The Most Self-Empowering QuestionJul 29, 2022 09:31AM ● By Gina Loree Bryan
As a form of greeting, the question, “How are you?” expresses an acknowledgement of concern for someone’s well-being, even though it’s understood to be a customary show of politeness. Most people will respond with an equally banal reply. Yet, there may be habitual, hidden or unconscious aspects to the response for a number reasons because it may not always feel convenient, safe or appropriate to stand fully in the present-moment awareness of who we really are.
The same query can also be one of the most empowering questions a person can ask themselves, because it allows our body, the aspect of self that holds the truth about how we really feel in the present moment, to weigh in. The body holds our truth more than thoughts, ideas or opinions about what and how we should feel and the way it is experienced in real time. This awareness allows choices of how to respond to situations appropriately, including requests for support and resources.
Mark Walsh is the founder of Embodiment Unlimited, (EmbodimentUnlimited.com) an organization that offers certifications in coaching, meditation, yoga and ethical marketing. In his book, Embodiment: Moving Beyond Mindfulness, Walsh admits that there is no simple way to define embodiment, and that perhaps the best way to understand it is to experience it as mindfulness not just of the body, but as the body. There are three essential guiding principles in an embodied approach to any practice: awareness, choice and attitude.
Awareness: The question of, “How am I?” is the beginning of awareness. It invites attention to the feelings that are present in the body via sensations or even the absence of them. This is powerful information that can go unnoticed without direct inquiry.
Choice: In embodiment practices, awareness and choice that go hand-in-hand are the foundations of self-regulation and empowerment. Upon gaining awareness that how a person feels is uncomfortable, painful or anxious, exercising the option to make a change can feel tremendously empowering. This awareness can be a simple as shifting position or opening their eyes in a meditation session. For people with a history of unhealthy deference and self-sacrifice, people-pleasing or even trauma, awareness and choice can be the beginning of reclaiming authority and sovereignty over their own lives.
Attitude: This involves adopting a stance of kindness and compassion toward the self and the body, in particular. In self-care practices there is often criticism, judgment and unhealthy comparison perpetuated from within and from those teaching such practices. A kind, or at least polite attitude toward the body/self can make all the difference between a nourishing self-care practice and one that perpetuates powerlessness.
Responses arising from the simple question, “How am I?” may include awareness of pain, tension, breath-holding, resentment, anxiety and more, which unless brought to consciousness, could cause a person to push themselves beyond healthy boundaries or become subject to unbalanced relational dynamics. The answer could also reveal sensations of pleasure, relaxation, confidence and presence that might have gone otherwise unnoticed.
As with any practice, it’s important to develop this habit while not in the heat of stress. Incorporating the question into our life may be as simple as setting an intentional course for the day ahead, checking in before or after an important meeting or conversation, or during other self-care practices. Using a tangible prompt like a smartphone or desktop wallpaper, for instance, can keep the reminder in a place where it will be seen multiple times a day. Walsh advises, “You can’t change what you’re not aware of.”
This simple self-inquiry can invite a person directly into a powerful position from which they can effect change in their lives in the present moment.
Gina Loree Bryan is a certified shiatsu practitioner, restorative exercise coach and embodied meditation teacher with offerings in person and online. For more information, call 610-304-5120, email [email protected] or visit EmbodyGrace.com