Life Guiding Principle #3
Awareness Is the Key
Recently while attending the Heart of Meditation Retreat on the magical Hawaiian island of Molokai with my teachers Flint Sparks, I was reminded of one of my favorite phrases he uses called G.A.P. This phrase stands for Grounded-Aware-Present. It introduces the important and simple practice of noticing, recognizing. Noticing your body, inside and out, and the sensations that are here (Grounded). Being awake (Aware) enough to recognize that you have a choice–you can choose what to pay attention to (Presence).
“Mind the GAP!” is a phrase you may have had shouted at you if you have been in the Waterloo train station in London, is actually an interdependent mindfulness process. We cannot do one of these things without the other. We cannot be aware without being grounded. We cannot be present without the awareness that we can choose what to give our attention to at any given moment. If you notice, Awareness is right in the middle supporting both groundedness and presence. Awareness is in the gap. Awareness IS the key!
Body. Emotions. Awareness. Possibilities!
As if by magic, in relation to all of this, a clever phrase came to me while I was working with one of my clients the other day. I shared it with her and she found it very helpful. The phrase is B.E.A.P. It encompass and reviews all that we have been discussing in the last few blog posts on Life Giving Principles & Practices.
Our body is a self-correcting system. The wisdom and capacity to self-correct contributes to our bodies ability to heal itself. Think of how a scrape on your leg can heal in just a few days. Yes, your body has the code to heal itself!
Our body contains wisdom and information that is vital to our optimum health and well-being. Our body processes emotions, memories, thoughts and feelings for us when we do not have the tools, or access to the tools, to process these experiences on a conscious level. We can unconsciously store these experiences in the form of tension, unconscious holding patterns in the body, and repetitive unresolved behavioral patterns and emotional overwhelm.
Emotions & Energy
As I wrote about last month, Feeling is Healing. When we allow ourselves to feel the sensations in our body, and our emotions, even and especially the painful ones, there is an opportunity to recognize and become aware of what it is that we need instead of hitting the same emotional and physical roadblocks over and over.
Pema Chodron in her book Taking the Leap actually has a chapter entitled “The Importance of Pain”. In this chapter she states how pain, loss, sorrow, fear and other
“unwanted feelings are pregnant with kindness, with openness and caring. These feelings that we’ve become so accomplished at avoiding can soften us, can transform us.”
When we just sit, notice, and take a breath, we “mind the gap” before the vulnerability hardens, and we have a chance to experience the transformative energy of tenderness and warmth that is so refreshing and nourishing.
When we learn to feel the sensations and emotions and how and where they reside in the body, it creates an entirely different Energy in the body. It is the difference between feeling like a brick wall versus feeling like a wave in the ocean. One stops you, the other allows you to feel and flow. I call this willingness to feel our feelings the Energy of Awareness. When we employ the Energy of Awareness, on a physical level, we access our parasympathetic nervous system. This system allows us to rest, digest our experiences (and our food) in a more healing and nourishing way.
My teacher, long-time mentor, and creator of the John F. Barnes PT, Myofascial Release Approach says, “Without Awareness there is no choice.”
Clients frequently ask me, “Why would I want to be aware of my pain?” My hypothesis & firm belief is that Body Awareness is vital to our ability to thrive and access our bodies amazing capacity to heal itself.
I say that when we tune into our bodies, we are given the choice of how to respond to the information that we receive. It’s like tuning into a certain radio station. This one might be called “What is your body needing today channel” or “what would be nourishing for me today” channel. Basically it’s a channel of genuine and compassionate curiosity towards the body’s experience. This channel allows us to gather information so that we can respond in healthy and nourishing ways to our current experiences. This is a definition of compassion and the gift of awareness.
In his most recent book, You are here, Thich Nhat Hanh describes how Awareness allows us to see more clearly what is actually happening and to not actually believe everything that we perceive, because our perception is not always correct. Without awareness it is our version of what we think is happening. We form judgments and act out based on our in correct perceptions. This is harmful to ourselves and others and creates much suffering. When we learn to allow for the space and feel what is happening inside, in our body and in our hearts, we can respond rather than react. We can recognize our ability to get hooked or get triggered. We can choose to let go.
It’s simple, really. When we employ the energy of Awareness, and tune into the body’s experience and sensations, then we have choices. When we recognize our ability to make choices, we empower ourselves. When we are empowered, so much more is available than we would have initially believed possible. We can choose to release what does not serve us. These practices can lift the heavy burden from our body of carrying unresolved conflict and emotion for weeks, months and years.
When we do not use this gift we simply have no choice but to keep doing the same things over and over, even if this thing is harmful to us and to others. It’s a cycle; until we become aware, we are destined to repeat the behavior that created the situation that we are trying to correct. Through Awareness, we see the possibility to make different, more life-giving choices. Awareness is our key to emotional freedom.
Here are some practices that I have found to be consistently supportive of the BEAP! principle in my life:
Regular Yoga practice (breath with mindful movement)
Embodied Self Compassion Practice
Myofascial Release treatments (John F. Barnes Approach)
Being in Nature as much as possible
Retreats for self & spiritual development
Body Awareness Training
Joining a supportive & mindful community
Kristi Vitali, PT, LMT, Personal Coach is has been a practicing PT for over 20 years. She is an expert Myofascial Release Practitioner and has taught nationally for John F. Barnes Myofascial Release Seminars. She integrates her work with the principles of yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and personal development principles to help you live a wholehearted life.
To learn more about Kristi’s work go to