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  • Squeezing the Sponge - An Interoceptive Practice

    Laying on the floor, sweet piano music playing, incense burning.  I’m on my favourite blanket.  I’m sensing my skin in contact with the wooden floor, in contact with the air... I’m imagining the movements of the ocean, eddies, ebbs, flows, currents, waves and stillnesses... The ocean is inside me. The movements are my internal sensations, my internal processes, known through feeling and through imagining.  I allow my body to move.  Movements small and large, non-directional and multidirectional.  No plan.  I’m listening in the broadest way.  Listening to the natural inclinations of my internal space.  I feel too; little waves of emotion like sadness or joy.  These emotions ride the waves just like the beat of my heart and the rhythm of my breath.  I am participating in my interoceptive practice. 

    Interoception occurs when we sense our internal state. Noticing hunger or thirst is a clear example.  Also noticing the warmth of love or the butterflies of fear are examples.  It is one of our three methods of perceiving, the other two being exteroception (sensing the outside world) and proprioception (sensing our location). For more on Perception read this blog.  

    Interoception occurs through the myriad of sensory nerves that innervate our body including organs, muscles, bones and tissues. We have the capacity to sense and feel with incredibly fine detail and subtle awareness. The more we know about our internal state, the more we are able to know ourselves; our needs, our inclinations, our ‘yes’s’ and our ‘no's’, our own unique Truth. 

    We take in the world, the sights and sounds, the tastes, the feelings.  We are touched by the world, we take in the impressions of the world. We use the word empathy to describe this.  In empathy I can feel the experience of the other. Modern research has discovered the existence of mirror neurons – the empathy neurons. 

    In a world with many comings and going, many impressions and simulations coming quickly our system can feel overwhelmed.  Often we need quiet, serene and safe spaces, times and people.  We need nature and music and rest to balance and ‘digest’ all that we have ‘impressed’. 

    In an interoception practice we can be given time to ‘Squeeze the Sponge’; a term I learned from my teacher Susan Harper. Imagine a sea sponge filled with water.  It can take no more water in.  We squeeze the sponge to the let old water out then we submerged again the sponge can take in fresh water.  Our body is the sponge.  We lay down with music or quiet, with no distractions.  We allow all the impressions – sensations, feelings, movements – whatever they may be, to have to space to move, feel, express. 

    This practice serves everyone.  Especially those of us who do a lot of caring, tending and supporting of others. This practice is not corrective.  It has no right way.  It is about allowing our natural inclination towards homeostasis (balance) to play out.  To allow our internal experience to be known without judgement.  We hold in our heart the statement “yes, and...” rather than “either/or”. 

    We digest, we assimilate, we excrete - this is a natural cycle of our organism.  We absorb nutrients and release that which we do not need.  Our impressions are no different, they need to be assimilated, digested and ‘excreted’ (expressed) through movement, sensation and gesture.  

    We take the risk to allow ourselves to be touched by the world.  We laugh and cry, we express through gesture and language, through art and play. We squeeze the sponge so our cup can fill again, so we can keep ourselves in the picture, in the landscape of our life. Then the flow of life can continue in giving and receiving, impressing and expressing, in loving and being loved.