Day 2 – Yoga Yoga Mindfulness Meditation Series, Discovering the Physical Body
On day two of this series, we began to explore the physical body. As we move into the practice of inquiry and insight (vipassana), we remembered that foundation is critical. Without it we will be captivated by the numerous things that will arise in our experience. This foundation of stability and ease will continue to be established and explored within the scope of shamatha practice through the rest of the series.
Using shamatha as a springboard, we begin to dive deep into our experience, one layer at a time. Over the week of practice, we have already come to know how fickle the mind can be, swinging incessantly between past, present and future moments. This chatter can sometimes occupy all of our bandwidth, leaving the awareness of the body and heart feeling obscured. With the intention to cultivate greater balance in both our awareness and ourselves, we will begin our inquiry with the landscape of the body. Greater attunement to both the physical and energetic body will lead us toward feeling more balanced over time.
The physical seat can be the first of many obstacles we come across in our practice. With time, we will learn to use the obstacles as a support for greater awareness and skill. Sometimes even a few minutes into practice, we may find our legs beginning to feel numb, our back feeling tight or our shoulders drawing forward uncomfortably. Before we know it, we are shifting and moving away from discomfort, much like our maneuvering in life. At times it may feel skillful, but other times this constant maneuvering only depletes our energy and resources. In practice instead, we gently counter this pattern by consciously choosing to pause and stay with whatever sensation has arisen, no matter whether it’s comfortable or uncomfortable. We choose to get to know experience as it is, and in the absence of struggle, we may be delighted to discover a sense of ease.
Through this process, the breath continues to be our support for centering. Every time we notice that something has come up in the physical body, we take a few moments to pause and explore openly. Each pause we will break the momentum of reactivity from charging forward. When we inquire, we do so through the lens of the body, rather than that of the mind. Instead of thinking about how much we like or dislike a sensation, we drop the story and go to the direct experience itself. Is it sharp or soft? Is it hot or cold, pulsing or steady, stronger or weaker? Is it moving or static? After a few moments, we return to our breath. As we do this, we may find that sensations that we once strongly identified with and considered to be solid, are actually constantly changing. As we change the way in which we relate to sensations, we begin to see that they are just a passing moment in the field of experience, not one that has to define us. This inquiry begins to open the door to a new, fresh and courageous way of looking at life.
Insights from practice will come naturally over the course of time and consistent practice. By observing experience in a kinder, less judgmental and preferential way, we will slowly deepen our understanding of the nature of dissatisfaction, identity and change. Through examination of our ego/identity, we will begin to know when and how it arises, and how it impacts our experience. As we explore dissatisfaction, we will begin to recognize all the moments where we are unable to meet our experience exactly as it is. We will see the desire to want our experience to look or feel differently and understand how that desire affects our inner state of being. Underlying all of this we will gather insight into the nature of change and impermanence in all things.
Remember, the practice of mindfulness meditation is not one where we try to fix or empty our experience. We simply practice turning toward it with an intention to explore, allow and let go. Patience and kindness will be important virtues along the path. Enjoy your week of inquiry!