Getting better at anything requires an increase in awareness. The faster and more completely our awareness increases, the faster we will improve at whatever it is we wish to get better at.
What does an increase in awareness mean? First, it requires that the SENSITIVITY of our perception is enhanced. We pick up greater subtleties with our senses.
I was recently watching a Netflix series on some of the greatest BBQ pit masters in the world. Instead of using thermometers to know if the grill is the correct temperature, they simply place their hand on the grill and instantly know if and how many more coals must be added to the fire. This is subtle awareness.
The second part of increasing awareness is being able to hold multiple perspectives. This means that we can be aware of more and more variables at the same time. This is essential in learning how to drive a car. At first we place all of our awareness on each piece of driving (gear, then clutch, then mirrors, then steering, etc) but after a bit of practice we can hold awareness of all of these perspectives at the same time (and be much safer and more effective at the same time). A NASCAR driver must be able to hold many MORE perspectives at once in order to succeed in a race.
One of the key features that is distinct about the Neurospinal Optimization care we provide at Nexus Chiropractic is that we know that increasing awareness is absolutely required for long term success. In my opinion, awareness is a too often ignored piece in many forms of health care. In fact, many health care interventions actually look to DECREASE awareness, which over time, can be quite detrimental.
When we intervene without increasing awareness – or worse, deadening awareness – we leave ourselves vulnerable to repeating the same problems over and over again.
When we increase awareness, not only are we less likely to end up in the same predicaments, we will be more adaptable and have greater resourcefulness when problems do arise in the future.
For those of you who have had care at Nexus, you know that we ask you lots of questions. All of these are designed to enhance awareness What did you notice happening during the visit? What changed after? Did you feel what just happened? Are you aware of how your spinal structure just shifted? What do you think that pain/tension means? Is there a larger pattern involved in your condition? Did you feel how your breath got deeper and moved through your entire spine?
We also give periodic questionnaires so that we can more specifically know if your awareness is matching up with clinical observations and if more or different coaching and cuing is required.
The SomatoRespiratory Integration (SRI) exercises we teach are also designed to increase body awareness. First they improve our ability to notice more subtlety of breath, movement and energy. Next, they expand our awareness of multiple perspectives as we can pay attention to all of these factors (and more) at once.
How can we start to increase the awareness of our bodies and health at home? I use this exercise with many of my patients and you can do it too.
Use the moments of transition between pain and less/no pain, or feeling crappy and feeling good as an opportunity to develop more awareness.
When you find yourself feeling bad, whatever that means for you in the moment (physically, mentally, emotionally), catch yourself and STOP. Now notice as many things as you can about yourself in that moment of feeling bad.
What is your posture like? Are you breathing shallow or deep? Is the breath in the nose, out the nose, or something else? How are you moving (slow or fast, smooth or rigid)? What have you been doing recently? What have you been eating and drinking? What is your emotional state? What have you been thinking about? What was your last thought before you noticed you felt ‘bad?’
You get the idea. The point of this exercise is to notice as many subtleties as you can (be creative). Create the clearest and most detailed picture of what you feeling ‘bad’ looks like. I have found this exercise works best when you write it down.
Now comes the fun part. When you notice that you feel better, good or even great, do the same exercise. Go through the exact same questions as above. Write them down.
Once you have those two descriptions of you ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ you can use this new awareness to your advantage.
If you find yourself feeling ‘bad’ and you want to feel ‘good,’ look at your contrasting lists. Change your posture to the one that is associated with ‘good.’ Shift your breath to the one that works best for you. Move your focus to something that energizes you instead of bringing you down. Perhaps you can exercise or move your body in a way that changes your entire experience.
This is only the beginning of the process. As you apply this exercise more and more you will start to become UNCONSIOUSLY aware of when you start to move towards ‘bad’ and UNCONSIOUSLY start to shift back to ‘good’ automatically. This is when profound, long term results start to show up.
Awareness is a powerful and necessary tool in creating long term health, and to achieve lasting results in any endeavour. Unfortunately it is rarely harnessed and often ignored.
How and where can you seek out greater awareness in your life and health?
Thorin Gault, D.C.
Sept. 11, 2020