. Breathe them into all the cells of your being. Let them fill you up. And watch what happens!
It’s important to acknowledge that we are (unconsciously) practicing how to be all the time. For example, we practice worrying, complaining, doubting, feeling tense, or not having time for self-care.