NeuroAffective Touch Somatic ContemplationsTM
with Dr. Aline LaPierre
A somatic contemplation is a way of observing how your mind and your body are in relationship with each other.
From a top-down cognitive perspective, somatic contemplation helps your mind become more receptive to your body’s experience and needs.
From a bottom-up body perspective, somatic contemplation helps you increase your capacity to be present to the sensations and emotions that take place in your physical self.
Finding Midline Audio
24 minutes • audio
Inquiry into the collaborative connection between your body and mind using the breath and nurture surround as healing resources
Finding Midline Transcript
This is a somatic contemplation, which I call simply exploring the body-mind connection.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what somatic contemplation is, it’s a way of observing our mind and our body as they come into relationship with each other from the top down, from the cognitive perspective down, somatic contemplation helps our mind become more receptive to the body’s experience and to the body’s needs from the bottom up.
From the body’s perspective, somatic contemplation helps us increase our capacity to be present to the sensations, to the feelings, to the emotions that take place in our physical self. So that a relation, kinship, a dialog, can be developed in a more conscious, mindful way between mind and body. So this somatic contemplation is about exploring the mind-body connection, using the breath as the connecting link between the mind and the body.
In this contemplation, I would like you to make yourselves as comfortable as possible. So take the time to find a place where you’re really comfortable to sit in an armchair, a couch, or even your bed where you have around you pillows, blankets, and anything that will help your body feel nurtured, safe, and protected. So we’ll take a moment for you.
If you didn’t start this contemplation in a place where you would be in this kind of nurturing surround, we like in NeuroAffective Touch to call it creating a Nurture Surround™ that you take the time to find that comfortable place as you recline, make sure that your back is well supported. The whole length of your spine is well supported because cause as we work with the contemplation, we want our body to slow down and regulate, and the sympathetic nervous system runs through the spine inside the vertebrae.
So it’s really important to give your back a really good support that it needs, particularly giving your lower back extra support with the little pillow or a rolled blanket or something so that your lower back is well supported, your neck is well supported so that your head can let go into a pillow or a headrest and you don’t have to support your head because as we move along in the contemplation I will encourage you to sink into that support, increasingly.
So it’s important to take the time to create a really good welcoming support where the body can trust letting go into your chair or your bed or your couch, or even it can be the floor. But again, with enough pillows around you that there’s a sense of nurturing. So we’ll take a minute to give you time to get comfortable.
Okay. So we are going to begin by bringing your attention to your breath. That’s often problematic for a lot of people, but just feeling that this is not about changing your breath in any way. This isn’t about counting the length of breath. It’s about being with your breath just exactly the way it is, whether your breath is deep or shallow, whether it’s slow or fast is not the issue.
It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can be with your breath just as it is. So a simple inhale until you come to the fullness of the inhale to the top of the inhale. In other words, you’ve taken your breath as far as the inhale can go. And right there at the inhale, you pause for a moment before it turns around, and you go into the exhale and again, without forcing it, allowing your body to empty until you come to the bottom of the exhale.
And there you pause. And it’s an interesting pause at the bottom of the exhale because if you wait just a moment, you will feel that your body automatically will give you the signal when it’s time to go into the new cycle of breath. So it’s it’s just simple. Inhale for however long or whatever depth feels right to you.
Never push, never force. When you come to the top of the inhale, let it sort of round over until you’re in this easy exhale until there’s an emptiness pause, and allow your body to signal when it’s time to take the next breath. So let’s do a few breaths and see how that feels. Simply noticing how your body likes to breathe, and so before we go any further, I like to do a little inquiry around this issue of breath, because breath is often difficult for a lot of people.
And I want to ask you what happened in your mind when I asked you to bring your attention to your breath. For some people, the mere mention of breath can cause anxiety or self-judgment. And I wonder if that happened for you. Was there a moment when you went, Oh no, not paying attention to my breath and noticing that and allowing that to be because what we want to create here is an ease and ease in these very core processes of life.
And the other side of the question is, what happened in your body? When I asked you to bring your attention to your breath. For many of us, there’s a moment of discomfort or a kind of worry that we’re not breathing the way we should. And so there’s there’s a judgment that shows up about our breath, a judgment of fear and anxiety.
And what are the concerns that surfaced for you? Did any worries arise in your mind? Did any anxiety surface in your body just simply make note of your concerns around doing a contemplation that is focused at its center around breath, so reassuring your mind and your body that we’re not forcing anything here, but we are bringing mindfulness to this core process of life.
I want you to take one of your hands and place it on an area in your body where you feel your breath, where you feel yourself breathing so that there’s a sense of the inhale. There’s a bit of a rise in the body, exhale. You feel the release, the contraction of the exhale. So bring your one hand right where you feel the movement of breath, the way you feel yourself breathing, by placing a hand on an area where you feel your breath.
This helps your mind and body connect in an easy, gentle way with the noticing, the breath, the feedback of the movement, of the breath against your hand really helps the mind and body focus in a way that eases the process of being with one’s breath. So feel your hand. Move up and down as you breathe. It doesn’t have to be a deep breath.
It can be just enough for you to feel a bit of movement under your hand. Inhale. Taking in oxygen. Exhale, release, and let go. As you feel your hand, move in and out. Let yourself sink a little into your chair, into your pillows or your bed or your couch. Inhale. Feel the expansion, Exhale. Soften into letting go, feel into the support that is there for your back.
Inhale, expand, exhale, release, and soften into the support part of your lower back of your spine, of the back of your neck, your head and health. Feel the expansion, exhale. Feel the support. See if you can soften your eyes, and soften your tongue with that gentle movement of inhale and exhale. Now, keeping your hand right where it is on the place where you feel your breath, take your other hand, and place it on an area where you don’t feel yourself breathing.
In the area where there is no movement of inhale and exhale and sense into what it’s like. What happens in your mind and what happens in your body when you touch an area where the breath is not reaching, where the breath is not penetrating and just be with it, simply be. And even as you continue to inhale and exhale, sensing into the area that is breathing at the very same time, allow yourself to track the area that is not breathing so that your attention is connected to two separate places in your body, one hand connected to your breath, the other hand connected to the absence of breath, one hand touching the aliveness that comes from
your inhale and exhale, and the other hand touching an area that is in a state of racing. Usually, when our breath does not reach a part of our body, it’s because that place is trying to protect us. And the way the body protects us from danger is often to brace to heart and to constrict itself as though it were ready to receive some form of blow or violation and just hold both together, sensing, just acknowledging the difference between breathing and bracing.
And as you notice, this difference between breathing and bracing, bring your attention back to the support that you are leaning into it and see if you can continue to let in that support a little bit more with each inhale and exhale. What happens in your experience as you focus on taking in support? For some of you, it may be a welcome relief, a pleasant experience, but for others, it may bring the realization of how hard it is actually to let go into support.
Because when our life has been oriented to trauma when there’s been a lot of trauma in our lives, we become oriented to danger and to vigilance, and it becomes really difficult to trust that we can let go into support and to remain safe. So notice what is happening in your mind and in your body as you feel the difference between an open, easy breath and a braced protection, which is simply allowing yourself to ask the question, is there any reason why it would not be safe to let go of the bracing right now?
Not that you would force your body to let go or that you should let go, but that you allow your body to let you know the ways in which it is working for you to keep you safe. And so right now scares me a little bit. Your body is there may be another place where you can feel your body breathing.
If there is, allow one of your hands to move to that place so that you can experience feeling the breath, the inhale, and the exhale movement in another area of your body. Similarly, as we did the first time, see if you notice another area where the breath is not reaching into the bracing pattern and place your other hand in on that area.
And we’ll take a few minutes and allow your hands to connect with whatever place in your body feels like. It would like the attention of your touch as you breathe in, feel the fullness of the breath, and exhale. Feel the release and letting go. With each breath, remain aware of the supporting surface on which you are leaning, letting yourself yield a little bit more into the support with each cycle of your breath.
And now, I’d like to go into a little bit of an inquiry, a little bit of a relationship contemplation, asking the question, what is the relationship between your body and your mind? Ask yourself, is my mind at ease, paying attention to my body, and breathing, or is my mind impatient or disappointed with my body? My body’s performance, my body’s capacities?
What does my mind find? Paying attention to my body? My body’s sensations and feelings to be a pleasant experience? Or does my mind find my body to be a source of anxiety, pain or discomfort? And what about the relationship of mind and body from your body’s perspective? Does your body feel well-received by your mind, or does your body feel judged by the mind?
Is my body afraid of my mind’s judgments and criticism? Since does my body hide from my mind so as not to be subjected to its harshness or shamed by its criticisms in the healing of body and mind? This relationship between them is absolutely key and foundational. And you can imagine that your body and mind, of course, are together for life.
But imagine that there are a couple there are a couple in a relationship. And as you look at how they communicate with each other, if you were observing them as a separate couple outside of you, how would you view how this couple is getting along? So what is the relationship? What is communication? What is the quality of the communication between your body and your mind?
Are your mind and body a team collaborating together, helping each other meet the challenges of life, or have the difficulties and the traumas, the emotional traumas, the shocks to the heart, the relational disruptions, the ways in which relationships were abusive in your family disrupted the relationship, the possible relationship between your mind and your body, and caused them to be at odds with each other, brought them to want to ignore each other, to have no contact with each other, for mind to arise outside of the body and become dissociated for body to be so hurt that it is fragmented in a way that the mind doesn’t understand what is happening in the body.
And as we just begin to touch the surface of possible disruptions between mind and body, let’s go back to feeling the support, the way in which your body right now is in a nurturing position, supported where your sympathetic nervous system is able to yield into feeling that there is something solid under you, supporting you. And while, of course, the healing of the relationship between body and mind is a process, this process starts with the very simple question again, a question What does my body need from my mind in order to feel welcomed?
What does your body need from your mind in order to feel like it is part of a team with your cognitive self? Is there an area of your body where your body would love your mind’s attention right now? A place where your body has a story to tell to your mind, and if you can feel a place in your body that would love that attention, place your hand right there in on that area and let yourself connect with your breath again.
Let’s go back to the inhale. Exhale. And as your breath continues, allow the message from your mind to your body to ride on your breath. What does your mind, what could your mind offer your body so that your body could feel welcomed and appreciated by your mind and come back to your awareness of inhale and exhale? Yielding into support.
Now let’s ask the companion question. What does your mind need from your body in order to feel welcome? Is there a message or a request that your body can give you your mind so that there is a feeling of open receptivity between body and mind? How can my body and mind improve their relations? How can my body and mind develop and enjoy a more loving partnership and become each other’s best support?
This is at the core of our healing any trauma, because trauma splits us, fragments us, separates us, dissociates us. And this reconnection, the internal reconnection, is an important aspect of healing our traumas. So when you feel ready to end this contemplation, let’s begin moving a little bit. Move your toes, your fingers. Start with allowing your body to do some gentle stretches in whatever way your body wants to stretch and come back into movement.
When you’re ready, open your eyes. Thank your body and thank your mind and thank the breath that unites them for supporting the opening of communication between them. Remember that every time you bring your attention to your breath, you are acknowledging the mind-body connection. You are rebuilding the mind-body connection.