Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Making Space for Our Experience: A Body-Based Awareness Practice


photo courtesy Inner Strength Foundation 






by Amy Edelstein, from her book The Conscious Classroom: The Inner Strength System™ for Transforming the Teenage Mind



The mindful awareness I teach emphasizes making space for our experience while not getting lost or overwhelmed by it. It encourages us to feel into what our physicality is like, the sensations in our bodies, the pull of gravity, the upward stretching of our spine. Some exercises point our attention to the backdrop of awareness in which the objects of our experience arise.

Learning to make space, like the exercise of looking at the night sky instead of paying attention to the stars, planets, and meteors that cross it, we learn to pay attention to the backdrop of awareness itself, not the objects—the thoughts, feelings, physical sensations—that cross our mind’s eye. This emphasis on creating space enables us to be with our experience, without being overwhelmed by it.

As a little mind experiment, take your hand and cover your eyes. 


What do you see? 

When you press your hand right up against your eyes (try it so you get the visceral experience), all we see is darkness or the vague lines of our fingers or palms. 

This is what it’s like when a worry, problem, or fear is right on top of us. We are so close to it, so identified with it, that is all we see.

Now move your palm out just an inch or two. 


Now what do you see? 

A little light, a little more definition of your hand, a little more detail, a hint of a world beyond it. 

When we get just a little bit of space or objectivity on our experience, we can see the issue or problem more clearly, with more detail, better understanding.

Now stretch your hand as far from your face as it goes. 


Now what do you see? 

You see the whole room, which provides context. Maybe you are at home, at work, in a coffee shop or a park. 

That environment has resources, and you arrived there by specific means, using a variety of skills and strengths.

Are there other people in that room, in your life? 


When we see with more space, we notice resources in ourselves, in our relationships, in the society around us. We see that we are not on our own. We see alternative routes around the object (thought, feeling, problem) that had been overwhelming and connect with new ways to respond, solve, or be with it. That’s the power of being able to make space.

Grounding our experience in the immediacy of the present through the anchor of the breath or the sensations in our bodies allows us to arrive in our lives. Too many of us feel like walk-ins in our own bodies. We go through experiences without feeling like we were really there.

We feel boredom and don’t know how to alleviate it. Television, video games, or alcohol temporarily relieve that boredom, but we are again left with ourselves; often a dull sense of dis-ease or feeling lost takes hold again.

Becoming more connected with the sensations in our bodies teaches us to see things freshly, to be present. That sense of connecting with our physicality cultivates a type of curiosity in the life process, in what it feels like to be alive.

When we train ourselves to notice things as we’re walking, how does the sun feel on our face?

What do the trees look like swaying in the wind?

What are the textures of the stone buildings around us?

Becoming aware of natural textures, light, or movement has the effect of landing us in our lives.




excerpted from The Conscious Classroom: The Inner Strength System™ for Transforming the Teenage Mind (p. 35-37)©Amy Edelstein, 2017. Used with permission.




Amy Edelstein is the founder of The Inner Strength Foundation, which trains adolescents to work with the tools of mindfulness and a developmental perspective so they can realize their highest potentials. 

Inner Strength Education offers free online courses on COVID-19 Stress Supports for Teachers and Teens.


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