“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” James Joyce
I struggled with eating disorders for 10 years. First anorexia, then bulimia. One of the problems with these conditions is that you become increasingly numb. You learn to override hunger and fullness cues, press mute on your senses and gradually become less and less connected to reality. Over the last few years, I have been working on bringing that sensitivity back with short daily practices that I have designed. With great success, I am pleased to report!
There are many reasons that we lose sensitivity. Much of what we do becomes habitual and automatic, we take painkillers so that we don’t have to feel physical pain, we suppress uncomfortable emotions and build walls to protect ourselves from repeating painful experiences like heartbreak, abandonment and failure. The consequences of this are not good.
When we ignore or suppress sensation, our bodies learn quick. They become quiet. Distress signals are harder to detect and our ability to tune in is diminished. We become detached, disconnected and disembodied. We start to live too much in our heads, taunted by that relentless inner critic. And lose access to aspects of our personality that might open us up to emotional distress, like vulnerability, authenticity and an adventurous spirit.
Here is one of my daily practices. It’s one of 12 daily to-dos that I mark off on my Streaks app. It’s called One-Minute Sense Pleasure and it’s very simple. During the day, at some point, you stop for a minute and tune deeply into your senses.
You could stop and smell your coffee. Notice the feeling of your fingers on the cup. Listen to the sounds that you make with each sip. Feel the warm coffee slide down the back of your throat. You could get into Dead Pigeon pose and breathe into the sensations deep in your hip socket. You could look at a tree, not the concept of a tree but the actual tree. The individual twigs and leaves. The colours and shades. The movement and stillness of the branches. You could run the water to ice cold for a minute of your shower. Feel it splashing down on the back of your neck. Notice how your body instinctively wants to close up. Or when you’re taking an Uber, you could close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Near and far. Noticing that you can’t hold onto them. Or if you’re very lucky, you could persuade a friend or lover to give you a deep, scratchy head massage and feel all the sensations that arise in your body.
- Every day.
- Stop for one-minute.
- Drop into your physical experience at the highest resolution.
- Try it for 30 days and let me know how you feel.