Bodymindfulness for Shifting Bodymindset
Adair Nagata, Ph.D.
We want to begin our panel with an exercise that is designed to encourage you to use bodymindfulness during this session. I coined the expression bodymindfulness from the two words bodymind and mindfulness (Nagata, 2002). Bodymind emphasizes the systemic, integral nature of lived experience encompassing all aspects of our being: body, emotion, mind, and spirit. Mindfulness is a Buddhist concept and practice of cultivating awareness. Awareness includes a flow of biological information that can help us relate more skillfully (Young, 1997).
Bodymindfulness can be used to attend to somatic-emotional sensations that are often out of awareness (Pert, 2000), especially during an interpersonal interaction when one’s attention may be focused on the other(s). Attention to and care for your bodymind affects your internal states. Breathing consciously is the simplest, most fundamental way to tune into your current state and to care for and calm yourself. Cultivating bodymindfulness with conscious breathing also helps you recognize the interaction and mutual influence that body, emotion, mind, and spirit have on each other (Pert, 1997).
I developed a simple way to do this, which I call the Bodymindfulness Practice. It promotes development of awareness of one’s bodymindset—the existing pattern of being in one’s bodymind—and offers a means of shifting it so that one’s presence is more poised and effective in conveying a desired message congruently.
The bodymindfulness practice is intended as a means of attuning to one’s feelings, diagnosing one’s own internal state, and then changing it if deemed desirable. It is a distillation of Asian practices that can be done anytime, anywhere, at no cost, and in the complete privacy of one’s own bodymind. No one else needs to know that it is needed or being performed.
Now let’s try the Bodymindfulness Practice.
· Presence requires being present in the moment: Be here now.
· Tune into your breathing and see what it tells you about your current
state of being.
· Breathe more deeply and evenly.
· Set your intention for your participation here.
· Use bodymindfulness to Be here now!
The bodymindfulness practice focuses attention on one’s intrapersonal state, but that is only half of the dual perspective that is required for effective interpersonal and public communication. It is also important to recognize the phenomenon of resonant emotional communication between bodyminds (Nagata, 2002), the direct communication of the state of being that is felt when people first encounter each other whether or not any words are spoken. This immediate impression that people receive of each other is what I mean by the term energetic presence.
The vibrations of emotion that pass between people nonverbally are described by Hatfield, Cacioppo, and Rapson in Emotional Contagion (1994). as automatic affective resonance (p. 182). The phenomenon of emotional resonance is what such colloquial expressions as being on the same wave length or getting bad vibes refer to (Nagata, 2000). Understanding how quickly and wordlessly state of being, especially its emotional aspect, is conveyed and how comparatively much greater effort is required to reach verbal understanding is crucial for developing effective interpersonal and public communication skills.
Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Rapson, R. L. (1994). Emotional contagion. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Nagata, A. L. (2000, Spring). Resonant connections. ReVision 22(4) 24-30.
Nagata, A. L. (2002). Somatic mindfulness and energetic presence in intercultural communication: A phenomenological/hermeneutic exploration of bodymindset and emotional resonance. Dissertation Abstracts International, 62 (12), 5999B. (UMI No.3037968)
Pert, C. B. (1997). Molecules of emotion: Why you feel the way you feel. New York: Scribner.
Pert, C. B. (2000). Your body is your subconscious mind [Cassette recordings]. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
Young, S. (1997). The science of enlightenment: Teachings and meditations for awakening through self-investigation [Cassette recordings]. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.