As many 2015 New Year’s resolutions fade into last month, I find myself thinking about focus and intentions. According to a 2500 year-old yoga text, the Upanishads:
“You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”
There’s much truth here, but I can’t help thinking of how surprised people are when good intentions pave the road to a really, really, really bad place. Which made me think about how surprised people are when we teach them to focus on their body (I know that seems like a jump…bear with me for a moment).
When we teach people StrongPosture® exercise they learn to focus on the motion of one PostureZone at a time, while stabilizing everything else. Initially surprise and frustration usually result when they cannot accurately control a single motion and observe that their initial perception of their body position is not accurate. We describe this as an error of perception and control (scientifically speaking, also known as a sensori-motor error). With training and practice, motion (and usually their symptoms) improve and posture strengthens as incorrect perceptions about their body are corrected.
So perhaps the problem I see is that the Upanishads quote isn’t referring to good intentions (as in well-meaning) but correct intentions (as in correct to reality). This points to the similarity of virtuous cycles created by correcting errors, whether they be of mental desires and intentions or physical posture and motion. Which leads to an ancient practice taught throughout this yogic text that is receiving new attention: Meditation.
Scientific American just had a cover story titled “Neuroscience Reveals the Secrets of Meditation’s Benefits: Contemplative practices that extend back thousands of years show a multitude of benefits for both body and mind.” From Kabat-Zinn’s work in the 90’s to the Dalai Lama’s recent forays in scientific conferences, quieting the noise and listening to our deeper selves is a very good thing. From depression to diabetes and from stress to success, mindfulness and meditation helps people square themselves to reality.
So just as training meditative focus on the mind helps body and mind, perhaps one reason StrongPosture® exercise works so well is by creating a similar focus on correct motion in the body.
Also, other mindfulness and attentional focus studies are showing how body and mind work together on more levels than previously thought…but that’s a story for another day.
Miller, John J., M.D., Fletcher, Ken, Ph.D., and Kabat-Zinn, Jon, Ph.D. (1995). Three-Year Follow-up and Clinical Implications of a Mindfulness Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Intervention in the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders. ￼General Hospital Psychiatry, 17, 192-200. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7649463
Fjorback, L. O. (2012). Mindfulness and bodily distress. Danish Medical Journal, 59(11), B4547. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23171754