“Focus on the breath.”
When you listen to guided meditations, you will hear this instruction over and over again. This is because the breath plays such an crucial role in meditation. It is a powerful tool that immerses you in the flow of the present moment. With each inhale, you invite a new moment to arise. With each exhale, you create space for the next. However, focus on the breath is not the only way to stay in the now. If you pay attention to it, your body can also act as an effective anchor when your mind gets pulled by thoughts of the past or future. Below I explain how body awareness leads to a mindful life.
How the body helps you become more mindful
The body doesn’t mull over the past nor the future. It only knows how to exist in the present moment. It unapologetically feels how it feels, and it will tell you right away if something isn’t right. If you listen carefully, your body will always give you an accurate assessment of your current emotional state. It is this awareness of the subtle shifts in your body that can help you transform the way you respond to situations.
In the past, when I felt hurt, my go-to reaction would be to shut down. If I was really triggered, I could even lash out regretful words. Unsurprisingly, this conditioned way of dealing with difficult situations negatively affected several of my relationships. With the help of meditation however, I have gotten better at noticing how my body reacts to in these moments of stress. My throat gets tight, my chest is suddenly heavy and my jaw clenches. When these physical manifestations arise, I can sense my flight or fight reaction is about to step in.
Over time though, instead of resorting to auto-pilot (i.e. lashing out), I have learned to take a step back, take in a deep breath and choose a more productive response to the situation. Thanks to my awareness of the shifts in my body, I can prevent my conditioned and automatic reactions from kicking in as often. As stereotyped as this may sound, meditation has greatly improve the quality of my relationships.
Body scan meditation
So how do you develop body awareness? While there are several ways to do this with mindfulness practice, the body scan meditation is my favorite. It consists of bringing focused attention to different areas of your body. This meditation can last anywhere from 5 to 40 minutes, and is typically done lying down. Ideally, it is practiced on a daily basis.
By building your awareness of how your body feels when it’s in a neutral state, you are better equipped to recognize the physical signs of distress when they occur. If you are able to recognize them before you react from a place of unconsciousness, you will likely respond in a matter that is more aligned with your values.
A little heads up: the body scan meditation is extremely relaxing and can put you to sleep! If you do fall asleep, don’t beat yourself up for it. Either intentionally use this meditation as a way to cure your insomnia, or simply continue where you left off when you do wake up from the nap.
Guided meditation (20 minutes)
Below I share with you a body scan meditation that I guided during our charity wellness workshop. I know several people have requested it after the workshop, so I’m happy to make it available as a downloadable format! The .mp3 file available in my October 2017 newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, click here.
That’s all for now folks! If you found this article useful, make sure to share it with your friends. You can also check out my 14 meditation tips for beginners and 7 ways to be mindful everyday articles.
Much love and hugs,