Mindfulness Of The Body

Mindfulness Of The Body

There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to deep spiritual intention, to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now and to the culmination of wisdom and awakening. And what is that one thing? It is mindfulness centred on the Body. - The Buddha, from the Satipatthana Sutta

Yoga_008b.jpg

 

I first began teaching Pilates eleven years ago when I was studying to become a Physiotherapist. It inspired me how it enhanced people's posture and movement, how it strengthened the body and the mobility and flexibility it provided. I was initially drawn to the physical prowess it provided, but over time I realised there was something else that made me fall in love with this movement practice.

Throughout a class as well as afterwards, I noticed that my mind would become still as I began to focus on my breath and then on different parts of my body. It seemed that it enabled me to turn off the never ending voice inside my head, particularly if I was participating in a class that required intricate movements and details. The more I was required to concentrate and pay attention to what was going on inside my body moment to moment, the quieter my mind became. Even after I taught a class I would often feel like I was floating as I walked out of the studio.

I didn't realise what it was at the time that left me feeling calm, content and centred, and also turned down my over thinking mind, but now I know it was the practice of mindfulness of the body.

Mindfulness of the body allows us to live fully. It brings healing, wisdom and freedom


Embodiment

I've worked with several people who said they thought that the sole purpose of their body was just to transport their head around before they started a meditation practice. "I thought the purpose of my body was just to take me from point A to point B", one gentleman told me. 

You may notice in times of stress you've been "cut off" from your body. You're not aware of all of the tension it's holding when your mind is in overdrive telling you to perform a task faster.  You may notice that when you do start paying attention to what's going on inside your body you recognise tension in your jaw, you've been frowning and you're holding your shoulders close to your ears. 

Mindfulness of the body, and embodied movement such as aikido and other martial arts, yoga, Pilates, Qui Gong are a powerful antidote to being "lost in thought", or having a mind that won't stop thinking. 

Training Awareness And Interoception

The body provides a valuable training ground for mindfulness. It brings us into to the present moment because our body is always in the present. It's not something that's remembering the past or planning in the future. The body only exists in the now.

The term "interoception" is used to describe the matter of what's happening inside our body: it can be seen as mindfulness expressed in the body. 

How is interoceptive relevant to our health and well-being? Illnesses such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, immune disorders, chronic pain and more can be considered diseases of disembodiment. 

So how does mindfulness meditation and mindful movement help?

Our ability to inhabit our body and to be present with all our arising sensations (moods, feeling, emotions) as they fluctuate can be trained. Just like lifting weights at the gym we lay down new muscle with each repetition, each time we are mindful of what's arising inside of us, we learn to develop an open, present awareness to what's going on moment to moment.

When we strengthen our awareness we don't get as stuck in negative self talk (I'll never be good enough, no one will ever love me), have as many ruminating thoughts (obsessive thinking about what we should have done differently) or have as much anxiety about the future (I'm going to fail, something bad is about to happen).

The suffering we experience from thinking and feeling like this can be profound. Increasing our ability to bring awareness to the sensations arising from within the physical body can help us to heal. Mindfulness teaches us to recognise, ‘Ok, I'm feeling fear. I’ve been here before. Can I be with this.' 

Cultivating the ability to direct our awareness prevents us from excessively worrying about things in our future that may never happen, or over-thinking about the things from our past that we can not change. It helps us to see things as they really are. To me, this is true freedom.  


Mindfulness of the body allows us to live fully. It brings healing, wisdom and freedom


This meditation helps us scan through the body and come to rest at the heart space - an area we hold many of our emotions.

Finding Stillness through Freedom Dance

Finding Stillness through Freedom Dance

The Antidote To Grief Is Compassion

The Antidote To Grief Is Compassion