Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuning in to your body

Like Mr. Duffy in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, most of us “live a short distance” from our bodies. The following meditation, which has counterparts in yoga and Buddhism, helps reestablish contact with the body by drawing attention gently from one part to another. Because it cultivates awareness and also relaxes the muscles and internal organs, it makes a great preamble to more formal meditation practice. Allow at least 20 minutes to complete.
  1. Lie on your back on a comfortable surface —but not too comfortable unless you plan to fall asleep.
  2. Take a few moments to feel your body as a whole, including the places where it contacts the surface of the bed or floor.
  3. Bring your attention to your toes. Allow yourself to feel any and all sensations in this area. If you don’t feel anything, just feel “not feeling anything.” As you breathe, imagine that you’re breathing into and out of your toes. (If this feels weird or uncomfortable, just breathe in your usual way.)
  4. When you’re done with your toes, move on to your soles, heels, the tops of your feet, and your ankles in turn, feeling each part in the same way that you felt your toes. Take your time. The point of this exercise is not to achieve anything, not even relaxation, but to be as fully present as possible wherever you are.
  5. Gradually move up your body, staying at least three or four breaths with each part. Follow this approximate order: lower legs, knees, thighs, hips, pelvis, lower abdomen, lower back, solar plexus, upper back, chest, shoulders. Now focus on the fingers, hands, and arms on both sides, and then on the neck and throat, chin, jaws, face, back of the head, and top of the head. By the time you reach the top of your head, you may feel as though the boundaries between you and the rest of the world have become more fluid — or have melted away entirely. At the same time, you may feel silent and still — free of your usual restlessness or agitation.
  6. Rest there for a few moments; then gradually bring your attention back to your body as a whole.
  7. Wiggle your toes, move your fingers, open your eyes, rock from side to side, and gently sit up.
  8. Take a few moments to stretch and reacquaint yourself with the world around you before standing up and going about your day.

No comments: