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Befriending the Body

A Report by Brianna Jackson, '16

Sometimes, the best way to solve our most pressing problems is by overlooking them. Instead of trying to combat our analytical Smithie brains, we should take a moment to observe our thinking in relation to the more unconscious processes of our bodies. Community Religious Advisor Ryumon Baldoquín Sensei is interested in how spiritual practice in the Western world, which focuses on training the mind, often creates disconnect in the body. Through our discussion, Ryumon Sensei proved that it is impossible to create an awakening in the mind without a physical, corporal awakening as well.

The way our body naturally responds to stress is often not the most effective strategy. Stress manifests itself in the form of a threat, and when we sense this threat, our immediate response is to avoid it. However, avoidance is not the way to come to terms with stress because ignoring our problems just amplifies them.

"Trying to move away from unpleasantness creates disassociation in the body," Ryumon Sensei said. Tension in body and mind arise from this division, which makes us focus more on the unpleasantness. Therefore, we must acknowledge our stressors by becoming aware of the present moment.

Stress relief can be as easy as inhaling a breath of crisp autumn air or scanning fluffy clouds for interesting shapes in the sky. One strategy Ryumon Sensei offers for alleviating stress is orienting, connecting to the environment through the senses. "Notice how pleasant feels in the body," Ryumon Sensei advised. When we are tuned into our senses, we discover natural sources of peace, such as the moon or the trees, which provide us with a constant nurturing presence.

When pressure starts stacking up in the body, take a moment to just breathe. Our breath is always there to ground us, in times of great anxiety and times of great joy. By focusing in on this single activity, we become better acquainted and thankful for the multitude of gifts our body provides us with. With the positive energy we receive from this practice, we are encouraged to persevere through the tasks that seemed impossible when we were stressed.