Week 8: Mindfulness of the Body

Review:

According to Joseph Goldstein, the Buddha repeatedly spoke of the benefits of using the body (breathing, postures, activities, and physical characteristics) as an object of contemplation.  He stated that mindfulness of breathing was the basis of the Buddha’s own awakening and can also be the basis for our own.

(Link to this week's talk by Joseph is here)

We always have the ability to focus on some aspect of our body such as our breathing, posture or bodily movement.  Just noticing as we move from one posture to the next throughout the day helps strengthen the continuity of our awareness.  This is not complicated.  We don’t need to be in some heightened state of concentration.  Sit and know you’re sitting; walk and know you’re walking; stand and know you’re standing.

Mindfulness of the body is the simplest way to overcome unwholesome mind states. When we pay close attention, we see that almost all movements are an attempt to alleviate some kind of pain or discomfort.  Mindfulness of the body can facilitate the understanding that the body is “not mine.”  This helps free the mind from desire and grasping.  We can then let go of the identification with the physical elements of the body or the mind knowing them. In this way, mindfulness of the body can lead to the realization of the selfless nature of all phenomena and guide the way to full awakening.

Questions:

1.     How has mindfulness of the body (breathing, postures, activities, and physical characteristics) been your best friend?  How has it been troublesome for you?

2.     What does it mean to you to establish mindfulness in front?  Of the whole body?

3.     How do you know when it is appropriate for you to make more effort or less effort e.g. focused, concentrated attention or open, receptive awareness?

4.     What are some of your thoughts regarding mindfulness of the body leading to the realization of the selfless nature of all phenomena?

Exercises:

1.     Focus on your breathing.  Simply notice how it is.  If it’s long, know it is long.  If it’s short, know it is short.  Experience the entire flow of the breath.  Notice the changing nature of the sensations of breathing.  This is not a breathing exercise, but a practice in mindfulness.  Any kind of breath will do.  The idea here is not to control the breath in any way, but simply to notice how it is.

2.     At night before you go to sleep watch your breath.  See if you go to sleep on an in breath or an out breath.

3.     Vow period.  Take the vow not to move for some period of time.

4.     Body Scan meditation.  You can access a 45-minute guided body scan meditation at the following link to the UCSD Center for Mindfulness: http://health.ucsd.edu/av/mindfulness/01%2045%20Min%20Body%20Scan%2007.mp3

Namaste.