The Body in Meditation
When we meditate, we often begin by deliberately bringing attention to the body, using awareness of the body to integrate body and mind, and root us in the present moment. Raising our body-awareness also helps our meditation by enabling us to be aware of what our physical experience is during meditation: we might become aware that we’re leaning into a future moment because we’ve literally tilted just slightly forward and our shoulders have narrowed a bit in front of us without our noticing. By becoming aware of this, we can make a note of it, shift our weight backwards slightly and our shoulders back and down and use our breath or sounds to ground us in the present moment. Similarly, we might realize that we’ve tensed up and physically shut down a bit when bringing to mind someone who challenges us during the part of compassion meditation when we send caring wishes their way. In this instance we can offer ourselves compassion, maybe even a reassuring phrase like “It’s okay. This is an act of generosity,” or know that it’s time to escort that person out of our practice until the next time : )
And then there are the times when we don’t need to tune in with any effort at all to know what is going on in the body during our meditation practice because the body is sending us signals loud and clear: like that foot that has fallen completely asleep, the knee that is crying out to be straightened or the back that pleads for you to stand up.
What to do in these situations? Unless you’re certain that there is a real physical risk to holding your posture, it can be incredibly elucidating to turn toward and be with those uncomfortable situations. Pain that once seemed solid, absolute, non-negotiable and unchanging without a shift in position can actually break up, fade in intensity, or just cease to be felt if we stay with it, look for the exact location in the body and watch it. John Kabat-Zinn has described excruciating knee pain during a retreat in India, and its dissolution when he stayed with it, as having been the impetus for his creating the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program to support people with chronic pain at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970’s (it is one of the most researched mindfulness programs).
To be clear, there are times when movement is the wise, compassionate and healthy choice during meditation, but those might be fewer than we realize. If we can experiment a few times with not moving the moment there is discomfort in the body during meditation, we begin to relate to pain in a new way, and over time we can experience less emotional suffering when there is discomfort in the body.
Hoping that you will join us this week as we tune into the felt experience in the body and, don’t worry, if you need to move, it’s okay!
May all beings learn to access the wisdom in their body,
Your friends at CMP
This Week’s Schedule
We hope you can join us at one of our community sits this week. All sessions are free and open to the public, suitable for new meditators and people with an established practice. There is no need to bring or wear anything special, and all sessions offered in libraries are done in chairs unless you prefer to bring your own yoga mat or meditation cushion.
Monday 12:00 PM - Trumbull Library, 33 Quality Street, Trumbull
Monday 7:00 PM - First Church Congregational, 148 Beach Road, Fairfield
Monday 7:30 PM - Sama Yoga, 45 Grove Street, New Canaan
Tuesday 1:00 PM - Ferguson Library, 1 Public Library Plaza, Stamford
Wednesday 12:00 PM - New Canaan Library, 151 Main Street, New Canaan