(Excerpted from Your Body Mandala, Chapter 3, “Sensing Space”)
By now I hope to have convinced you that your perception of the space around you actually helps lift your body. You experienced this in several explorations earlier in this chapter. You felt your body shrink and stiffen when you stared hard at something. When your peripheral vision came online, that helped restore the space within your body and you found it easier to breathe. With practice, subtle sensations like these become too obvious to ignore.
Here’s how I’ve learned to make this kind of body knowledge practical in daily life. I use my resistance as a cue to change my perception of the moment. We all have stuff we hate doing for one reason or another—taking out the trash, cleaning the cat box, filling the gas tank. Chores like these can feel like time suckers that interrupt the flow of whatever we’d rather be doing. But, when we do things with a resistant attitude, our bodies become narrower and shorter, just as they do when we stare hard at something, .
When you resist doing a task, part of the body is holding back. Instead of all your motor units (linked neurons and muscle fibers) working together to finish the chore, a high percentage of them rebel and pull the opposite way. It’s like driving the car with the brakes on. The chore feels heavy, pressured and hurried. And it actually requires extra energy to do.
Instead, you can use your very resistance to a disagreeable task as a reminder to restore your perception of space. A typical instance for me is cleaning up the kitchen. I find it tedious and repetitive: I've been doing it for decades and I rather be getting on with more interesting parts of my day. But I can use the disgruntled mood to trigger awareness of the space behind my body. Once that awareness has been restored, I feel my midline start to lengthen, and my knees and hips relax. I recall that my feet are supported by the ground. This takes only a moment, but the resulting spaciousness relieves the pinch in my mind. It reminds me that my body can move in any direction. I could even choose to leave the dishes in the sink.