Monday, January 14, 2008

Focusing with Our Body

In order for us to survive in the world we have to concentrate. This skill of being aware in every moment is essential. Simple things like riding a bicycle or driving a car are examples as to why it is important we are mindful at the moment. As we expand our awareness we will discover a new level of happiness. If we do not pay attention to what we are doing we may harm or destroy ourselves or others. Bringing a focus to our physical experience with keen awareness on how our body feels in the moment is how any great performer excels. If you ever climb up a ladder you understand why it is important to be aware of each step.

Developing a sense of feeling what is going on in the body is not the same thing as just feeling one’s emotions. Cultivating this body feeling one can observe, not judge, experience. This is the key step for us to discover ourselves from a deeper perspective. Examination of this body/feeling takes us beyond our emotional stories and the concepts that can imprison our minds.

Concentrating is about listening to oneself at a core level. By becoming more open to feeling our body we gain a greater understanding of what is happening within us and we are freed from our mind chatter. Such a simple practice of checking into our body can provide us the opportunity to quiet our mind and just hear every beat of our heart.

Concentration requires us to train our mind to pay close attention to what is present in one’s experience at any given second. Such practice can liberate us from, not only negative thoughts, but the mind noise that prevents us from truly seeing what this moment is about.

Experiment on concentrating by first getting yourself in a comfortable sitting posture. Next place your attention to come into the body. Watch how your lungs fill up with air and then how you exhale. How does the air touch your nose or mouth? Feel how your bottom connects with your chair, your feet with the floor. Explore by taking a quick body-scan. Feel the heat or tingling of your skin. Notice how you can relax your muscles, mind and bones when you are more sensitive to bodily sensations. Observe what happens when you pay attention to your physical senses how they arise and fall away.

As you focus to this bodily quality become curious about it, yet limit thought to a specific texture, temperature, and the quality of this body feeling (e.g. tired, restless, energetic, nervous, pulsating). What is happening now in your body? Now wait several minutes and see if what is happening is still happening in the same way. Does it change much or just shift slightly? Is there a kind of easing or opening, a sense of being truly recognized—like being lost?

The power of concentrating comes when you shift from your head to your body. With caring and interested attention do you notice what is now going on with your body? Get out of your head and reframe things with what is going on inside your physical self beyond emotions. Invite yourself to become playful and fully explore all aspects of your body. You can bring a creative quality to this exercise. Do you see the mystery of not knowing? Can you observe your body like a changing weather system? Do you hear your stomach making noises; have you changed your breathing. or do you feel some discomfort with you legs? As you feel these changes see what other things come along with this. If you are tempted to judge, then you are falling back into thinking.

Now can you find that being kind and gentle with yourself is key to this process? Do you feel a tightness around any of your muscles? What happens if you let this dissolve? Can you become friendlier in what comes up? Can you let go and relax, just letting it be there as fully as it can. You may ask why am I so tight? Reflect if your thinking about something is causing this anxiety. Learning more about our inner voice and the nature of our mind is the path to our freedom.

Are you resisting something and not letting go? What feels better-- holding your stomach and chest up or allowing your belly to feel soft? Can you feel tension in other parts of yourself such as your feet, ankles, calves, hamstrings, shoulders, etc? Can you listen inside and find what is calling? Explore inside and see what you are noticing. This exercise trains us to really be present; not in regard to our feelings, judgments, and memories—but to bring our attention back to our body.

Taking time to notice things in a bodily way allows us to create a new space of awareness. This brings us both a fresh and new understanding and a shift in how we perceive life, allowing us greater grace to engage our lives, our relationships, our surroundings, and work. Examining what arises in our consciousness in the now offers us an opportunity to embark on the rich journey of how our mind works. This exploration liberates us to see beyond our thoughts and emotions to consciously notice what is occurring. It takes skillful practice to examine the big picture regarding our sensations and perceptions. This lessens our ignorance and delusions of the world around us.

This practice of concentrating the mind is about not separating what is important. Life is about interconnection, interactions and interrelationships. The whole is greater then the parts. We are together, not separate from our environment.

Concentrating is about a process for growth and transformation. We can go forth with specific focus and directed attention. When we best concentrate then we perform more skillful action and that benefits our world and ourselves.

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