"Tuning in" to listen to energy as it speaks in your body is like any other skill. Practice builds mastery, and beginning simply is always best. At its most basic level body meditation is a practice of turning our attention inward, focusing on various sensations occurring within the body, and naming them. There is much nuance to these three deceivingly simple steps. I will share many aspects of their subtleties on this blog. But for now, let’s begin simply.
1) Find a quiet place. This is a meditation, so it’s a good idea to settle in where you won’t be disturbed.
2) Get comfortable in any way that suits you. There is no right way to hold your body. No need for a disciplined physical posture. Just get comfortable. Sit down. Lay down. Sit erect or use a chair. Follow your impulse, but whatever you do, be comfortable.
3) Take a moment and breathe. Notice the quality of your overall state of being. Are you tense? Spacious? Emotional? Clear? Just take note. You may want to compare your beginning state to how you feel after tuning-in. As you drop in you may notice some simple releasing of what was happening before you sat down to listen to your body.
4) Close your eyes, or soften your gaze, and allow your awareness to sense into your environment. It is very grounding to feel and perceive the energy of the space that is holding you. Can you sense the quality of this holding environment? Feel the presence of the walls, the air, the surface you are sitting on. Just take it in for a moment before fully turning your attention inward.
5) Open the internal eye and scan the body. Release yourself from any set structure or rules you might have learned about body scanning. Just take a “look” around and allow your attention to be captured by the most predominant physical sensation occurring. It may be one sensation or a few. Whatever it is, allow your attention to settle there. You have grabbed a signal. Now you can fine-tune with the dial of awareness.
6) Focus in on this one sensation. Name what you find, out loud (if you can). Sense the qualities of this predominant sensation. Try to identify qualities such as temperature, texture, feeling/emotional tone, color, and image (See below for specific cues to guide the naming process.)
7) Take it slow. Keep the pace of your speech slow enough so that your words only emerge from connection to the energy or sensations. Like riding a wave, a surfer can only go as fast as the wave moves. Lose connection and you’re not surfing anymore. Maintaining an authentic connection to the energy as it speaks is vitally important to this practice.
8) Follow the energy sensations as they move. Once you have perceived, connected with, and named an energetic sensation, you might find that after a few moments, or minutes, it moves. Congratulations. Your body has been heard and metabolized an energetic knot. Follow it to its next expression, and its next, until you feel done. Usually, there will be a natural completion point. The energy "finishes"the process for us. However, if that feels too vague, set a meditation timer for a period of time that feels doable for you. Again, it is always best to start slow, five minutes can be plenty.
Body meditation is incredibly powerful when practiced with others. See my post for how to practice in community.
Name those sensations: Tips to guide your practice
Feeling physical sensations comes naturally to many individuals. For others it can be quite a challenge. If you are finding it difficult to feel much in your body, you are not alone. (Check out my blog entry: "Why Can't I Feel my Body?" for insights into these challenges.) For now, the brief explanation is that these difficulties are usually is asociated with trauma. By trauma, I simple mean an experience that was overwhelming for the nervous system, and, that this overwhelm has never been processed and allowed "to move." Trauma causes a variety of dissociative effects. We lose consciousness with parts of ourselves to mask the pain. And yet, underneath the numbness, the body is a storehouse of healing wisdom waiting to unfold. The good news is that building the capacity to listen to the body is extraordinarily supportive to unraveling traumatic pain and unleashing this wisdom.To guide you in naming your physical sensations it helps to Identify the following qualities. Doing so can help create a rich perceptive connection to what you are feeling. Look for:
Temperature: Hot, cold, searing, icy, lukewarm…
Texture: Dense, light, heavy, bubbly, spikey, smooth, gravely, silken, bumpy, shard-like….
Feeling Tone/Emotion: Angry, happy, bright, depressed, sullen, effervescent, deadened…
Movement: Expanding, swirling, dancing, pulsing, draining...
Color: You may see colors associated with your physical sensation and this usually happens if you are a highly visual processor, but it doesn't happen for everyone. Colors are also often associated with feeling tones. Follow your own sense of what the color represents and don't get stuck on the idea that red=anger, or black=depression. What do the sensations suggest to you?
Image: If you are a naturally visual processor you will likely see little mini-vignettes or visuals. Sometimes these visuals unfurl as symbolic stories similar to little dreams. Resist the temptation to spill into narrative storytelling about what this reminds you of in your life. Our egos tend to do this, because telling "our story" often feels safer than being in service to an unknown, and often irrational, symbolic movie. If you see an inner visual evolving before your inner eye allow it to play out and speak what you see slowly. (I'll have more about visuals in another post soon.)
Here are some sensation descriptions I have heard:
"I am feeling champagnes bubbles fizzing in my upper chest."
"I notice two bronze metals bands on my upper arms."
"There a buzzing sensation in my head and see bees swarming there."
"My gut feels like it has a fireball in it, and there is a line of red heat shooting up to my heart."
"My legs feel like concrete. They are heavy, cold, and depressed."
"I am a corn cob and my kernels are being nibbled." (A good one. I know)
There is a rich world beyond the simple practice described here. I will be sharing these greater vistas in future blog posts, so stay tuned. Until then, enjoy.