How far are your ears from your shoulders?

Posted by Amanda Furness


I read an article a few weeks ago which has had a lasting effect on me.  The line which repeats on me like too much rich food is “I have been ignoring the warning signals coming from my shoulders for years”.

The person who uttered it was participating in an 8-week mindfulness course.  They had been surprised that so much time at the beginning of the course was spent learning about the body, until it was explained why being aware of our bodies is the foundation of good mental health.  Their tutor had gone on to tell them that, unfortunately, the warning signals our bodies send us are often ignored because we spend so much of our time running on automatic pilot.

Valid point, well made!  So for the past few weeks I have been practising the exercise which was suggested a few times each day.  Namely, to notice where your shoulders are in relation to your ears.  Thankfully I usually don’t have a ruler to hand but suspect, at a pressured moment, really not very far!

The next instruction is to soften them, even by a tiny amount?  Now, I’ve never been great at taking instruction and find following a recipe word for word almost impossible.  So before I can even think about ‘softening’ I have to drop them to the position I believe shoulders are meant to sit.  Worryingly, and without that ruler to hand, I suspect at worst this isn’t far short of 10cm.

I have to confess that each time I ‘soften’ them, whilst doing the final instruction which is to breathe deeply, I realise the poor things were light taut strings.  I believe I’ve managed to bring up two children compassionately, treated my beloved dog with nothing but TLC and my partner’s still here after three decades … so why have I been prepared to ignore my own body’s signals to this extent?

Well, I may be a bit late to the party but as Eckhart Tolle said “Awareness is the greatest agent for change”.  My new realisation led me to thinking of other ways I could help my shoulders recover from years of neglect.  When, for example, did I last change my mattress?  Oh dear, another case of putting others before yourself.  With my new leaf turned over, however, research has been done and a new one ordered.  It arrived this morning.  My previous self would have tried lugging it up the stairs, by hook or by crook, to save the hall looking untidy.  No more.  It will sit where it is until I can get some help putting it in situ this evening.

Until then, I will continue to drop those shoulders, practise that deep breathing and try to remain in the present moment.  I obviously still have work to do though because my mind doesn’t seem to be playing and keeps drifting off into the future, albeit the near future … I can’t remember feeling this excited to get to bed for a very long time!