The Most Important Word You’ve Never Heard of…

I love learning new words, and I have become very fond of one recently that I would love to share. That word is “proprioception,” and it is an attribute, or a skill, that can be found and developed in both authentic dialogue and yoga. Proprioception is essentially just a long word that means “self-perception,” or “our own reception,” but when used in different schools of thoughts it becomes much more intriguing.

When applied in yoga, proprioception is the idea of cultivating a more refined awareness of every part of ones body through the continual practice of a diverse range of yoga postures, or asanas. When the body lays stagnant for years, certain parts of oneself are forgotten about, and are more or less operating on auto-pilot. Practicing yoga wakes up the whole body and gets one tuned into parts of themselves that they’ve forgotten about, or never felt to begin with. Yoga helps to reconnect the “circuitry” between the conscious mind and various parts of the body. We’re not just talking about the lower back…..your left foot…or your hips. There are some long time yoga practitioners that claim that their level of proprioception is to the point that they can feel the most subtle functioning of their internal organs! Now that might sound like a stretch to some people (no pun intended), but you get the picture.

In the practice of dialogue, it is the idea of becoming more mindful of our thoughts, and the origin of them. Instead of simply “reacting” in conversation, by engaging in authentic dialogue one is lifted into a more conscious state by suspending opinions, thoughts, and feelings for examination. Just as yoga reconnects the “circuitry” between the conscious mind and various parts of the body, authentic dialogue can help to reconnect the “circuitry” between our “knee jerk” reactions, and the origins of them. Many people feel as if “thoughts just appear,” but the practice of proprioception in dialogue can enable us to perceive the impulses that lie behind everyday thought. The same way that the practice of yoga “wakes up” parts of the physical body that have been laying dormant for some time, the same goes for how the practice of dialogue can wake up parts of our consciousness that haven’t been explored in quite awhile, or at all for that matter.

A good example of the use of proprioception in dialogue, is a disagreement I had with my mom just the other day on how often one should get the oil changed in their car. I had decided that instead of going by what the auto-shop usually recommends, which is to change your oil every 2,500–3,000 miles, I was going to go by what the owners manual for my car recommended, which was every 7,500 miles. She basically disagreed with my reasoning and was very adamant about “getting your oil changed sooner than later” for no apparent reason. I didn’t understand why she would think that…because clearly the manufacturer of my car would know what was best instead of an auto-shop that just wanted to make a buck right? I started asking her more questions, genuinely trying to understand where she was coming from, and it turned out that when she was my age, she had waited too long to change her oil and her engine burned out! She ended up having to pay $1,500 to replace the engine, and the car was only worth $2,000! Once she told me that, I had a completely different point of view on her opinion. That experience left a scar of embarrassment for her, and she never wanted to make that mistake again, I think everyone can relate to something like that. Through dialogue we were about to “follow the disturbance” to the source, and understand what was really driving her feelings.

For all these years she had this strong willed opinion on when someone should get their oil changed, and had long since forgotten about the original experience that made her feel that way. Aren’t most of our thoughts and opinions that way though? How could they be any other way? The only way we make meaning of the world is through experiences and things we come into contact with. Most of us forget about that though, and are just left with our “surface level” opinions and thoughts, due to the fact that it’s convenient and easy to draw upon in the midst of conversation. Of course we can’t spend every moment of every day diving into the origin of everything that dances across our consciousness, but if it is necessary, we should all have the capacity to do so. Not only does it help us understand ourselves better, but it also enables others to understand, empathize, and feel compassion for us when they’re able to learn more about the “roots” of our points of view.

Whether it is in regards to yoga, or dialogue, proprioception is really all about going deeper. A biologist wouldn’t stop at the surface of a lake if he wanted to

understand a whole ecosystem, and a physician wouldn’t stop at the surface of a patients skin while giving a complete physical (Well unfortunately some doctors probably would!). Like the biologist and the physician, we can all benefit by going a little bit deeper, and cultivating a personal practice of getting below the surface to explore our greatest depths.

What do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts. And if you liked it, click the recommend button below. ☺ Thanks!

Originally published at on June 18, 2015.