Mindfulness of Body
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Deanna Burkett, MA, MS
Certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher, Kripalu Yoga Teacher
Body Scan: Part by Part and Whole Body
Strengthening our awareness of the body can be compared to building a home for ourselves--a home, a refuge, for the mind. We build this home brick by brick, each time we meditate. Using a system of meditation with reliable, habit-forming stages can help support this process, which is why the Body Scan offered here intentionally moves through several stages, which all of my meditations follow. Some of these stages include: 1) arriving in the body in a settled but alert way 2) arriving with goodwill for ourselves--greeting ourselves with kindness 3) choosing a meditation object. In this Body Scan, the meditation object is body sensation, beginning with "contact points," moving into "part by part" and ending with "whole body" awareness. I recommend practicing this sequence regularly, with and without guidance, which can help build confidence in our ability to locate the "home" of the body throughout the day.
Sleep Series: Deepening Presence
The dominance of "mental presence"--planning, worrying, remembering, etc.--can be a choppy experience, like being tossed around on the surface of the ocean. This can make sleep difficult. Bringing forward and deepening "heart presence" and "bodily presence" can offer us a calmer, more expansive experience. Deeping these qualities of presence is like dropping the mind below the surface of the ocean and offering ourselves more space to relax into.
Body Awareness: Center Moving Outward
This meditation has been helpful for me in releasing tension that I can accidentally build in meditation! One important tip: allow awareness to extend beyond the "conventional body." As awareness flows from the center outward, allow it to go through the hands into space, through the feet into space, etc. This keeps awareness from feeling bottled up and building pressure in the system. Work gently! :)
Mindfulness of Body: Periphery to Center
Sensations of the hands, feet, and head can offer reliable entry points to mindfulness of body. Many people have expressed to me that they can feel these regions quite easily, even if other regions of the body persist as "blind spots" over time--these blind spots being interesting places of practice in themselves but challenging to approach without helpful tools. Using a Periphery/Center perception can also add a new tool to other styles of body scans, which can become rote and unexamined over time. For example, "shake up" Part by Part body scans by occasionally sweeping awareness quickly through the body (Periphery to Center is just one direction), and notice how or if this sweeping energizes the mind and offers new perspective/places to investigate the Part by Part process.
Home Base Meditation
Different meditation challenges can call upon different strategies of, what my teacher calls, "working and playing" with awareness. One of the strategies I use a lot is to have one of more "home bases," in the mind and body, which can help me gather awareness back in when it's feeling foggy or diffuse. My "Home Base Meditation" offers time and instructions for trying this yourself. Try to relax and have fun with it the best you can. Meditation isn't supposed to be a chore, and if it becomes one, it's less likely you'll stick with it.
Experiment with the skill of releasing the mind into the body and resting it there.
Allowing Experience to Come to You
This meditation may be more appropriate for experienced meditators. Less instruction is given in terms of "what to observe" in the meditation. Instead the emphasis is on the "quality of the observation." HOW are you observing the body, the breath, thought, etc.? Is the attention tight or forced, with a quality of "hunting" for the present moment? And if so, can there be a loosening, so that there is a feeling of "settling back" and allowing the present moment--sound, body sensation, thought, emotion--to come to you? I hope you find it beneficial. Let me know if you have questions! Always happy to engage. :)
For many meditators the heart region is an interesting and helpful area of the body to investigate and befriend. What does your heart region/chest feel like when you are running late or arguing with someone? During times like this, the responses of the heart region can vary from person to person; responses could include tightness, heat, heaviness, pressure—any number of clearly discernable sensations. When we are NOT aware of these sensations, our unconscious reaction to them can make the stressful situation worse if we unknowingly begin reacting to the sensations ON TOP OF reacting to being late. So learning to feel the heart, to be in tune with its sensations, and to take care of ourselves accordingly can be a very practical and nourishing training. This Heart Breathing meditation brings awareness to the heart area and offers the practice of gently “breathing into” and “through” this region. I hope you find it helpful in befriending the heart area, so you can listen to it with more patience and confidence.
Sleep Series: Fully Held
When I'm not able to sleep, I've found it helpful to cultivate feelings of care, spaciousness and safety. This meditation offers support in cultivating these qualities. I hope it is helpful to you.
Web of Awareness
This meditation is inspired by a spider web simile used by Ajahn Chah, a Thai Forest meditation master, and is meant to help foster creativity and experimentation with the internal meditation stance. I hope it helps with developing a lighter and more comfortable observational position in the mind. Happy experimenting! See the Ajahn Chah quote here: http://onemindfulstep.com/blog/the-spider
Finding Ground and Space in Difficult Times
This 50-min meditation offers tools and images to help find ground, space, and ease in difficult times.
The Listening Space
Note: This 10-min meditation has a slow pace and includes pauses. :) Being listened to can be a very healing experience. In this meditation, there is encouragement to notice different types of "listening" just happening . . . we don't have to do anything or force anything . . . just allowing sounds to be known the best we can . . . And bringing this sense of "listening" to the Body . . . feeling the Space around the Body . . .
Sleep Series: Space for Listening
Does habitual, unnecessary pressure come forward to "help" you sleep, meditate or "concentrate?" Experiment with giving your system some space to express itself. A space of listening.
Relationships: Being Right Vs Being Curious
Can the need to be "right" get in the way of feeling connected? This meditation accompanies a blog post about the challenges of visiting Family of Origin (found on onemindfulstep.com). But tensions around being right can make their way into almost any relationship, so I hope this investigation is helpful, even if you're not visiting family any time soon. :)
Sleep Series: Blanket of Awareness
We can explore ways of using awareness that promote calmness and letting go. This meditation experiments with spreading a blanket and softening into it. The language and images tap into the childlike process of being put to bed and snuggling in. So disclaimer: you will hear a form of the word snuggle one time. Enjoy :)
Feeling the Face
When we are out in the world, the face can be quite active. It is our interface, and we can spend time and energy preparing it for this function--grooming it, decorating it, trying to improve it. Many of us expend a lot of energy wishing it were different--younger, smoother, smaller, softer, more hairy, less hairy. The list is endless! What would it be like to put all this aside, and spend some time just being with the face, as it is? Just feeling it? Resting with it. And allowing it to rest as well.
When we are stuck in reactivity--fear, sadness, anger, restlessness--awareness can feel tight and small, like tunnel vision, and in this contracted condition it's difficult to break old habits or to see possibilities for new thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This 3-Anchor meditation can help with softening and widening awareness, to give ourselves the space to move more freely and intentionally. Please feel free to reach out with thoughts, questions, or objections! :) I would love to hear from you. ~Deanna
3-Anchor Meditation: Extended Practice
* The two longer versions of the 3-Anchor meditation are totally different recordings from the 3-min version, with slightly different instructions in each recording* When we are stuck in reactivity--fear, sadness, anger, restlessness--awareness can feel tight and small, like tunnel vision, and in this contracted condition it's difficult to break old habits or to see possibilities for new thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This 3-Anchor meditation can help with softening and widening awareness, to give ourselves the space to move more freely and intentionally. Please feel free to reach out with thoughts, questions, or objections! :) I would love to hear from you. ~Deanna
3-Anchor Meditation: 10-Minute Practice
* The two longer versions of the 3-Anchor meditations are totally different recordings from the 3-min version, with slightly different instructions in each recording* When we are stuck in reactivity--fear, sadness, anger, restlessness--awareness can feel tight and small, like tunnel vision, and in this contracted condition it's difficult to break old habits or to see possibilities for new thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This 3-Anchor meditation can help with softening and widening awareness, to give ourselves the space to move more freely and intentionally. Please feel free to reach out with thoughts, questions, or objections! :) I would love to hear from you. ~Deanna
10-Minute Body Scan
Connecting with the body can help us DISRUPT and WEAKEN unhelpful mental habits that sap our energy and obscure our ability to make helpful, intentional choices. In the space created by this disruption, we can begin to see more clearly what is happening in the mind and body. In this space we can make more intentional, skillful choices that benefit ourselves and others.
Midline Shining Outward
Have you even seen a child quietly absorbed in an activity? This kind of absorption happens when we find ourselves genuinely interested in something. Some qualities of this absorption could include: calmness, energy, focus, even peace--many of the things we are looking for in meditation. Therefore, one doorway into these qualities is simply this: genuine interest in the meditation object. I hope this "Midline Shining Outward" meditation can help you experience a fun, interesting investigation of the body, so you can reap all the benefits this kind of investigation provides!
Broad but Centered Breath Awareness: Candle in the Room
A longer meditation for those wanting to stretch their wings a bit with breath meditation instruction.
Survey: Top to Bottom
Moving from top to bottom is a systematic way to connect with the experience of the body. In frenetic or anxious times, going from top to bottom can be grounding, too. I've heard "top to bottom" scanning described as "combing" through the body, like gently combing tangles from hair.
Whole-Body Sponge Breathing
Does anyone else have the habit of "pushing too hard" in work, relationships, or meditation? Have you noticed that this habit can create tension during times when it could be really helpful to pause, relax and investigate the moment for the most skillful and helpful response? The perception/practice of whole-body sponge breathing may sound strange, but it has been so helpful to me in disrupting patterns of "trying too hard" in meditation. And when we weaken unhelpful habits during meditation *this is happening in the same mind we take with us into the world.* Isn't that interesting!? I hope you enjoy and benefit from this practice as much as I have.
Mindfulness of Body Intro: Sensations
Mindfulness of Body is often taught in terms of "sensation." This Intro to Sensation is a brief Body Scan which describes ways of noticing sensation (ex: contact. temperature, moisture, and others) and offers general guidelines for this type of observation. General guidelines include: 1) not moving the body if possible 2) not trying to create sensation or make something happen in the body 3) the possibility of noticing sensation in "parts" of the body and in the "body as a whole."
Playing with Body Awareness: Water Imagery
When we can make our investigation of the body fun and genuinely interesting we are more likely to engage the body and to learn from it. I hope you have fun with this meditation. One important tip: when allowing the "water awareness" to flow, be careful not to stop it at the edges of the "conventional body." Imagine it can flow out *through* the hands, out *through* the feet, etc. Work gently, and be careful not to force awareness or try to make something happen. Just play with awareness and notice the results of being with yourself in this way.
It can be helpful to have different, creative ways to make contact with the body. The "Melting Method" is an alternative to part-by-part body awareness. Among its benefits, "melting" can help disrupt "perfectionistic" tendencies that part-by-part scanning brings up for some of us. "Melting" awareness has been especially helpful for me in disrupting tendencies to "try too hard" in meditation practice. Once learned, "melting" can be easily paired with a more thorough body scanning practice, which is a very beneficial practice.