We will be more successful in all our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living. ~Thich Nhat Hanh
I have suffered from social anxiety and low self-esteem a good part of my childhood and adult life. What has helped me overcome it to a large extent and continues to help me are meditation, mindfulness and body awareness. These practices have helped me become stronger mentally, have helped me develop better control over my mind and the thoughts it generates, have helped me become more conscious of life, have helped me release suppressed emotions and most importantly have also helped me heal my body. Believe me, the benefits are endless. In this article, I am going to discuss body awareness meditation.
Becoming aware of your body is about “feeling” your body from within. I emphasize the word “feeling” because this exercise is purely about that. Not using your thoughts to feel, but to feel using your body. As an example, when you feel your heart, you don’t imagine your heart beating but actually feel it beating by shifting your attention there. We will look at this in more details in this article.
Getting Started by Relaxing Your Body
Make yourself comfortable by sitting or lying down. I would suggest the best way to do this would be to lie down on a yoga mat on the floor. Close your eyes and take a few minutes to relax your body by letting go. I like to imagine myself free falling from an infinite distance, my body as light as a feather floating in the air. This imagination always helps me relax. As you relax your body, you will realize that many body parts that you kept clenched unconsciously begin to unclench and relax.
You are now going to work with your attention. Your attention is like a torch light. You can focus it any- where you want. A large chunk of our attention is focused onto our thoughts as we are programmed to live in our minds. Through this exercise, we are going to give some attention back to our body. So let’s begin.
Bringing Awareness into Your Body
Become aware of your body in its wholeness, from the head to the toes. Realize that the mind in itself is part of the body. And although we stay focused in the mind all day long, we only focus on the thoughts produced by the mind and not the mind in itself. As an analogy, think of being completely engrossed in watching T.V. without being aware of the presence of the T.V. and how it is functioning to provide you with these pictures.
Now gently bring your attention to your breath. Focus on the air entering your nostrils and into your lungs. Feel your lungs expand as they get filled with life giving energy and then contract as this energy is expelled out. Try feeling your lungs from the inside. Feel your lungs taking oxygen out of the air and then circulating this life giving energy throughout your body. As you do this, realize that your lungs have been working non-stop on their own, since the beginning, without you having to do anything.
After about a minute or so, slowly bring your attention to your heart beats. If you cannot feel your heart at first, try to place a hand on your heart and see if you can feel the vibrations of your heart beating. As you do this, realize that your heart has been beating non-stop since the beginning, supplying life energy to every cell of your body. You did not do anything to make it work. It just is. Continue to focus on your heart beats for a few seconds to a minute.
Shift your focus to your stomach and feel your stomach digesting food and producing life sustaining energy. Realize that your stomach does this on its own without you having to do anything.
In a similar way, shift your attention to various parts of your body. Whatever part you feel like focusing on. Do you sense a mild ache somewhere? Shift your focus there. Feel the ache completely and relax that area. Let’s take a look at a few more areas you can shift your focus to.
Shift your attention to the lower abdomen area, the area right below your belly button also known as the sacral chakra. Focusing here can be great to eliminate any digestive problems that you might have. Now focus on your genitals, your legs and finally the sole. Feel the energy radiating from the soles of your feet.
Bring your attention to your hands, starting from your shoulders, your arms, your forearms, your wrists, your fingers and finally the palm of your hands. Feel the energy radiating from your palms.
Once you do that, move your attention upwards towards your neck, focus inside your throat, your gums, your teeth, your tongue, your nape and the whole length of the spinal cord starting from the top and going to the bottom and then from the bottom to the top.
Bring your attention to the back of your head; slowly move to the front of your head which is your forehead and then to the crown chakra which is the top most point on the center your head. The crown charka is known to rule the entire brain and the nervous system. So focusing here can be immensely beneficial to your overall being.
Finally try feeling your brain from the outside and yes, this is possible. Feel your brain producing thoughts and be a witness of these thoughts without getting lost in them.
Sequence of Focus
The sequence of focus mentioned here is for helping you get started and is not a requirement. You can shift focus to any part of your body at any time based on where your focus takes you. Let your focus roam free within your body and it will automatically take you to a part that requires your attention. Also, it is not necessary to focus on all body parts in a single meditation. You can focus on any specific part you want to.
Benefits of Body Awareness
Your body loves your focus and as you spend more and more time focusing inside your body, your body starts functioning at optimum levels vibrating at a positive frequency. This is a great way to release suppressed emotions like hate and anger from your body. Constant practice will help you feel your body in a deeper level and can be immensely useful in dealing with stress and anxiety. These are just few of the many benefits you can get out of this practice.
Thank you for reading.
Every once in a while, I am lucky enough to be asked to contribute articles to other sites. I wrote this one, “6 Mindfulness Activities to Help You Destress” for my friends at “outofstress.com. Please click here to read my article on their site and learn how to let go of your mind and destress, helping you feel like your more authentic self. ~Alan Eisenberg