The Sacred Pause and the Mind-Body Connection
Updated: Jul 28, 2021
Ever feel like your body and your brain are two separate and disconnected parts of you? Sometimes
the feeling is numbness or emptiness in the body while the brain is overthinking what happened in the past or anticipating the future. Alternatively, your body may be buzzing with energy while your thoughts are blank and stagnant. Your mood is off and you may end up irritated, frustrated, or feel little to no motivation. These are signs that you could use a mind-body practice to help reconnect what feels lost, unreachable, or scary.
The mind-body connection
Your whole self is a complex system of massive to microscopic parts. There is an energetic magnetism through nerve impulses and connective tissue that holds it all together, while assessing and connecting what is present outside of you. Many people believe that all thoughts, feelings and experiences occur in the brain, therefore if we think better, we feel better.
That is true, but only to a point.
Without awareness and connection to the body, we are missing out on vital information for not just survival but also optimal functioning. A mind-body practice incorporates awareness building of not just your brain and thought function, but also accesses the emotional, sensation-full, and intuitive parts of the body and self. Incorporating a mind-body practice helps you feel connected to your whole self and increases self trust and self compassion, both of which are intertwined with well-being.
Establishing a mind-body connection improves your health and well-being
The benefits of a mind-body practice are honestly too many to count! One of the best parts of a mind-body practice is that it is unique to each person. That said, there are several blessings of a mind-body practice that are true for most people who adopt this practice.
Regulate emotions - You become less reactive and more emotionally responsive
Calm your nervous system - For anyone that has a history of trauma, your nervous system doesn’t get the signals to calm down as efficiently. Consequently, you feel on-guard and have a challenging time relaxing or resting. A mind-body practice calms your nervous system as you acknowledge and validate your emotions and restore balance through breathing and releasing tension.
Improved relationships - A calmer nervous system and a reduction in emotional reactivity allows you to pause before you respond to others. Often when we are disconnected from our body or feel ungrounded (overthinking) the mechanism for survival is fight, flight, freeze, or fawn and creates dysfunctional patterns in communication and attachment. Pausing and connecting to your whole self before responding gives you access to your full truth and greater understanding and empathy for others. You may decide to put up a boundary when you previously wouldn’t have, or respond in a calm voice when you would have previously shouted.
Break the shame cycle - Shame is a bear of a feeling and activates our nervous system into a state of animal-like protection. Shame shuts down the ability to feel comfortable in the present situation and activates the critical or judgmental voice inside your mind. A mind-body connection practice helps you see past the initial sting of shame and plug into a self-compassionate or nurturing response.
The Sacred Pause - a 4-step process to connect the mind and body
Breaking the habit of disconnecting and overthinking requires a bit of work on your part. Thankfully, the process to connect your mind and body is fairly simple and doesn’t require anything extra, only your whole self and willingness to try something different.
It’s only four steps!
Stop - the first, and probably most challenging part, is to FULLY stop what you are doing. A mind-body connection practice requires your full attention so put down the phone, the work, the child, the dinner prep so you can focus.
Wet noodle - allow your body to become as limp as possible. This allows your body to communicate to your brain that it is safe to relax and turn inward instead of scanning for danger outward.
Breathe - take 3 to 5 deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth to regulate your breathing and heartbeat.
Name - take 3 minutes to explore your body from head to toe. Name sensations, emotions, and images you see in your mind’s eye. Your only job is noticing, not creating meaning or narrative around what you feel. The goal is complete acceptance but don;t get discouraged if this feels REALLY uncomfortable at first. In time, it will feel automatic and safe.
Cultivating a mind-body practice may feel uncomfortable when you start. Most people are not taught to connect to their body or experienced past trauma that makes them feel unsafe to be aware of their body, and all its sensations. Take this practice slow and gradual, but also make it consistent. If you find that practicing mind-body connection by yourself is triggering or causes dissociation, please seek out a qualified trauma psychotherapist and/or trauma informed yoga teacher or body worker.