One of the first things I teach to people learning meditation for the first time is body awareness, specifically physical relaxation. From there we move on to breath awareness and then to mindfulness, which actually just takes us back over awareness of the body and breath.
It is astounding how much information our bodies can provide us when we stop and listen. Think about babies, we had no language when we were born or even for the first year of our lives, however, we could still recognize when we were hungry or tired or needed human contact, we were aware of the physical cues in our bodies and their meaning.
As adults we place enormous significance on language and words, to the degree that much of our experience is shaped by the words we have available to us to describe that experience. However, tweswwo things occur as a result; first, in giving preference to that which we can describe in words we become ignorant of much of the non-verbal experience occurring in our physical bodies and, second, we allow words, through thought and speech, to limit the possibility or potential of our experience.
In order to come back to our bodies, for health reasons to facilitate wellness, or simply to begin to be aware of the full range of experience available to us in this human body, we need to re-develop body awareness.
Our physical body is our home, the container or environment for our mind. When we fill it with junk food, alcohol and don’t exercise enough it is just like leaving your dirty laundry on the lounge room floor, your dishes and takeaway containers piling up on the kitchen bench and refusing to clean the bathroom; would you want to live in this house? Not me.
So the first step is to start meditating on the body. Something as simple as spending a few quiet minutes a day just being aware of how your body is feeling, which bits feel good, which bits are uncomfortable or in pain, which processes are effective (e.g. Digestion) and noticing those that need a service! From there, start to notice the connection between how your body feels and the mood your are in, is there a direct link? Can you see cause and effect? Most of us already know that if you eat a big meal of fried food washed down by several beers you aren’t going to feel your very best the next day, there is obvious cause and effect.
With this awareness you might form the intention to start creating a healthier environment for your mind to live in, reducing the number of toxins, the amount of fat or synthetic ingredients or other disruptive substances that you expose your body and mind to. You might start to use exercise or yoga to help clear out the toxins already in there and very quickly start to notice the changes in body and mind.
As you go about your big clean up and start to see the lounge room floor and the top of the kitchen bench again your awareness of the ‘ language’ of your body will deepen (I’m not talking about arms crossed = I’m cranky kind of body language here, but how the rhythms and sensations in your body can communicate with the mind about health and balance). From here you will be able to keep some distance between your self and the sensations that arise in your body, you will come to see that those sensations are just messages and not who you are, they don’t need to dictate your mood or overall sense of self, they are simply passing experiences, transient and impermanent, awareness of which had been sent to the mind to help it understand the full experience of the present, not just the thoughts of the mind proliferated with words and distorted by the interpretation of the conditioned mind, but the actual raw physical experience of being human.
For those of us who ride the monthly wave of hormonal fluctuation or are slave to food cravings or habitual drinking patterns, this simple awareness activity and development of an understanding of the connection between mind and body can be incredibly liberating. In just a few minutes a day you over a few weeks you can develop this level of physical or body awareness and think your way to health, vitality and wellness.
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