Jul 23, 2021
Jul 23, 2021
Welcome to medicine for your messy mind
It comes with this breath, this body, right now.
Let's try it.
Adjust your posture so you are in an upright position. It doesn’t matter whether you are sitting, or standing. Just bring awareness to a more upright position. This can help send a signal of intention to your mind. It’s a signal that says, I’m about to pay attention to what’s already here, what's already available, what’s happening now.
Once you’re comfortable bring your attention to feelings in your body. What’s showing up for you at a sensory level? Is it temperature? Tingles? Vibration? Pulse? Maybe an itch? An Ache? Try not to think about it too much. Try not to label it. Try not to judge it. Try not to push it away. Just see if you can experience the embodied immediacy of what’s here for you as a feeling state in the body. Whatever it happens to be.
This is counterintuitive territory we're entering: the territory of mindfulness where we put the welcome mat out to experience in the body as it randomly arises. Understandably, you might not want to experience this, especially if your feeling state is unpleasant or uncomfortable, such as the experience of physical or emotional pain. But just give it a moment of your attention. Bring objective, non-judgmental awareness to what you are noticing. Give yourself a moment to bring non-judgemental awareness to what you are experiencing at a sensory level, whether good, bad, or indifferent.
What is the point of this? To find your embodied slither of space. To listen to the signals of the body rather than listen to the unreliable narrator that is your mind. To let experience be what it is in the body. To let yourself be curious about this experience. To bring some friendly self-compassionate awareness to this experience rather than defaulting automatically to what your mind is telling you it signifies.
Why would you want to experience bodily sensations in this way? Because the body has a way of consoling you, informing you, dispensing a certain wisdom, a certain medicine for your messy mind. The telling is in the embodied immediacy of your experience. Its slither of space. Hopefully, we’ll get a sense of this space as this meditation unfolds.
Now take a deeper breath and be more intentional with your attention. Attend to your breathing. See if you can become aware of the natural flow of your breathing. Here is an opportunity for you to realise that you are the product of a design. A design you have nothing to do with but that nevertheless takes care of you through breathing.
Consider this reframe: Breathing doesn’t complain. Breathing doesn’t object to its terms and conditions of employment. Breathing doesn't bicker about the last breath it gifted you. There are no co-dependency issues with breathing. Breathing’s presence is unconditional, available, happening now. Breathing can also teach you something about attitude; about unconditional acceptance, about letting go, about beginning again. It tells you through its very process of being that letting go and beginning again are part of your design. That acceptance of what comes and goes is an available choice for you. Acceptance is in the natural order of things.
Take a moment perhaps to appreciate this. Not just conceptually but as embodied awareness. Feel the possibility of breathing in as an embodied understanding of what it means to begin again, and breathing out as an embodied understanding of letting go. Attune yourself to this breath, this body, right now.
Feel the medicine at work.
Now let’s see if we can become more aware of the sensations of breathing. Let’s see if we can further feel the inbreathe and the out-breath as a physiological process. Let’s see if we can feel the belly rising on the inbreathe and falling away on the out-breath. Or maybe we can notice the chest rising on the inbreathe and falling away on the out-breath. Or maybe notice the inhalation and exhalation at the mouth or nostrils. Notice the coolness of the breath on the inhalation and the warmth of it on the exhalation.
Feel how present moment awareness of the process of breathing – this miracle of design - can support a feeling of well-being, calmness, tranquility.
Now let’s see if you can pay full attention to the process of breathing as you experience it for the next 15 seconds or so.
Are you experiencing thoughts.? Thoughts such as, "why am I using my precious time to allow myself to notice my breathing? I have a million and one other things to do." This is perfectly normal. It’s a question that comes straight out of your design. It’s part of your ‘thoughts design’. It seems we were designed to experience a cascade of thoughts at any given moment. Thoughts about this, thoughts about that. Thoughts about what happened in the past, thoughts about what might happen in the future. As a wise teacher put it, our thoughts think us. The thought itself is designed to get you to do something. You are probably experiencing an urge, an impulse, or a desire for action.
This is where mindfulness practice kicks in because it asks you: can you notice these impulses without getting carried away by them? Without being driven by them? More precisely, it asks… can you notice and BE WITH the embodied actuality of these thoughts with an attitude of kindness, curiosity, compassion, patience? The most likely and understandable answer to this is: no, I can't. So, this is where practice starts, with a kind of softening up and softening into such awareness. A good way of doing this is through bringing your awareness to the breath - its experiential quality of moving in and out of your body - to ground you, anchor you, to guide you back to the here and now of this present moment. Perhaps we should call mindfulness 'bodyfulness' because - as a wise teacher once told me - it is the body that is the real messenger. The thoughts you are experiencing start in your body. You get a feeling in the body that becomes a thought.
The trick then is to trick your tricky mind out of its trickery. You can do this by catching or softening into the sensation as it emerges in the body. Before you know it it has become a thought, so you really need to bring some vigilant noticing of what's showing up for you in the body as you experience thoughts and bring some self-compassion, or friendly awareness, to your experience. This isn't easy to do. You've spent a lifetime defaulting to automatic ingrained habits of reactivity, especially when uncomfortable sensations arise in the body. So take it slow with your compassionate self-inquiry. This is a lifetime's work. But do set the intention to welcome what's here for you. One method I use is to attend to the 'thought-sensation', accept it, then attune myself to the regulatory restoration of breathing. I do a slightly longer out-breath so as to soothe and restore myself. It's actually quite a lot of intentional 'bodyfulness'. Only after I have done these stages (attend, accept, attune, regulate, restore) do I let myself reframe or think about my situation conceptually. The lynchpin is the breath. It keeps the boat of awareness steady when the waters feel choppy.
The truth is, you already know how to do this. But, it’s a struggle because, yes, you would prefer to follow that thought like a puppy dog chasing whatever it is a puppy dog likes to chase - which is pretty much everything. The question is: can you just “sit and heel”?
The answer is that you can. You can choose to pause. You can experience the power of possibility within the pause which is what awareness of the body and awareness of the restorative quality of breathing as a source of physiological intervention can help you do.
The power of the pause will give you all sorts of awesome advantages as you experience the unfolding moments of your life. Of course, it isn’t going to fix any of the challenges you have but it can offer you an embodied slither of space upon which you can construct a more responsive rather than reactive approach to whatever it is you are finding problematic in the present.
You've just experienced the capacity within. The medicine for your messy mind. All you need to do is remember that it's here, that it's available to you, it's happening now.
It's actually your birthright.
So why not claim it?
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