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Mette Maja Mouritsen
Mette Maja Mouritsen


Embodied Awareness

In honouring patients who have had horrible experiences from awareness anaesthesia, I must say I find their experiences most valuable and amazing. After an operation in general anaesthesia they wake up and explain what they have experienced while being seemingly a sleep. Some feel pain, emotions and touches some hear voices. The awareness that observes their body and at the same time senses the pain and touches can be almost without physical attachment and still be a part of the body as explained by some patients who have had out of body experiences. It seems from these patients’ experiences that awareness can be more or less embodied without we are fully aware of it. And the “we” who is aware is our mind a part of a greater awareness.

I have experienced something alike with a client who was suffering from cancer with metastasis to his lungs. When speaking together he was aware that he could speak freely without feeling short of breath. However when he was invited to direct his awareness inward and downward in his body, he started to feel short of breath. In inquiring how this could be we ended up with some possible answers. He was not aware of his breath while speaking since his awareness was mainly in the upper part of his body while he was listening, thinking and talking, and when his awareness was directed towards the lower part of his body it evoked anxiety that might have caused the sensation of short of breath. We may not know for sure if it was the physical changes in the body he became aware of that caused the symptom or the anxiety or both. All that we know is that it was necessary to take care of his anxiety in the present moment to feel relieved from being short of breath.

Unconsciously and consciously we may confront or avoid our physical sensations as experienced by our awareness, and at the same time a greater awareness may be a way to relieve physical sensation.

To elaborate on this I will offer one of my own experiences. I was in a state of unusual mental silence in the way that very few thoughts and ideas were passing by. My problem-seeking mind started wondering where am I going to and why this emptiness? I was seeking an understanding and in not finding any I was a bit anxious and then my body started to ache with a quite unusual pain in my joints, like if my body was holding something back. When I was focusing on my bodily symptoms in trying to understand or get relived they remained or was even worsen. When I in some way gave up struggling and tuned into openness receptiveness and inner silence, a special relieving energy filled my body, and I was without pain. To me this demonstrates how my focus and my anxiety may worsen or even create my symptoms and if I unconsciously close down for a greater awareness I may close down for a possibility to heal. Also I have considered the option that perhaps my seemingly well-fitted body is much more “used” and achy than I want to realise and in avoiding realising this my awareness is more or less dis-embodied? I trust that the future will show what is the truth, meanwhile I will continue to practice openness and receptiveness for a greater awareness.

Through awareness training we may learn to distinguish between symptoms evoked by anxiety and symptoms evoked by physical changes and of course it may be a mixture of both since we never know for sure in the present moment, if the awareness is on its way to escape the body in order to let go of physical pain and disabilities or if anxiety entirely is the creator of the physical symptoms or both. It seems that awareness can be more or less integrated in the body when we feel anxious and sick or simply not present. And who knows where awareness goes when no longer embodied?

Read more on conscious health by the book Mindful Medicine

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