MINDFULNESS OF THE BODY KEYNOTE
Grounding – Get into your body and inhabit it, as if you’re coming into a room, looking for, and finding, a good place to sit.
Staying with what you’re doing in an attentive way, or bearing it in mind, is an important skill called ‘mindfulness’. Mindfulness is initiated by bringing to mind a sight, sound, touch, smell, taste or idea. Often you do this with a thought, such as: ‘What does my body feel like, now?’ Or, ‘How do I know I’m breathing?’ Or, ‘Patience…’ However, more than just thinking of something, mindfulness means that you take in the touch, sound, or meaning; you really ‘get it’. You bear it in mind. Naturally it’s easier to bear something in mind if it’s simple, comfortable and relatively still. So we develop mindfulness around the body, and practise getting it comfortable and balanced. In a nutshell, the right kind of effort is one of simplifying and steadying: to put aside what you don’t need right now (including ideas of achievement), and to make more of what is good and helpful. In the following exercise, this comes down to being fully aware of the body sitting still.
One of the most effective postures for the cultivation of mindfulness is that of sitting. The upright posture supports clarity and alertness, and with careful attention you can develop it so that it keeps your back straight without strain. A straight-backed chair may be helpful, but you should avoid leaning back in it. Even better, you may be able to use one of the cross-legged ‘lotus’ postures.
For this, you’ll probably need to wedge a small cushion under your tailbone to help support the lower back. In either case, good posture is that which provides a firm but supple balance that allows vitality to circulate through the body. When firmness and vitality blend, the body feels good and the mind settles down.
To get comfortable in an upright way, draw your lower back in and let your shoulders drop. Draw the lower tips of the shoulder blades into your back. Let your arms rest, hands lightly clasped in your lap, or palms down resting on your thighs. Keeping your eyes lightly focused, bring your head in line with the spine. Imagine your chin is resting on a soft ball about the size of a large orange, so that the head is tilted very slightly downward, but the neck remains upright. Allow the spine to straighten by imagining the crown of the head is suspended from above. This will help to relax your neck muscles. Above all, don’t allow the head to tilt forward as this encourages drowsiness. Take your time, and aim for balance.
Take an interest in how your body feels. Collect your attention, and begin to move it slowly around your body. Notice sensations. Relax any tensions, particularly in the face, neck, and hands. Allow the eyelids to close or half close. Take some long slow out-breaths and adjust: whatever you can relax, relax; whatever needs to be alert, wake it up. Get comfortable. Then hold the body in its entirety in your awareness without focusing on any point in particular.
Can you feel the regular rhythm of breathing? If so, learn how your body holds itself to facilitate the breathing. This is a good guide for attuning your posture.
Bring your awareness to the skin, the boundary of your body. Imagine sitting in warm and comfortable space, sensing your body within that space. Feeling the energy and warmth of your breathing, imagine those qualities gently radiating out through your skin.
If you are feeling tense about all this, relax your attention, and soften around your mouth, eyes and forehead.
It’s quite normal to experience both drowsiness and a hyperactive mind. These are the two extremes that the mind swings between when it is temporarily detached from normal social engagement. The simple way to counter these is to keep bringing attention to your body and its posture. If you’re feeling drowsy, keep your eyes open and bring attention to the upright posture through drawing the lower back in and keeping the neck and head in line with the spine. If restlessness and hyperactivity are the problems, sweep your attention over your body as if you’re gently brushing it, picking up the sensations and energies in the skin. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply.
If you find yourself brooding or worrying, it’s best to open your eyes and change your posture to one of those in the next exercise; or spend some time in reflection, as below.
(Ajahn Sucitto, „Meditation – An Outline“, read more)