The single most empowering thing that I’ve ever learned was how to recognize imprinting from my history, to notice when my imprints were getting activated in the course of my daily life, and ultimately to get the support and resources I needed to resolve them. Because of my early experiences with shame, and also because I had a lot of painful experiences with relational attachment from my childhood, my nervous system was a veritable minefield of imprinting. What I mean by this is that it was often that my early history was triggered in the course of work relationships, romantic relationships, experiences in groups, and my creative work. Yet I often didn’t even realize that this was happening, or what it meant. Because imprinting causes us to view our lives through a perceptual filter that was shaped by traumatic experiences, we often don’t have the sliver of neutrality needed in these moments to even notice that one of our imprints has been activated. Usually, the first thing to go when we experience activation is our neutrality.
Recognizing our imprints is a complex process and for me at least, part of a long, ever-deepening journey home. Yet the skills we need to embark on this journey are simple—they are elemental, though not elementary. For me, doing the following inquiry on a regular basis is one fundamental step on that journey.
Take some time to journal about a challenge or pattern that you are experiencing in your life. Describe to yourself the situations that are bringing about this challenge for you.
Then sit comfortably and allow yourself to feel your bodily sensations. Notice what sensations arise just now as you’ve been exploring through writing this particular challenge that is present for you. Allow yourself to feel fully whatever impressions you are sensing. Keeping your attention spacious, notice how the sensations are shifting as you deepen your attention to them.
Then bring your attention down to your sit bones. Allow yourself to ground your attention in the contact that your body is making with your chair. Notice which side sit bone feels more present and grounded into your chair. Allow yourself to ground even more deeply on that side sit bone, using your awareness to deepen your connection with gravity.
You can then return back to noticing what sensations are arising in your body, repeating the exercise. Always complete by returning to your sit bones.
It’s best to keep your eyes closed for the exercise, unless you find yourself getting overwhelmed. If you do feel a sense of overwhelm, go back to your sit bones, and gently open your eyes, while continuing to sense your body as best you can.
When you feel complete, take a moment to notice what has shifted in your awareness during the course of the exercise.