Step 2 – Calming The Mind Part One – Feelings of the Body
In a previous article, you set about calming the body and becoming aware of your tendencies to move around unconsciously.
You sat, starting for two minutes in total stillness, starting again and again upon each movement. You continued this rigorous practice until you could observe the urge to move before you moved. And you became proficient at allowing the urge to pass.
Now you are at the point where you can sit indefinitely in stillness.
If you’re not, there is absolutely no point in reading the rest of this article, as the ability to accomplish stillness of your body is prerequisite to going further.
There is no time limit on your ability to sit in stillness. You are not being “less productive” if you have not yet developed your ability. And there is no judgment to be had on whether you can or cannot simply sit still.
Perhaps a conditioning of our post-industrial world, we tend to associate doing well with catching on to something quickly. Please leave that judgment behind and move into an appreciation of thoroughness, at least in regard to your awareness practice.
Think of it this way: it’s hard to see to the bottom of a moving pond of water. But when conditions are right, and the pool has calmed, you can see as if you’re looking through glass.
In this case, your body movement will be the pool. Calm the body, still the body, and you can observe your feelings.
Step 2 – Developing An Awareness of Your Body’s Feelings
Which brings you to step 2. No doubt you’ve already been able to notice how you are feeling as you’ve been doing your sitting practice. Maybe you’ve felt uncertain – “Am I doing this right?” Or self-conscious “I feel silly doing this. I bet those people are looking at me like I’m crazy.” Maybe boredom “When is something interesting going to happen?” Or perhaps you’ve even felt good “Wow, this is so relaxing. I am really starting to feel calm.”
These are more emotional feelings and thoughts. You will certainly get to develop an awareness of those. But first, let’s develop your ability to see your body’s sensations on a very deep level.
You can start with your physical feelings. Sit. Mentally observe your entire body as much as possible and on as many levels as possible. From the hairs on your head, all over your body to the skin the hairs are on. Try to feel the entirety of your skin on your body. Become aware of the contact your clothes are making with your skin.
Develop a mindfulness of the pressure your weight is putting on your body and the resistance of the surface you are sitting on. Where do you feel a lot of pressure? Your back? Your buttocks? Your feet?
Become conscious of how you are breathing. How your chest rises and falls. The sensation of air entering your nose. Exiting your nose and mouth. Can you even feel the blood circulating in parts of your body? Can you feel your heart beating?
Can you feel your muscles? Can you find where they are tense? Where are they relaxed?
Can you feel the temperature of your body? Where are you warm? Where are you cold?
Your face and head are an ideal location to observe. Notice the micro-movements of your face. The muscles around your eyes, around your mouth, around your nose.
Go deeper. Repeat for your bones. Your joints. And even try to get in touch with your internal organs.
Once you’ve developed an ability to focus on as many parts as possible, start to sense your body as a whole. Try to keep the entirety of it in your mind.
And continue this practice until you become proficient.
Then it will be time to go to another level of observation – your thoughts and emotions.
But that, my dear friend, is for another time…