Day 7 of 30: Connecting With Your Body
What does it mean to check in with your body? How do you do it?
Start with considering whether or not you are comfortable at this time with the invitation to check in with your body. We all come to this present moment with different experiences. For some, for example, placing awareness on the felt sensations of the belly during breathing may not be a source of comfort. If placing your awareness on other aspects of the sensations of your body creates unease or upset, then remember that you are in control of your practice and when you feel the beginnings of discomfort, please stop.
If you feel comfortable, the invitation is to give these options below a try today.
Your faculty of attention is amazing! It is incredibly flexible. You can zoom out to encompass an awareness of the sensations in your entire body. Or you can zoom in to the size of a pinpoint on your cheek. It’s analogous to the most capable of binoculars. With the turn of a dial, you’re viewing in focus a hair follicle. Turn the dial partly in the other direction, and you’re seeing an elbow or a shoulder in focus. Continue turning that dial and there’s your whole body, front and back, top to bottom, in focus in the frame …
In any of these spheres of attention, the invitation is to focus on the felt sense. Describing that felt sense is very difficult because we’re not talking about the words. The words are thoughts. Certainly “I like it” is a thought; it’s an evaluation, not a sensation. But even more subtle, you may be aware of an energy, a heat, a tingle, an ache. What you’re attending to is the experience of the sensation. What it feels like in your body. Words, such as energy and heat, may arise as descriptors. This practice is a focus on the feelings themselves.
I invite you to play with it. As you sit with a sensation, descriptive words will arise. Notice the words as thoughts and distinguish them from the actual feelings. “Heat” arose as a thought, and that thought could be adequate, inadequate, rich, or hollow compared to the sensation itself. Funnily enough, most likely your experience will be that the words are not quite adequate descriptors of the experience. How many times do we try to share our feelings with others and we struggle: “It’s an ache, but it’s pulsing. It’s intense, but it’s not overwhelming.” The experience of the ache is immediately-accessible to you. Putting words to it is often woefully inadequate.
Now that we’ve distinguished your experience of the sensations from the thoughts about them, you’re ready to check in with your body:
(1) Body Scan: Starting with the top of your head, pause at each region of your body to say a silent “hello” and to bring awareness to what it feels like there. Continue on until you reach your feet. What did you notice?
(2) Wholistic: Place your awareness on your body as a whole. Often, with awareness zoomed out to encompass your entire body, one or more areas will call out for attention (e.g., a swirling in your stomach and an energy in your limbs). Were you aware of it before you checked in? What happens when you try on a name for whatever the sensations are? For example, indigestion versus anger. Over time, what do you notice about the relationships between the names of these general states (e.g., indigestion, anger, joy, anxiety, restlessness, etc.) and the specific sensations in your body?
(3) Specific Areas: It can be both fun and enlightening to bring your awareness to a specific small area on your skin. Starting out it may be most illuminating to choose a very sensitive area such as your face or your hands. Place your awareness there. Notice the sensations available to your awareness in that area in every moment when you pay attention to them. Sensations such as the temperature of the room, the movement of air, an itch, a tingle, and so on. What happens to these sensations when you are not paying attention to them? What arises in you when you do?
It is helpful to bring acceptance, curiosity, gratitude and awe (what a miracle it is to be human and have a body!) to the sensations of your body. For now, it is enough to be present to these sensations, allowing them and observing them, not trying to change them, deny them, or interpret them.
I invite you to continue on with your recurring daily concentration meditation practice for at least 5 minutes per day. In addition, if you feel ready and comfortable, schedule times throughout the day specifically for checking in with the sensations of your body. What you’ll begin to notice is that with more and more repetitions of this practice, your bodily sensations will become more accessible to you, your attention to them will become more & more attuned, and you will begin to do it naturally during more and more moments throughout the day. This progression will likely culminate in your having your metaphorical “finger on the pulse” of your body in every moment.
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See you tomorrow!