One-Minute Practice: What’s Not Wrong?
by Constance Clare-Newman
This is a practice I use when I notice that I am spiraling into negative thinking,tension or despair from seeing and hearing about terrible changes and suffering of people, animals and the natural world. It is a practice that I think prepares me to embody loving responses to what’s needed now and during the coming challenges. It is a practice that returns me to myself in my environment.
Even though our nervous systems are designed to look for what’s wrong, sometimes it is helpful to choose to focus on what is okay, comfortable, even pleasurable. This helps us come back to a calm, centered state of being.
We have evolved to have a negativity bias, so we can attend to what may be threatening. However, even when we are not at immediate risk, our state of being may still be tense, “wired” or hyper-active. Pain is a signal to pay attention, but paying continual attention to it can increase the pain cycle.
In this era of climate chaos, economic stress and fear of fascism, it is reasonable and emotionally congruent to feel anxiety. The distress can lead us to action, which is important. But we also need self-regulation tools to return to our center. We can remind ourselves of our relative safety at this moment, and come to an easier state of presence.
Close your eyes for a second, inviting the eye muscles to rest into your head. When you open them, look at something in your environment that is beautiful, or interesting to you. It could be a painting you love, or a tree out the window, or the grain of wood in your desk. Simply let yourself gaze softly at several lovely things in your environment.
Now bring your awareness to your hearing. What do you hear in the room, or outside your room? If you are not surrounded by drilling, banging or loud neighbors, that is a good thing. Are there any sounds that are enjoyable? Might it be nice to listen to music?
Notice your sense of touch. What do your clothes feel like on your skin? How does the air feel? Soft, cool, warm, sticky, breezy? If you aren’t too hot or too cold or wearing scratchy clothes, that’s great.
Do you smell anything in your environment? Cooking, candles, coffee? If you don’t smell anything icky, yay! You probably live in an environment which sends all those smells away.
How about taste? A lingering taste of tea, or toothpaste? If you experience neutral taste when not eating, that’s good.
Can you notice what is inside your skin? Your sense of muscles, internal movement and breath—what feels easy? Comfortable? Rather than noticing what is wrong or even painful, for this moment, bring your attention to what is not wrong. Where in your body do you sense softness? Where do you notice spaciousness? Where do you feel easy?
While not negating what is difficult, can you notice what’s not wrong?
You can use this sensory awareness practice to train new neuropathways away from stress and contraction, towards presence, awareness, respond-ability. You can practice noticing pleasurable or neutral senses for a wider perspective. You can choose calmness and creativity, ease and engagement, quiet mind and active purpose.
Over the last 30+ years of teaching embodiment, Constance Clare-Newman has developed a trauma-sensitive approach to embodiment practices that focus on wholeness of being with a pedagogy of pleasure. The cultural norm of working hard at improvement is relinquished for a slow-pace of enjoyment and feelings of pleasure that facilitate healing, creativity and unity of self. Nature-based play makes way for co-evolving with the natural world and deepening our relationship with self and environment. Sustainability and care for self, community and environment is prioritized for dynamic balance of human and non-human life. Constance is a volunteer DAF facilitator. www.constanceclare.com
Image by Evie S on Unsplash