Let me begin with a reminder about the definition of mindfulness: mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience. I especially like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn is a renowned mindfulness and meditation teacher and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
As I mentioned last time, there are many reasons for practicing mindfulness. Studies show that mindfulness reduces stress, increases concentration and creates a calmer presence. The purpose of practicing is to be mindful in our daily lives – to be present to what is actually going on, rather than what we want to be or hope it to be. You can live more fully in the present, experience more joy, know yourself better.
For the month of November, our meditations will focus on the body. You know when you have a cold or are getting the flu because your body is giving you signals that something is going on. Sometimes we pay attention and sometimes we do not. Our body holds all our memories.
One of Bay’s precepts is, “We value respecting ourselves and our friends in relationship; we don’t misuse sexuality.” Another way of understanding this concept is to appreciate ourselves. Once we do this, we are building the capacity to appreciate others. Some personal questions to reflect on are: How do you care for your body? Does it matter? How do you feel about yourself? Do you worry about what others think about you? Does your body image influence how you see the world?
The Body is wonderful. For many of us, we take it for granted. We overeat or don’t eat enough…we rest too much, or not enough…you get the idea. So what happens when we take a moment to show appreciation to our bodies, to simply say thank you? Let’s find out…
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Whatever you experience during this time is right for you. Don’t try to make anything happen, just observe. Close your eyes or focus on one spot in the room.
Observe your breathing. Notice how your breath flows in and out. Make no effort to change your breathing in any way, simply notice how your body breathes. Your body knows how much air it needs.
When your attention wanders, as it will, just focus again on your breathing.
Now think of 3 ways your body takes care of you. Simply notice….from the in breath… to the pause that follows… the exhale… and the pause before taking another breath…Take your time and be with each one.
Now say thank you. What do you notice?
There will be plenty of times during the month you can practice having appreciation for your body. When you do, remember to say thank you!
– Shahara Godfrey, Mindfulness Teacher