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.
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.
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