Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.”
The first of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of Body is a concept that stretches back to the earliest texts of Buddhism. In the Theravada tradition, the Anapanasati and Maha Satipathana Suttas spell out the details of meditative techniques which have been widely taught for about 2500 years. Now, through the efforts of Jon Cabot-Zinn and others, western medical science has been able to verify that mindfulness meditation has a significant positive impact on health, both physically and psychologically. A primary emphasis of these techniques is developing a fuller awareness of our bodies as a basis of cultivating a calmer and clearer sense of the entire realm of our own experience. With this comes a clearer sense of the nature of reality.
Conditioned as we are, most of us are "in our heads" most of the time. Although we are obviously always breathing; although our eyes are seeing, our ears hearing, our bodies moving, most of that happens without our full presence of mind. Most of the focus of our attention is on the thoughts running through our head. Oftentimes fueled by emotions that we are, at best, minimally aware of, these thoughts dominate our awareness in a way that sweeps us along the stream of our own conditioned patterns. Without a commitment to Practice, we are liable to "sleepwalk" through our lives, rarely awakening to the Sacredness of Life that permeates our existence each and every moment.
In this week's MMM Circle, I found myself mentioning that it may be helpful to create a specific
I can't say that I did that every time I walked during the course of the day, but when I did, I noticed. It changed things. Once I had placed my attention into my body, there was a shift. The entire range of sensory experience opened up. As well as feeling my belly and my feet and the ground more distinctly, the sky got bluer, the crisp air more invigorating, the soundscape more vibrant as I walked down Federal Street. The sunlight glistened off the door handle as I reached to open the door of my bedroom. I felt the smoothness of the knob as I twisted it. Wherever I was, my breathing often deepened a bit as well and I felt calmer.
I like it when that happens. My belly and feet decided to stay with that intention the rest of the week.
It could very well be that the old axiom "mind over matter" may have it backwards. Our bodies are a lot wiser than we think.