Monday, October 18, 2010

Meditating On the Body

Have you ever tried to meditate? One of the first things they'll usually teach you is to follow your breath: breathe in and out, they say, and watch your breath moving in and out of your body. When your mind starts to wander, return to the simplicity of that task, watching again as your breath comes in and then out of your body.

It sounds easy, but of course it isn't. Our minds wander all over the place. We start thinking of what to make for dinner, the fight we got into a few hours ago, what to wear the next day. It takes discipline to return to the breath, find it again, and let the thoughts drop away.

A wise meditation teacher told me years ago not to worry so much about trying to get my thoughts to stop--a condition he said was practically impossible as a human being--but instead to just not get carried away by them. The key was to be able to watch them as an observer rather than investing them with drama and meaning. Then they could come and go without causing such stress or anxiety.

It's interesting to me, as someone who works to reconnect my clients and myself to the wisdom of our bodies, that something as simple as returning to our breath can begin to teach us this powerful lesson. Our bodies live in the here and now, and every moment our bodies function in incredibly intricate ways without our having to 'do' anything. We breathe, eat, digest food and eliminate waste without even thinking about it. Our bodies remind us how to be.

The other day I was meditating when the pulse of my wrist caught my attention. I could see my heart pulsing gently against my skin, steady and slow. I found myself drawn to just watching that pulse, in awe of the fact that my body knows how to do that about every second, and that my entire body is flushed with blood with every beat of my heart.

In a world that is often busy and hectic, our bodies--and their pulse and breath--provide a kind of metronome for our lives. At any moment, they provide us with a slow and steady consistency we can return to and remember the most basic and essential rhythm of our lives. That's another reason why reconnecting to our bodies is so important, and why we suffer when we get disconnected. Our bodies remind us of our simplicity, our essence. They bring us into the present moment of our lives.

The next time you find yourself spinning out of control with the gazillions of things you have to do, take a moment and consider your pulse. Or watch your breath as it moves in and out of your belly. Sometimes all it takes is a moment--that seemed to be all I needed. Remember the awe and the simple consistency of the bodily functions that make us human every day and every minute of our lives.

Meditation can take lifetimes (literally) to master, but the power of reconnecting to our body's purest rhythms can happen in a moment with conscious attention. Notice what happens in you as you reconnect to your breath moving in and out of your body, to the steady beat of your own heart.

Our bodies also remind us of the grand mystery of life, the miracle of being born with all of these functions interacting and moving through us. Let us remember them when we are most lost or stressed, when we think we must figure everything out with our minds or our 'doing' selves. Our bodies and their stalwart constancy have much to teach us about the wonder and presentness of simply being alive.