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Week 2 : Mindulness of the body

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

I hope you got something out of this weeks offering. I have posted a video of the class for those of you who couldn't make it to the class. Just click the link below.

Included here is the written talk that I delivered. Same disclosure as last week, it is close to the talk that I gave but as I was working my way through as I felt something arise that felt like it need more attention I expanding and focused on aspects that I felt were good to cover.

Talk – Experience yourself right now

Today I would like to discuss another form of mindfulness, which is mindfulness of the body. Many people when they first come to meditation and mindfulness have this idea that meditation is about entering into altered states of consciousness where we transcend our bodies and enter spiritual realms of bright lights and rainbows. Which can happen as a side effect of our cultivating of concentration.

What we are wanting to do is to develop a capacity to develop awareness and presence regardless of where we are and what we are doing. Each morning when we wake up we find ourselves in our body and it is with us from the moment we are born until the moment we die. Much like the breath, it is one of the foundations which we can rest our attention.

Why do we want to develop mindfulness of the body, why would we want to remain aware and develop presence in our body? When we develop a friendly and kind relationship with our body, we can arrive into the present moment. The body has no choice but to be in the present moment. Even right now, if you check in with your body, there is some aspect of what it is reporting that is rooted in your present moment experience. Perhaps your butt is reporting that the chair is underneath it, or you knee might be hurting, perhaps your stomach is reporting that it is hungry. This is the moment to moment present time experience. It is one of the easiest ways to tune into what is happening right now.

When we develop a present time awareness of what is happening right now you can experience all that life has to offer - the pleasures, the joys, the pains and sorrows. All too often we can find ourselves caught up in the rush of the day and we miss out on all of the little and big things that are happening all around us.

Social media and the glut of online media and news outlets serve as a distraction from what is happening to us right now. How often do I find myself lost in my phone checking my facebook or Instagram profile, or reading the latest news about what is going on in the state or country around the covid-19 crisis.

How often do you see people in a park or at a place of beauty, on their phone, while surrounded by incredible sights, sounds and smells? We all do this at times, we see something spectacular and get so excited about it and pull out our phone and start taking videos and pictures, experiencing the experience through the lens of the phone. How often are we walking down the street with our phone in hand paying attention to it and almost walk out into traffic. Our awareness in these situations becomes narrowed to a pin point and eventually evaporates and we cease to even be in the place where our physical body is in the present moment.

A famous Buddhist teacher once had this to say when asked "Why do you practice?" And his response was, "So I will see the tiny purple flowers by the side of the road as I walk into town each day." And his larger response, to live life fully.

One potential goal of practice it come into the present moment and to develop a full awareness of what is happening right now. If we really think about it the body is our main channel for that to happen. Everything that happens comes through the body, the senses of touch, smell, sight and hearing all come to our brain through the body. It is energetically our easiest path into presence to come more in touch with our bodies.

It is easy for us to be present with our bodies when we are in a moment of joy or happiness. In those moments when we are laughing a deep belly felt laugh, the mind chatter drops away and we are fully experiencing our body reacting, the belly guffawing, tears of laughter and joy running down our face, the sound of our laughter ringing in our ears.

On the other hand when we are in state of suffering and unpleasant experience, it is one of our main coping mechanisms, to disassociate to leave the body. It is a natural protection mechanism. I would like to propose that it is a protection mechanism that is on steroids and no longer serves us in many instances. When we disconnect from our body, we go into a state of conflict with it. Pushing away the unwanted sensations. As the saying goes you have to feel it to heal it.

As we come under more stress and experience more anxiety, the body becomes and uncomfortable place to inhabit, and we jump out of the ship and start swimming the other way trying to get as far away as possible. On the other hand as we come into contact with something pleasant or very pleasurable… we grasp onto the experience, holding on for dear life trying to keep the party going forever more.

In our society we treat the body as if it is just another accessory to be manipulated to suit our desires. Classically referred to the mind body split. The mind is in control and the body is the just along for the ride. We have come to treat the body as something to be hated if it doesn’t fit some ideal image or measure up. We look in the mirror and sometimes we see something we like, and more often than not we see something we don’t. The narrative might go like this, oh I am fat, my head is bald, my skin is blotchy, too tall, too skinny, not this, too much of that… So we have surgeries, drugs, supplements, clothing, ointments, and products to adjust and conform the body in the ideal. There is a general lack of friendliness that we have towards our bodies. How many of you can identify with that?

In this time of the pandemic we are in a time of uncertainty, unease, dis-ease, anxiety and fear. The feeling tones associated with these states when felt in the body are incredibly uncomfortable. We feel out of control, things are changing day by day, and we are confronted with fear and ambiguity of what is coming next. There is pain, and we can’t control it, we are mortal and we can’t control that. Our way of coping is often dissociating from our body. The more intense the feeling the shorter the period of time we are willing to sit with it and we are more willing to flee and abandon ourselves.

There is a consequence to not sitting and experiencing what is happening and dissociating. Imagine you have a child at home, who is crying perhaps because they are overtired, haven’t eaten enough, if our capacity to turn towards that child and figure out how to show up and tend to the child, the crying and meltdown will continue and the level of the crying will increase. One way for us to cope is to leave and go out of the room and go hide elsewhere in the house. But somewhere in the distance you still probably can hear the child crying, so you need to do other things to tune out that child’s crying. All of these efforts to avoid the crying child in the room take energy and determination to avoid the crying and suffering. The result is there is fatigue and exhaustion from the effort to avoid and tune out the uncomfortable experience of the child’s crying. Often people who dissociate from their body complain of fatigue and exhaustion, because it takes effort to run away from the unwanted experience. And no matter how far or how fast your run, you never can quite escape.

Dissociation and escape coping habits can come in form of picking up your phone, eating, and other habits that can be less healthy. We can’t dissociate and completely forget about that crying child, so in the back of our mind somewhere we know the child is crying and guilt, shame and anxiety descend on us to make matters worse.

As the situation spirals more and more out of control we find ourselves alienate from our body and cut off from our heart. The invitation is to stop, turn toward that which needs attention. To develop a kindness and openness towards whatever the experience is at this moment.

As we develop our practice of mindfulness of the body we can become aware of what is going on. We develop a genuine interest in the sensations of the body. A sense of curiosity of what is going on here. With time and practice the invitation is to inhabit our bodies, to develop a state of mind that is based in friendliness and openness to the body as it acts as the portal to our real time experience. To begin to develop our window of tolerance for unpleasant experiences that come to us through our body.

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