Interoception is the mindful act of becoming aware of internal body and organ sensations, awareness and sensitivity of your internal environment supports your physical and emotional regulation in response to your external environment. Interoception is an embodiment practise and a mindfulness tool in your belt to maintain a steady rhythmical pace as you set the tone for the year ahead. Turning your awareness inward to real time body sensations tends slow down the tempo.
Disassociation from body sensations is common when rushed, stressed or anxious. It is a coping mechanism that is essential for survival when threatened or faced with acute danger. This is part of the sympathetic nervous system response commonly known as fight, flight or freeze. When in this state we simply cannot register our internal sensations or regulate our emotions, that is the role of the parasympathetic state of rest, digest and repair.
Interoception is a way that we can condition our nervous system out of frenetic habits and into calm habits. We can train ourselves to take a slow and steady appraisal of a situation by first bringing our awareness to our internal environment. Naming what we are feeling inside is the first step, even if that is the recognition of a stress response – fast heartbeat, shallow breathing, clenched jaw, nausea, headache, numbness and muscular tension.
To make this internal awareness a habit even in difficult situations requires making it a habit in everyday life. Naming what you are feeling inside may be short meditative practise that you can do each morning and night, which is especially easy and effective if you do it at meal times when you resting and digesting. Our digestive system is possibly the easiest internal environment to sense because we can feel the visceral sensation of being hungry and full.
Interoception can be explored in other organs too and it can be really helpful to begin this exploration by checking out anatomy illustrations. It can be really interesting to find out - where is your liver / kidneys / pancreas / spleen? And then place your hands over that area, close your eyes and become aware of any sensations you might feel there. It is a slow process of sensitization and well worth the effort to discover the internal environment that is you.
Moving deeper into your internal awareness you may like to explore the even subtler sensations of your endocrine system, the pineal gland, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals and ovaries/testes. Make it an imaginary exercise simply for the purpose of becoming aware of all the particle parts that make up you and that way you can have more clarity on what you are doing when you turn your awareness inward. Your internal environment is not just some unreal world in your mind but actually consists of unique and elegant physical structures that function to keep you alive.
Interoception is a very practical mind-body exploration that can enhance your everyday experience of life. Embodied awareness not only has the capacity to make you calm as you can more easily access your parasympathetic nervous system of rest, digest and repair but also gives you confidence with a deeper understanding of your body. Check out our latest ALIGNMENT MEDITATION to guide you into an interception practise and deeper felt sense of your internal environment.