From infancy, as animate beings we seek direction. Our first needs, to take in nourishment and excrete waste, give us a sense of up and down, and as we develop into upright beings our ability to be vertical continues while we establish our feet to ground.
Over time, our sense of horizontal space broadens along with our visual field. Walking and running become functional ways we delve deeper into the horizontal plane. These movements require balance, and the front and back spaces of our bodies can aide our eyes in finding equilibrium through awareness and extension, as do the vestibular membranes of the ears.
We all have a different story to tell through out bodies about our sense of directionality and space and in our lives. Sometimes this takes on a perceptual context (eg. Someone who is tall who wishes they were short may hang their head to appear shorter), other times, it is functional (I’m grounded without extending up because I have heavy bones and my limbs and torso are compact). There could even be a cultural aspect to how we sense ourselves in space, or a combination thereof.
When there is a highly developed sense of directionality, we look and feel expansive yet also well contained. We can be efficient with our use of the body because we are balanced in utilising our resources (eg. sight, hearing) and our bodies are well supported by its framework in relation to gravity. Others may describe this type of person as someone who has a presence about them, statuesque in body and energetically connected.
So what happens when we are undeveloped in our sense of directionality? Usually, nothing severe. We go about our daily lives managing and navigating our way through space, but by not fully extending into space, physical or emotional repercussions may follow. Similar to looking into a mirror, certain aspects of ourselves and three-dimensionality are sometimes simply out of our visual field and/or we are not aware of them. We can all benefit by bringing consciousness to the body/mind’s field of knowledge. This may in turn relate to how we find direction in our lives; our decision making process, our clarity about where we have been, where we are, and where we would like to go. How do we transition into developing a sense of this?
Stepping back gives time to sense space and ground. Feel the earth and sky, the breath and its relationship to the body, the sensations around the front and back of the body. Perhaps there is a wall nearby you could face and put the hands on about arms distance away. Explore bringing weight forward of the knees bending them over the ankle. Take time to really sense the feet. Then start to feel the sky and let a softening come into the back of neck, throat, chest. Stand tall, feel grounded, start to press into the wall with the hands and let the heels elevate as the balloon do the head floats airborne. Keep a sense of weight through the legs and feet even as the up direction beckons. Then come back to stand and press arms into wall extending them, taking the pelvis over the ankles. Take a walk. Feel the body in space.
Through yoga and other forms of body movement we can practice asking the body to find directionality and enter into an ongoing dialogue. There are also modalities of bodywork that underline this, such as Rolfing.
When we become aware of habit patterns pertaining to direction, sometimes there is a history to why we have managed our bodies in a certain way. For example, someone who was raised by overly cautious parents may have an over developed sense of back they sink into rather than moving into the present (they have perhaps heard their whole lives ‘be careful!’) Another who has had a sense of being short of time (even via a life threatening disease) may constantly be racing forward, without an awareness of sitting back and using where they are coming from as a resource to move into the present. There is no right or wrong, just different ways of being in our body that may have an impact on how we feel in our lives. The questions we could ask ourselves are ‘how does this pattern I’ve fallen into serve me?’; ‘Is it something I am attached to, or could I let go and learn a new way of being in my body?’; ‘What other areas of my body or my life have been affected by this?’
The more our awareness of the dimensionality of space, the more we can expand into the skin of our body and awaken the proprioceptors that link back to the brain, informing how we sit/stand/breathe in the world. This in turn helps us to feel free, spacious, and expansive in our potential and capable of finding direction. There are infinite possibilities for movement and direction in the human body, it is up to us to explore the subtleties that bring meaning and depth into our frame of experience. Of course, when seeking direction, having a compass can also be handy…