“If you don’t go within, you go without”
Have you ever thought how much your attention is focused on the outside world versus how much it is resting within?
Take a moment; close your eyes and notice how different the world is with them closed. Now follow the breath allowing the out breath to sink deep into the body and notice how this feels.
The experience of peace and calm is right under our noses, literally! All we need to do it pay attention to the body. Sometimes it doesn’t feel calm, but the amazing thing is that underneath thoughts of interpretation, we soon realise that the body just is, and there is no suffering in ‘is’.
“There is one thing, 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 in the body.” – The Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya
The Buddha was so right on this one. For the eight years that I have been practicing and working with mindfulness, the ‘body focus’ has been at the absolute core of the practice and theory.
If you don’t do mindfulness of the body you are not gaining what you could out of mindfulness. When you do mindfulness of the body you also realise why the body focus comes before mindfulness of feelings and thoughts. It is because the body is the context. The body’s task is to keep you alive. To do this it is constantly tuning into the environment both externally and internally. Whatever information is picked up causes changes within the body affecting our mood and perception.
So the body is the context of our experience. You know this when you have slept well and you feel so much better than when you haven’t. When you are relaxed you like people much more than if you are stressed. When you have just eaten you feel different to when you are hungry.
If you doubt that the body is the context, consider this. You see a slice of lovely chocolate cake and you eat it. Then comes the second piece and lets say you eat that as well. In comes the third piece, how are you likely to see this? What has changed and is influencing how you see the ‘lovely’ chocolate cake? The BODY state has changed, leading you to see the third piece of the same cake as revolting.
This means that I can pre-empt many thoughts; out of a distressed and tired body state is likely to come thoughts that are not so positive. The brilliant thing is that with attention, I can ‘down regulate’ the body. I can calm it down by paying attention to, for example, a threat response. But first I have to be aware of it and that requires mindfulness of the body.
Mindfulness of the body also enables me to interrupt the flow of thoughts by shifting attention to the within the body. If I have good attention management, then I can keep my attention there till things calm down or transform. Surprisingly it does not take long.
We know that all descriptions of reality are only temporary hypotheses, this gives us license to interrupt the thoughts that are not kind or healthy. When the body is then in a better state, you can bring out the issue again and now look at it with clearer eyes.
Key points about the body:
- The body is organic and need nutrients – the body is not a machine needing fuel!
- The body is always in the present, so when your attention is with the body, you are present.
- The body cannot lie, unlike the mind; in other words it is totally reliable in terms of where you are at.
- The body responds faster than the mind, so when you are aware of the body, you get a head start to what thoughts might be coming.
How to do it:
- Do the bodyscan for the next two weeks every day – this is a challenge.
- When you shower notice the sensations of the water on the skin.
- When you first sit be aware of the sensation of the seat.
- When you first hop into your car be aware of the sensations of the steering wheel, the seat, the pedals.
- And do refer to the body as Dear Body!