by Jes Markoff, registered massage therapist, Slow Medicine Company
I have a habit of saying ‘yes’ to all requests for my time and energy — it’s so fast and automatic that I’ve started affectionately calling it my ‘reflex yes’. The desire to help and to participate in the world overrides the wisdom of my experience. Inevitably, a few too many ‘yesses’ become favours, tasks and events that I don’t experience joyfully or execute fully. The result? Eventually I collapse.
In that moment before I say yes, when I should say no, there are subtle body sensations bubbling up. A slight tightness in the belly or throat that no longer gets the attention it deserves. Maybe you’ve experienced the same.
Movement is my favourite way to research the intersections of body awareness and mindfulness in everyday life. Some are solo practices that ground me in anxious times while others are relational practices that build solid connection and communication with others.
Here’s a solo task-based exercise for you to try:
Look around the room. Is there a ball or small round object that you could pick up? If so, grab it.
Put the ball in your dominant hand and toss it an inch or two into the air and catch it with the same hand. Once you’ve got the hang of it, don’t look at the ball. Repeat this task for about a minute.
Ask yourself: did I choose to throw the ball every time it landed in my palm? Did it become an automatic movement? What do you feel in your body?
Try the exercise again adding a PAUSE each time you catch the ball, wait for the impulse to repeat the action to pass then choose to toss the ball when you feel like it. Continue for a minute.
Then scan your body. Do you feel calmer or a sense of settling?
Moving while in conscious relationship with the body — choosing when to throw the ball — is the physical practice of tuning up to the nervous system. This simple task-based exercise allows me to find calm in my body. It brings me back to feeling in control and settled. It’s become a tool that I use to remind myself that choice is informed by the body and can be felt if I pay attention.