Updated: Apr 1, 2020
“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal. Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
I love this Thich Nhat Hanh quote so much because it is a genuine reminder of our birthright to rest, relax, and heal. So many of us get caught up in a perpetual state of “doing” that even when we’re trying to relax, we can’t quite disconnect from a mind that is still actively trying to plan or problem solve.
Our culture’s over-identification with thought and thinking is a fairly limited way of living our lives and processing our experiences. The majority of the human experience actually takes place in the body- we feel our emotions in the body, instincts or “gut feelings” show up in our bodies, and most communication takes place in the form of body language. Many meditation techniques shift our awareness away from the thought-processes that most of us over-rely upon, and allow us to tap into alternate modes of being. With mindfulness, we learn to shift our awareness from thought to sensations in the body. In doing so, mindfulness works to reestablish our relationships with our bodies, where we can once again learn to identify and trust our emotions and instincts and allow them to inform our actions. I like to think of the embodiment of a lion laying gloriously in tall grass, instinctually connected to all things: an invisible tether to its pride, a sense of the nearest prey and predator, and movements that appear choreographed with an appreciation for the elements at large, like a breeze blowing through its mane. This is true presence, a totality of embodiment, and a state of ease and flow with the universe.
As meditation helps us reconnect with that state of ease and flow, a natural byproduct is that we re-teach our systems how to get back to a state of rest and repair. The more consistently you tap into this state through practice, the more familiar your system becomes with finding its way back. It becomes more habitual, the same way strength becomes habitual when you build a muscle. Even a few minutes each day, or a few longer sits over the course of a week can lead to more regular states of wellbeing. The wisdom Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of is in the body, it’s just a matter of getting reacquainted.