"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Body of Wisdom

 “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. 
Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.”
― Thích Nhat Hạnh, Being Peace

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, 
who is in you, whom you have received from God?
― 1 Corinthians 6:19, The Bible,  New International Version

When I observed my first Zen teacher practice kinhin, the walking meditation of his tradition, I was dumbfounded. I hadn't seen anything like it before. There was a grace in his bearing, a Presence in his slow mindful steps that was palpable.  It was obvious to me that Reverend Gyomay Kubose, in his 70's at the time, was connected to his body -- and to the smooth wooden floors of the Chicago Buddhist Temple -- in an entirely different way. 

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


"practice intention" for the day as you awake in the morning, then reflect on how that intention influenced -- or didn't influence -- your day as you prepared for sleep.   I even listened to my own advice. Tuesday, I chose to lower my center of gravity, to place more of my attention into my belly and be aware of my feet contacting the ground every time I moved from place to place during the day.

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. 


Anonymous said...

"meditative aliveness" I call it. Jon Kabat-Zinn was a good one for driving home ones awareness to their body 'in motion' in the moment.
Living in a painful body, but, looking out for the beauty of each moment, actually not only relieves pain, my soul leads my body and mind to balance in the moment. Joy sprouts. a constant of this is what the dr. ordered, my higher self, the dr.
The days distractions can pull on the mind, the body follows,the spirit is low, the end results? pain!, until the spirit, feels the blow and picks up the baton to lead through the distractions.
The Lord's prayer IS the gathering tool, when I say, 'give "US" this day,' I refer to my own trinity of mind, body, spirit, and the togetherness is refreshed, I am.
Thanks for the reminder of how wonderfully my higher self protects me.

Lance Smith said...


Like the Man said, "Ask and you shall Receive!"

The One Love is Everpresent, silently singing in our Heart of Hearts.

That's why I Sit Still so much. <3

Anonymous said...

Very humbling reading this comment above. Actually read it quite a few times. and your comment Brother L - is one I'm always striving to remember when I feel the overload push me down. ♥♥♥

Lance Smith said...