Are you in your body? What does the phrase 'being in your body' mean to you?
For all that we spend 24 hours a day with our bodies, many of us find that we can experience our bodies as something oddly separate from our sense of ourselves. Some experience a sort of uneasy detente with the body, or with certain parts of it, as though we are living 'with' the body, rather than 'in' it.
In previous posts, we've talked about mindfulness meditation and body-scanning meditations, of tuning in to the body to really listen to the signals that our bodies are sending us. But what does one really do to connect to one's own body? How does this connection happen?
What follows is a simple five-minute exercise, one of many that can be used to help you become more connected to your body. Like all meditation-type exercises, it can be done just about anytime or anywhere that it is safe to close your eyes and be still for five minutes.
- The first minute or so is spent simply becoming mindful, using the breath to become more aware of the body and the present moment, without looking to the future or dwelling in the past. If it helps, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Without effort, without trying to make something happen, just focus your attention on a place in your body where it is easy to feel your breath. This could be your nose, your mouth, your chest, or your abdomen. Just notice the breath in that space. Let the focus of your attention be just on the direct sense of your breath. Don't try to change your breath or control it, just feel it, the inhalation, exhalation, and pause in between. If your mind wanders, gently return your focus to the feel of the breath, letting your awareness expand to how the breath feels in other areas, simply accepting the sensations. Don't rush, just feel and be attentive to just this breath, what is happening in this moment and how it feels in your body.
- Then, expand your awareness, bringing your attention to the physical sensations beyond the breath. Feel the pressure of your back against your chair, your arm in your lap, a breeze from a window. Try to narrow your focus, to be very specific in feeling the sensations in your left calf, or your right forearm. Then move to another area, your cheek, the middle of your back. Feel the sensation in that specific area. If other thoughts interrupt, notice them, but avoid following them, and return to the sensation. Feel the interconnection between all these pieces, building a whole person. Let it be easy, and let your breath be soft. Take your time, and remember that it's a practice, not a perfect.
This simple mindfulness exercise can help us connect to our bodies without judgment, without struggle, without pushing or forcing or ignoring what is going on. As we feel more of our bodies, we will find it easier to recognize those little warning signals that the body can send to us, before they become the full-fledged alarm of pain and dysfunction.
Meditation adapted from 'Five Good Minutes In Your Body' by Jeffrey Brantley, MD, and Wendy Millstine, NC.