What You Need to Know About Mindfulness and Somatic Awareness

Photo Credit: Dr. Craig on Flickr

Mindfulness is the Eastern meditation concept central to Buddhism, that refers to a clear, lucid quality of awareness regarding the cognitive and emotional experiences of everyday life.

It is a type of meditative awareness, a condition of universal awareness that transcends ordinary states of consciousness and is accompanied by calmness, openness and harmony.

Mindfulness, like meditation, is about the totality of consciousness. Body sensations are secondary because complete meditative awareness has no “aware of” dimension. It has no contact with an “It.” Instead it’s just perfectly aware.

The bodily experience aspect of this perfectly aware consciousness is there, but because it is always there it doesn’t receive attention.

The term mindfulness has crept into many areas of alternative and holistic health care, but when it comes to awareness of your body specifically (and understanding how to use that awareness to positively influence your health and well being) this type of mindfulness is not the only, nor the best approach.

This isn’t to take anything away from the value of mindfulness practice, instead it is to add a distinction that can be incredibly powerful and life-changing.

This distinction can be found in an approach to increasing body awareness called “somatic awareness” by researcher Donald Bakal, author of Minding the Body.

Somatic awareness involves directing your attention to your bodily experience, without the need for altered or unfamiliar states of consciousness. It’s about simply bringing into awareness what is already there within your body.

It isn’t an easy matter for most people to articulate and share internal experiences with others, and most people disregard, or ignore the bodily sensations, which are unpleasant or uncomfortable to them.

But when bodily sensations — feedback about what is actually taking place within your body — are paid attention to without interference from beliefs about what “should be occurring” or “might be occurring,” a new pathway to well being can be established.

If somebody’s back is hurting, and their belief is that it is being “caused” by a disc that they injured in the past, they have attributed the pain as being due to the injury.

Yet, if they are facilitated to put their attention on that area of their body and just observe the physical sensations without immediately interpreting them as evidence of a disc injury, they might discover a totally different set of feelings or a different meaning for what’s going on that frees them from their story of causation.

Whether you’re dealing with interpersonal or situational stress, emotional conditions, chronic pain, immune system disorders or life-threatening disease, somatic awareness can be a critically important dimension in improving your health and well being.

Learn more about the tools we offer to help you cultivate somatic awareness.

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About John Amaral

Santa Cruz Chiropractor Dr. John Amaral has helped thousands of people from over 50 countries transform and awaken to more meaningful and purposeful lives. Follow him on twitter at @johnamaral