Working With The Body (Week 4)
The next step or layer to add on top of Using Your Breath as Home from last week is to begin to work with the sensations in your body. You may spend so much time up in your head or focused on TV, computer, or phone screens that there may be days when you forget you even have a body. It's in your body, though, where a lot of wisdom lies.
It's in your body that you can identify your stress level. It's in your body where you can first identify that you've been triggered before your mental response kicks in. Often, it's your body that is grounding you to the present moment. Emotions are felt in different parts of your body. This is why, after the breath, we move to the body to build a greater connection with ourselves and the present moment.
Adding This Into Your Practice
Building on last week, you will continue using the breath as home and now add in being aware of your body in a conscious way. Initially this may be easier to do as a scan of your body starting at the top of your head and working all the way down to your toes or from your toes all the way to the top of your head. As you scan each area, really focus your attention there. Shift your awareness to each area and really feel what is happening. As you notice tension, aches, tightness, or anything else that is being held in your focus area, stay with it.
As you hold your focus, you may find that whatever has caused you to pause -- discomfort, irritation, itching, a strong emotion -- goes away as the focus is held. You may also find that the feelings there intensify in some way. Just hold your focus as you notice these things. The goal is to simply notice and feel -- not to force the feeling away or to intensify it. Just be with whatever is there and use it to bring you into the present moment.
The goal is not to complete a full-body scan. The goal is to be present with the sensations in your body. Don't feel rushed.
Don't Sit with Pain
As you do this, you may notice pain or feel your body really wanting to shift out of a painful sitting style or posture. Pain is different from discomfort. Discomfort you can focus on as part of your practice and it will often dissipate. Pain in your knees or lower back, for example, is your body's way of saying it needs to shift, lay down, stand up, or adjust in some way.
Many monks over the years have done some real damage to their knees in particular sitting with pain as opposed to discomfort. You are becoming more aware of your body so you can listen to it with greater clarity. If your body is in pain and saying to shift, listen to it and shift your posture as needed.
Fold Your Laundry, Do Your Dishes, and Eat Your Meals
As you work with adding this into your practice, also find time this week to bring greater mindfulness into the things you routinely do. Take the time to bring this mindful focus into the physical sensations for a few of your everyday activities.
When you are in the shower, really pay attention to that moment. Feel the water. Feel the base of the tub or the shower floor tiles with the soles of your feet. What does the metal of the faucet feel like when you touch it? Hear the sounds of the water or even your breathing. What does the soap feel like or smell like? How does the temperature of the water feel?
Many people do this when folding the laundry, doing the dishes in the soap-filled sink, and through focusing slowly on every taste sensation when eating. When doing these activities, don't rush. Take these as opportunities to really focus your attention on the smells, tastes, sounds, and touch sensations of what you are doing.
Shift Your Focus
This complete shift into focusing on the physical during an everyday activity is about really taking a moment that would normally be an unconscious routine and making it much more mindful. Next week we will incorporate the practice of walking meditation before moving on to working with emotions and the mind.
Spend this week adding working with your body into the breath awareness time period from last week. You will be combining these two lessons together for your practice periods.
Be mindful of your body.
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