The Unofficial Guide
to the 13 Nia Principles
~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody

(Wondering what in tarnation the Unofficial Guide is and why I’m writing this series of posts? Click here!)

First Landing and False Cape 029

Principle 5 – Awareness

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

There is nothing mystical about awareness. In fact, it is our birthright. Awareness literally means to pay attention. …

In the Nia White Belt, we emphasize awareness of the physical body. Usually this is the last thing we are aware of unless we are in serious or consistent pain. When prompted, people can easily report thoughts or feelings, but rarely do they describe physical sensations. …

Think about it for a moment: Your body can only be aware of sensations in the present moment, providing you a direct, uninterrupted “sensory view” of your current overall state. Your thoughts, however, may have little to do with the present moment. You might be working at your desk while thinking about a trip to Hawaii. Your thoughts may also be tied to deeply rooted or long-held beliefs and stories. For example, if your shoulder hurts, you might just think, “Oh, there is my shoulder hurting again,” without checking in to discover what the sensation is actually telling you. Instead, what if you explore the sensation in your arm? You might notice where it is tight, where it is free and where it aches. Then you might allow other information to arise from this sensation – thoughts, emotions, images – and realize your arm is tight because you have been overexerting it or using it in an unhealthy way.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

“There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to deep spiritual intention, to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now, and to the culmination of wisdom and awakening. And what is that one thing? It is mindfulness centered on the body.”
— The Buddha, from the Satipatthana Sutta

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if I could teach only one thing and practice only one practice it would be awareness, in particular, awareness of the body. Okay, maybe it’s not much of a limb seeing how the Buddha was so into it and everything. But you get my meaning. Cultivating awareness in the body is like having a super power.

Principle 5: Awareness is a principle that is officially and explicitly designed to expand beyond the Nia class experience. It is a rich principle, too, with three layers teaching. Last fall, I did a couple of posts on Life As Art (or as I unofficially expanded Living Life As An Artist) which you can find here and here. For this unofficial guide, we’ll focus on what is Nia calls The Pain Triad. I prefer to call it the Self-Healing Practice and here’s how it rolls:

1. First, become aware of the sensations in the body, paying particular attention to pain, discomfort or limitation and noticing if it is slight, moderate or acute.

2. Next, move your joints to stimulate self-healing.

3. Then notice if what you did feels better or not.

Simple, right? Think about it, every time we choose a movement that helps the body feel even a little better, we are creating self-healing! That is miraculously super-cool. Even if you walk into class feeling basically pretty good without any particular pain or injury and you walk out of class feeling better, that’s self-healing.

I have to tell you, though: it’s a mysterious thing, healing. There is something in our human brain that wants the whole story behind what we’re feeling. We want the why. We want both pain and healing to be logical. Even the greatest doctors in the world, if they are honest and candid about it, will tell you that there are a lot of things, maybe even most things, they just don’t know or understand about the body.

Medical professionals can offer tremendous help and support, of course. Go to them. Let them offer their expertise. But when it comes right down to it, nobody knows your body better than you do. Approach the practice of self-healing with trust and curiosity. Something that felt good yesterday, might feel lousy today (the opposite, mysteriously, is also true). Make no assumptions and see how the body responds.

Awareness is paying attention and paying attention is making an investment in yourself: an investment in savoring the pleasure of the moment and appreciating and participating in the mystery of self-healing.

Having a body is a gift. Cultivating awareness of that body is a super power.

Just ask Buddha.


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