My meditation teacher begins meditation by encouraging us to think “mindfulness of body, mindfulness of breath, mindfulness of mind.”
Mindfulness can be defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” (Mindful.org) it is placing our attention on what’s happening in the present moment.
When I become quiet, I notice my body is in constant movement. My breath is moving in and out. Air moves past my nostrils. My belly rises and falls. Because I have MS, I experience spasticity in my legs and back, so my body is constantly tightening and relaxing muscles without conscious effort. As my body curls and uncurls, I remind myself to “stay,” as advised by Pema Chodron:
“In meditation we discover our inherent restlessness. Sometimes we get up and leave. Sometimes we sit there but our bodies wiggle and squirm and our minds go far away. This can be so uncomfortable that we feel’s it’s impossible to stay. Yet this feeling can teach us not just about ourselves but what it is to be human…we really don’t want to stay with the nakedness of our present experience. It goes against the grain to stay present. These are the times when only gentleness and a sense of humor can give us the strength to settle down…so whenever we wander off, we gently encourage ourselves to “stay” and settle down. Are we experiencing restlessness? Stay! Are fear and loathing out of control? Stay! Aching knees and throbbing back? Stay! What’s for lunch? Stay! I can’t stand this another minute! Stay!”
Sensations come and go and I try not to label them good or bad, pleasure or pain. I am aware of them as they arise, abide, and dissolve. Like everything else, they don’t last forever. Noticing this is good practice for those moments when I wish for life to be different than it is. Patience.
Sensory experience is a path to joy in our lives. Courtesy of our body, we can revel in the sights, sounds, tastes, fragrances, and textures of this moment. Right now, I feel the chair as it cushions my body. Warm air moves across my skin. The walls around me are bright with colors in artwork. I hear the chugging of the furnace and smell the whispers of last night’s supper. Immersed in my senses, I feel alive.
Beginning meditation, I often remind myself to imagine my lower body rooting to the earth while my upper body stretches to the sky. I become a living conduit between earth and heaven, a reminder of the sanctity of life. Mindfulness of body brings me deeply into this moment. It invites me to fully experience being alive. It reminds me that I am part of this sacred moment.