Exploring Gravity with a Dishcloth

By Richard Lowe

 “All reality is relationship and all relationships are enlarged and enriched in proportion to the sensitivity with which they are perceived and lived. Indeed, to be sensitive is to be alive; and the more healthily sensitive one is to the world in which one lives, the more alive one is.”

                        From Growing Young by Ashley Montagu

The study of Sensory Awareness is an experiential practice in which we take time to more consciously attend to what we can sense of what’s going on within us and around us. That is, to practice becoming more deeply awake in our every day activities and to the things and experiences we meet. Doing this, if even a little bit, can do much to reawaken our fuller aliveness and deeper potential.

However our busy minds all too frequently resists settling down enough to allow such mindful and simple awareness to happen. At these times we may sense that we’re stuck “up in our heads”, that we’re “hung up” or “caught up” in certain patterns of thought or behavior, or that we’re in some way “up tight”.

This speaks to the interesting somatic relationship between our sense of gravity and our fuller vitality. That is, something in us is often habitually held up energetically and resists letting go of its weight, not allowing our full weight to naturally settle downward with the pull of gravity. This kind of resistance, a resistance to being more fully grounded, is something many athletes and performers are familiar with and because of this use various warm up techniques to lessen its effect on their performance.

Since this resistance to becoming more in tune with gravity is so very common it can be quite fruitful to mindfully explore how we actually experience weight and how we might deepen our felt relationship with gravity.

Here’s one example of how we might do this, take a common dishtowel, something that is easily at hand and that we often use.  Of course this object has its utilitarian function. We know what is for, but what happens when we allow time to get to know it more fully with our senses? 

Sometime soon (perhaps today?) why not dare to explore one of your own dishtowels? Just pick one out and notice what happens when you simply allow all of your senses to explore it. What’s it like it to really sense its texture and temperature? Does it have a smell? 

Can you allow yourself to be as freshly curious as young child and really play with it? Spend some time exploring its many qualities. Pull on it or twist it to feel how strong it is. As you do what opens up in you? Notice what comes more to life.

Even though the dishtowel is very light what can you feel of its weight? What happens when you feel its weight while it rests on top of your head or over a shoulder or over your face?

At some point while standing take the dishtowel in the fingers of one hand and with closed eyes move it about and sense how the pull of gravity pulls the cloth downwards towards the center of the earth. Experiment with moving the towel all around in the air noticing how this not only affects the cloth, but also you as well. 

What can you sense of how the cloth drapes downward while moving it or while at rest? Can you feel how the earth pulls on it? How does your breathing respond? Is breathing moved in any way?

Can you also sense how the fabric of your clothing is also affected by the pull of gravity, how your clothing has a certain weight and also drapes downwards? And how about your muscles and bones too? Can you sense how all of you is being attracted downwards by gravity towards the support below? 

Continue moving your towel in space all around you - upwards, downwards, behind you, with either hand or with both hands together. Notice perhaps how the air affects it as it moves. What do you feel of your connection to the pull of the earth and how is breathing now?

Finally, while still standing, very gradually bring the dishtowel down to lying on the floor all the while sensing its weight as you do. What do you notice of your breathing during this landing of this cloth and after letting go of it? Try this out a few times. What do you now feel now of your relationship to this object …and to gravity… and to the earth? 

This is just a brief sample of something you might explore. Perhaps you might find other objects and activities in your daily life that you might practice with. 

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