• joe@jhanderson.biz   
    (206) 351-5607   

  • The first time I walked into a pachinko parlor in Japan the experience was almost overwhelming. Colored lights were flashing everywhere. There was an incredible roar of bells and buzzers and music and the rattle of thousands of little steel balls. After I’d been there for a while, though, some structure began to emerge. I started to notice the players, hunched over and mesmerized. I could pick out the electronic J-Pop melodies and bells coming from the different machine. I wouldn’t say I ever felt quite comfortable, but the whole scene did seem a lot more coherent.

    First tuning in to interoception—the subtle signals your body sends you from your muscles, organs, and connective tissue—might make as much sense as walking into a pachinko parlor. There are random twinges and floods of energy, sinking and rising feelings, swirls and pirouettes of nausea and giddiness.

    If you keep paying attention, some order does start to emerge. But you have to hang in there with the initial confusion. Otherwise you’ll just turn and run back to the comfort of your thought-stream, stay disconnected from your body, and miss some potentially important signals.

    Explore your physical sensations with curiosity: after all, your brain turns them into emotional meanings and those meanings can drive you to take some pretty serious actions. The decision to act in anger, or run for cover, starts with a sensation in your body. Noticing the original sensation sooner gives you more of a chance to view with clarity both the sensation and the impulse to respond, so you can make a conscious choice as to what to do about them.

    Try It: Do a body scan from head to foot. Pay special attention to any feelings of discomfort: tension, nausea, pain, dizziness—anything that seems a bit confused or turbulent. You don’t need to draw any conclusions from what you’re noticing. Just investigate the sensations in detail and with curiosity. See if you can identify what’s happening with your body, right now.

    Photo: This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at //commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PachinkoPlayers.jpg under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license.