Listening to Your Sensory Self

Following is a recent blog regarding practice by Gina Carruthers. If you would like to send her a message after reading or practicing her email is We are happy for you to pass on this email to anyone you may think will enjoy it also.

In the Flow. Finding balance in small attractions.

Many years ago I met a wonderful human being named Mike Cohen. He had creatively put together a system of coming home to yourself and nature named Ecopsychology. Now just into his nineties yet still one of the most vibrant and dynamic people I have known – to folk dance a jig with him is a dance to remember, not to mention his awesome banjo playing. I studied with him for about twelve years and one of the jewels that was my greatest treasure from Mike, was how to listen and respond to the simple ordinary moments of my day to day life.

At present, Neuropsychologists are in favour of luxuriating in the good. The wiring of our evolutionary survival shows the reality of our need to have noticed what was coming to seriously threaten our survival or even turn us into dinner! It makes sense that the majority of the neurological substrates (our brain’s real estate) are offered up for our survival. Therefore this luxuriating in the good is our way of balancing this substrate bias, a way of reclaiming that mind/brain real estate. Building strengthened pathways in areas that stop to smell the roses or luxuriate in the grace of gratitude for instance. Responding to this information by reclaiming our mind’s plasticity through simple and many constant moment on moment choices. Being responsible to engage in what brings us pleasure, the ordinary things that fill us up in an oh that feels so good way.

Mike had an acronym, NIAL that stood for Natural Intelligent Attraction and Love. He suggested that rather than be in denial, to be in your own sense of NIAL. For many reasons this really resonated with me. As a younger version of myself in my early twenties I had studied with a teacher in India that had given me a mantra. I cherished it. Five words that became my golden cord in unsteady moments. For many years, maybe far too many, I had centered  myself with this mantra that I would repeat silently. I did like that. I liked the practice for centering and balance. Yet it was not as deeply engaging as I wanted to be in life. As a practice it left me as an impartial participant. So I thought why not use Mike’s idea like a new mantra, softly repeating as a question – Natural, Intelligent, Attractive and Loving. This new enquiry within worked as a suggestion to recognise how I could engage in each moment with each of the above. So off I went experimenting in this way.

I learnt a lot from this. Simple ordinary realisations gently arose within as I started and deepened my practice. For example, I realised I was more attracted to stand under a shady tree on a hot day then stay engaged listening to a tedious conversation that seemed to be repetitive. It was natural, it made intelligent sense to be open to notice such changes. To keep myself comfortable, it was more attractive for me to sense with pleasure the coolness of the breeze and the beauty of the dancing light changes through the green sweeping branches. I also engaged in a sense of connection to the tree itself and comfort from its presence which brought feelings of gratefulness and felt loving. Learning to excuse myself from and move towards such encounters also added the benefit of making myself available to other engagements with new people that may come over to me.

I was resolving cultured conversations within about free will and the right of even a single celled organism to move towards or away from what feels good (attractive) or not so good (unattractive). I allowed myself much more freedom. I used it in all ways in my life as the practice reinforced itself with good feelings. It was more attractive to get my mundane work done efficiently to allow greater time in the garden or surfing with my granddaughter. While I worked it allowed me to take breaks and choose what was more attractive and intelligent like a cup of tea and a small walk, and to come back refreshed and at peace and start anew. It felt remarkable.

I extended the practice into all areas of my life and was delighted with the results I received. I was listening to myself more deeply in a sensory moment to moment way, responding and feeling the beneficial results of this helped to reinforce the practice. I continued with my practice of NIAL till it became mostly an unconscious behaviour for me.

For Body Harmony practitioners it could be a useful tool to use whilst collaborating with another – a client or an everyday interaction.  It was natural to use my hands as a listening tool and intelligence in observation and to also use all my senses whilst listening. To bring my perceptiveness to the sessions and express my experience as I listen to theirs. The love part was a considerable tool. I found that it was a verb not a noun as I had thought. A way of interaction that brought about improved outcomes for each client and myself. For example, I allow myself to more deeply engage in what I appreciate about my clients. I find ways to be more compassionate in my speech yet truthful to my experience.

Dr Don McFarland was always very clear about having a plan when working/collaborating with another. Having a plan and yet being open to changing it. Guarding ourselves from our own projections onto the other, yet being able to see what presented itself, between our client’s intentions and the present. I have found that one of the greatest benefits of being in NIAL is that it has reclaimed back the mental real estate that was previously engaged in projection. I’m more available to myself and therefore to my clients. Above all else, to take our guidance from our clients and their bodily communications as they unfold, whilst being in our own experience is an art. To hold your plan in the background and on occasion during a session you will find yourself right there on that plan. Yet in a way that you would have never thought possible without deep listening. Such session plans as connecting my client’s lower belly to their lungs and breathing movements.  Bringing the front of my client’s body into a more harmonious relationship to their back. Allowing the more embodied areas to wash into those secretly isolated places within. To bring more joy from heart to legs. Such plans as these are all improved through my sense and practiced engagement of NAIL.

 I hope this may also be of benefit to you when you find yourself next in an uncomfortable place within, and suggest that just for a few moments today you repeat to yourself as a suggestion – Natural, Intelligent, Attraction and Love and choose to engage with what you find. Especially with our new moon today, what a great opportunity to engage in the new.  I look forward to hearing some of your experiences. Yours in transformation, collaboration and harmony.

Author: Gina Carruthers | Body Harmony teacher and practitioner, B.Sc. Psych. Mother/Grandmother