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Be Still, Be Well: A Simple Practice of Mindfulness

Butterly ~ Be Still

Do you feel disconnected from your body or cut up into separate parts with a few numb or missing?

One way to avoid the body is by talking non-stop in conversation with others and with yourself, too.  I often see this when I visit the nearby hot pond.  Many people chatter away the entire time they’re present.  They don’t take a second to be still and soak in the sensation of being in the water or the sights and sounds around them.

On the other end of the spectrum, you may be obsessed with your body.  Women, in particular, are conditioned to spend endless amounts of time, energy and money shopping for makeup and the right clothes. Now, marketers push men in the same direction.  How you look may have become your identity. But, typically this leads to constant discontentment.

Or, you might be preoccupied with making your body healthier, stronger, and more fit through exercise, diet or juice regimes.  This isn’t necessarily bad when done with awareness.  But, sometimes, you can be intensely engaged with body-focused activity and still not inhabit your body.

A Simple Way to Connect with Your Body

There are many ways to stay disconnected from your body.  Why is this?  Deep down, you might be afraid to connect with the body because you know uncomfortable emotions are hidden there.  I understand because I’ve found it challenging to stay tuned into my body, too.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative that can help you heal suppressed emotions and make you feel alive and whole.  Instead of fearing the body and buried emotions, you can use the body as a vehicle for profound personal transformation. That is, if you’re willing to be still.

The following meditation instruction from Awakening the Sacred Body by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche underlines the healing power of stillness.

“Right from the beginning [of a meditation session], just be still in your body.  By being still, you will feel directly whatever you are experiencing in your body in the moment because you are not moving away from it.  You might become aware of discomfort or agitation.  Stay with it.  Just be with it directly.  Experience your body.  Every moment of connection to the stillness of your body is a moment of healing.  This is something we can do through the day as well as something you can do when you first sit down to meditate.  Stop.  Be still.  Feel your body.  If you are able to be still, you are entering through the door of the body rather than exiting, moving out, disconnecting from yourself through distraction and agitation.  With practice, you can discover the inner refuge of stillness.”

You don’t have to be an experienced meditator to try this out.  In fact, this instruction can be your simple introduction to mindfulness meditation.

The next time you sit down, notice whether you are inhabiting your body or if all your energy is in your head.  If it is, you can start by dropping the energy into your heart or solar plexus.  Then, be still and simply notice your body sensations.

The Body Scan Technique

If you would like to take this further, try a body scan – a powerful method for increasing mindfulness of the body.  Sit upright in a relaxed way.  Your eyes can be open or closed. Slowly scan your body – like a photocopier scanning an image – starting at the head and gradually working your way down through each section.  Just loosely place your attention on the body as you slowly scan. Don’t over concentrate, but enjoy a sense of relaxed but alert awareness.

As you meet each part of your body, you might feel warmth, tension, lightness or nothing at all.  Just notice, but don’t linger on any particular sensation.  If thoughts arise, and they probably will, just be aware of them and return your attention to the body scan.  You will probably have to do this repeatedly as thoughts tend to be persistent at first.  But, with practice, the thoughts will naturally begin to settle.

Gradually, continue through each part of your body until you end at your toes. If you have time, you can begin the scan again at your head.  This is a simple practice of mindfulness of the body that you can do daily for 10 or 15 minutes.  Or longer, if you’d like.

The Benefits of Mindfulness of the Body

Through practicing mindfulness of the body, you can discover:

  • Greater physical presence, which can mean fewer accidents and mistakes.
  • Greater presence of mind as the process itself allows the mind to naturally calm down.
  • Feelings of calm, peace and serenity.
  • A calming of the stress response and a decrease in stress symptoms.
  • A sense you are gaining control over your own mind so you are the boss instead of the other way around.
  • A clearer connection with your authentic self and innermost essence.
  • More awareness of negative habits or patterns, which is the first step towards change.
  • A growing feeling of warmth and connection with others.

Of course, we’re not just practicing for ourselves.  When we transform our negative emotions and constant preoccupation with the self, we can more easily be present for others and contribute to a more positive world.

Normally, our mind churns out so many concepts about our body from ugly, awkward, too big, too small, not right, must be fixed, if only, maybe it’s cancer (or whatever illness we fear) and the stream goes on.

Through the practice of mindfulness, you’ll learn to let these concepts dissolve and instead develop a simple, direct, and healthy experience of the body as it is.  As a result, feelings of peace, contentment, acceptance, and well-being will slowly arise.

Remember those suppressed emotions?  They might also arise as you begin to have a direct experience of your body.  By being still, you are giving them a chance to surface and be released.  It can feel a little scary or rocky, at first.

The secret is to allow them to arise and to be aware of them.  Instead of creating more thoughts and emotions about them, as soon as you notice them, simply return to mindfulness of the body.  Although the emotions may be recalcitrant at first, with practice they will gradually diminish and ultimately be set free.

However, if you feel overwhelmed by strong emotions, take a break.  Go for a walk, write in your journal, or talk to a friend.  If they continue to disturb you, consider seeking professional help.

Luminous Body

We usually think of the body as very solid and real.  But, actually, the molecules of the body are constantly moving.  Your body is continually changing at a subtle level.

Through mindfulness of the body, you can slowly get in touch with the ephemeral nature of your physical being.  You can come to recognize that you are not your body.  It’s simply the vehicle for your awareness during this lifetime.

While it’s important to take care of the body, we can easily see that obsession with the body usually leads to discontent.  Your body will dissolve when you die, but your awareness will continue.  So, what’s really important?

Wouldn’t it be better to get to know the truest part of yourself instead of spending huge amounts of your time on the superficial care of your body?  Even though you are not your body, you can use this physical vehicle to connect with your true essence.  And, when you do, peace, spaciousness, and well-being will be yours.

Dare to be still!  See what happens.

Are you living in your body?  Or, someplace else?  Tell us about it.

I’m glad you’re here and thank you so much for sharing my posts.  If you’re new, please consider subscribing for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra

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17 Comments

  1. Jean Sampson

    Interesting that this post arrives just as I have showered and eaten after a long, long hill walk on a beautiful spring day! I have had so many issues with this body since childhood, starting with the allergies to animals that I loved! Also the asthma was not well controlled with meds in the 40’s and 50’s so I was always struggling to breathe! And then I was a chubby child, started dieting and developed eating disorders that resulted in a lifetime of what they now call Exercise Bulimia which, really, I think kept me pretty healthy for most of my life, although I would put exercise ahead of almost everything else (not recommended ). I finally did overcome that and then found myself not moving much at all and developing all sorts of issues related to sitting too much! So now, I do try to take a walk daily for about an hour. The one left-over from the EB is that I have a hard time calling anything exercise unless it really works me out! Hence the huge hills that I challenge myself with, not so much for weight, but because I am nearly 70 and am scared of all of those things they tell us are waiting to pounce on us if we don’t move, move, move! So I am still trying to find the place of balance! I did do the body scan and did not like some of the aches and pains I felt 🙂 but I tried not to judge them or think of what I could do to “fix” them (I am a big-time fixer), but just tried to notice them and move on. I was sort of surprised to find a few spots that were just fine! I guess it is because we do focus so much on what is WRONG! Thanks, Sandra, I have heard of a body scan but did not know the details. And I do have to say I really feel relaxed. Of course part of that could be a 3 hour walk!

    • Wow Jean, you’ve really gone through so much with your body! I’ve never heard of exercise bulimia before so thanks for educating me. I think balance is the key and it looks like you have so much more awareness and are getting closer to it. I’m definitely the kind of person who needs to move more.

      Yes, the body scan can definitely make us aware of aches and pains we may not notice in our usual day to day affairs. You might find this changing if you continue to practice it. As they say in yoga, where the mind goes the energy flows. So sometimes just paying attention to these areas of the body can help unblock the energy. And, it’s a practice that is used by some in chronic pain management as paying attention can help people build more tolerance for the pain. On the other hand, it might not be the right practice for you if it feels too uncomfortable and stays that way. We’re all different so we each have to see how it goes with time. I’m glad you felt more relaxed though! Thanks for giving it a try and sharing your update.

  2. Oh I love this quote in your post! “Every moment of connection to the stillness of your body is a moment of healing.” It really connects with me.

    I am a go go go type girl and I so rely on meditation practices to get centered again. Sometimes I get back into those old patterns of ‘get er done NOW’ and I have to take a huge step back for few days. It always helps.

    Thanks for a great post and reminder 😉

    • Hi Melissa,

      I really connected with that particular line too and it was a big part of why I shared that quote! Interesting, how we both immediately went to the heart of it!

      I used to be a go go type girl too so I know how it is not to stop. It seems like you are bringing great awareness to this and really know when you need to pause. That’s fabulous! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. Great post…and wow there are a lot of go go girls here…including me!! wonderful writing and reminders thank you! Patricia

    • Thank you, Patricia! There’s a lot of goodness that can come from being a go go girl too, isn’t there! It’s just a question of whether we can sit still sometimes too.

  4. Hi Sandra…funny how there are no accidents. I’ve been focusing on mindfulness more than ever of late. And I’ve noticed that not only does my mind affect my body…ie when I’m thinking of the lovely things in life versus keeping my attention on the very thing I don’t want to experience…but the way my body is…ie the way I hold myself, the way I walk, whether my shoulders are straight or slumped…has an equal impact on the quality of my thinking.

    Great article…thank you. 🙂

    • So true! That’s why posture is considered an important element in meditation; precisely because how we hold our body effects our mind. The posture shouldn’t be rigid and inflexible though! I love how you’ve made this discovery on your own by tuning into your body. Thanks for highlight this for us.

  5. I just found your blog, it’s wonderful and I love this post! Great information and incredibly important to be mindful – absolutely! As one who meditates on a regular basis, I can say it makes all the difference in the world, and more specifically the health of your mind (and body).

    • Welcome, Sheila! I agree, mindfulness and meditation make all the difference in the world. Thanks for sharing your personal experience.

  6. Thanks for this post, Sandra! My body holds stress and tension in one particular area, and it’s really important for me to pay attention to it because it’s become a real problem. I’ve recently started becoming more mindful of this, and all the little things I do and don’t do that have an impact on how my body feels throughout the day. Now I notice (at least more than before) when I’m tensing up. I’m going to use your body scan technique to help me relax. I think it’s really going to help!!

    Jess

    • I’m sorry you have this physical challenge, Jessica. Awareness seems center-stage in how you are approaching. I hope the body scan helps you too and that you feel better soon.

  7. Sandra,
    I love these. I’m going to print them out and practice practice practice. It’s exactly what I need. More body connection. Thank you.

  8. Lori

    Hi Sandra… Thanks for the great insights. I’ve become a real fan of mindfulness – I love the benefits. I’m a runner and one way I practice mindfulness is while running solo, I simply focus on the rhythm of my breathing and footsteps. The result is a meditation-type experience which I find very refreshing. Great for the mind and body.

    • Hi Lori,

      This is so wonderful! We can apply mindfulness to movement too and this is a perfect example. Thanks for sharing this with us. I know it’s quite hard to be still for some of us so it’s always helpful to see other options. I’m glad you are getting so much benefit from being mindful when you run.

  9. This is incredibly powerful for me to read. The body often holds the emotions we are fearful of facing. Some great advice I received once is that depression is often anger turned inwards – when I faced my anger, I was able to feel my sadness and heal my depression. Thank you for writing this.

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