An intro to the “Meditation” post series:
Back when I was coaching cycling classes I had a version of my class that ventured beyond the fitness and exercise routine to incorporate some mind-body connection, body awareness, and meditation, all while on the bike. I have personally found that a deeper sense of my own body, breath, and awareness is achievable when I push my body to work hard and focus in on just the task of pedaling consistently and breathing, kind of like a runner’s high. I’m able to appreciate my body’s strength in those moments, which is a healthy contrast to the legacy of self-criticism I have lived with most of my life and especially in eating disorder recovery. When I shared that practice with clients in cycling classes, I was floored by how many people really related to this disconnect between their inner voice and their physical body; between their breath and their movements; between what their mind said and what their body felt. It wasn’t rare for clients to get very emotional in those classes or to come up and thank me afterwards for helping them work through some problem they were having. It was some of the most fulfilling work I have ever done.
In the years since coaching I have frequently found myself thinking of those classes and wishing to teach them again. They were an anchor for me as much as for any of my clients. I currently live a lifestyle that can feel very hectic and off-balance; traveling constantly, working long hours, eating out a lot, drinking too much. I absolutely love guiding but I also recognize that I have drifted far away from many self-care practices. In trying to get to the bottom of why this is, I am working to reincorporate a routine of habits that makes me feel more balanced: writing, strength training, and paying attention to my body from inside rather than from exterior cues. Listening to our bodies is a practice, just like meditation or yoga. The specific challenge with mind-body connection is that it can be hard to name exactly how to practice it consistently. We are inundated with cues every minute of every day that draw our attention away from the body’s needs and we make decisions based on these exterior stimuli, be it self-induced pressure or something else:
- It’s noon, I should eat lunch. But are you hungry for lunch?
- I need to work late. But are you exhausted today?
- The WOD says run one more mile. But your legs are hurting.
- I look terrible in the mirror. How would you feel if you hadn’t looked in the mirror?
With so much outside information driving our decisions, it’s easy to stop listening to our bodies. I feel tired today. I feel hungry. I feel full. I am sore. I have low energy. I need a rest. It seems like many people learn to simply ignore these cues. In coaching some meditation into my cycling classes, I hoped to remind folks to pay attention to their physical body and recalibrate their ongoing inner narrative.
I do hope to coach those classes again some day. In the meantime I am working to realign my own mind-body connection and find some balance within my current lifestyle. The meditation posts are to share some of my thoughts during the process.