Mindfulness of the body is ultimately bringing our awareness and attention back to the human experience, the simplicity of being in a body, on the Earth, in the time that we are living. Mindfulness of the body means shedding the layers of confusion we carry around with regards to our body and looking at it with much greater clarity and honesty. Mindfulness of the body means touching this immense opportunity to live a human life, grounded and present.
Just consider for a moment, if you will, how it would be to take these seven factors, and relate to your own body with them. How would it be to view your body without judging it? How would it be to openly appreciate this form? How would it be to develop greater intimacy with your body? It should become clear almost immediately that these seven factors represent both a very different approach to the body compared to what is considered normal in current society, as well as a deeply, healing way of being within our body.
Mindfulness of the body begins with the breath. The breath is a constant throughout life and never stops reminding us that without it, we will not live long. Attention and the breath are intimately connected and our breathing patterns mirror how we are relating to the physical world. The breath is always the basis for experience.
Mindfulness of the body involves dynamic practices such as body scanning, noting the body positions, working with the elements and walking meditation. It also involves resting in awareness practices where attention is rested in the simple experience of being in a body, as well as the position, space and moment we find ourselves in. Mindfulness of the body is finally practised through placing full awareness into each phase of any action we carry out, whether it’s drinking a cup of tea, listening to traffic, or having sex.
There are an array of different techniques that we can try out and work with. The choice we make will ultimately determine the ease and speed with which we are able to make progress. It will also depend on where you are at. Ideally technique matches where we are and not an imagined generic position. This is where a decent teacher can help through their own experience and through understanding the personal themes that each of us brings to practice as the dominant element of our own form of mindlessness.
In looking at the beginning stages of mindfulness, one of the first steps is simply acknowledging what is actually going on in and around us. Acknowledging our body means developing the capacity to engage in the first two steps of the seven factors as a basis for exploration. We choose to consciously engage with what is going on, we choose to let go of judging experience and we choose to open to what is.
Off the cushion mindfulness of the body can start with acknowledging our body posture/position throughout the day. When you are sitting, acknowledge you’re sitting, when you’re standing, acknowledge you’re standing. This simple technique of bringing attention and thus awareness back to the simplicity and immediacy of the position of our body in relation to the immediate environment, can work wonders.
Acknowledging can also take the form of a simple sentence, in this case our speech also becomes a part of mindfulness of the body. Allowing our speech to be a connection to our body as opposed to a detached observation, we acknowledge through the simple phrase, ‘I am sitting’ when we are sitting. When we are lying down in bed, we can do the same, ‘I am lying down in bed’. Such simplicity is not to be discounted. When we develop a discipline of practising this throughout the day on a daily basis, it becomes an anchoring technique that reminds us of where we are. For many this is a huge step forward in reclaiming experience.