February 08, 2012
Last night I broke a glass in my apartment, and as I was cleaning up the mess I realized that this was the third or fourth glass that I've broken in the past few weeks. As I was picking up the shattered pieces I realized that I've been moving through the world with a huge division between my body and my mind. My mind goes in one direction while my body operates as a disconnected entity. I bump into things, drop objects, and spill coffee. I was flipping through Tricycle Teachings: Meditation and I came across the excerpt from "Full Body, Empty Mind," an interview with meditation teacher Will Johnson:
The sitting posture itself can be a kind of crucible for burning off the tensions and restrictions to body and breath that all too often keep us lost in thought and unaware of feeling presence. A good place to start is examining what happens to the body when you’re lost in thought. This, of course, is tricky to do, because when the mind is off wandering in involuntary thought, you’re not very aware of the body at all. But if you can include an observation of the body while you’re off in a thought, you’ll find that the condition “lost in thought” is directly accompanied somewhere in the body by muscular contraction and tensing, stillness and rigidity, and a subtle contraction or holding quality to the breath. In other words, when you’re lost in thought, you’re tense in body. It follows, then, that if you can consciously work with the body during your sitting practice to soften and relax the tensions and allow more resilient and natural movement to accompany the passage of the breath, the chatter of the mind can be reduced, and your practice can start going really deep.
"Lost in thought" perfectly describes the way I've been moving through the world recently. So this week, week two of Meditation Month, my goal is to bring my attention back to my body when I'm sitting. As Johnson suggests, I'm going to consciously work with my body to soften the tensions that arise when my mind begins to wander. I'm hoping this will help me develop attention and foster a deeper connection between my thoughts and physical actions. If all goes well, I won't be cleaning up any more broken glass!
Throughout Meditation Month we'll be posting videos, audio interviews, articles, and tips from well-known Buddhist teachers. If you need more personal advice for your practice, "Meditation Doctor" and Zen teacher Brad Warner will be answering reader questions here all month. Our meditation e-book, free to supporting and sustaining members, includes 25 articles on meditation that will help you develop and maintain your meditation practice. You can download the Tricycle Teachings: Meditation e-book here. If you've been struggling with your meditation practice and you're worried about sitting the "right" way, listen to this week's Tricycle Talk with Jason Siff, the author of December Tricycle Book Club selection). (the
For more on meditation and the body, check out Jill Satterfield's Tricycle Online Retreat "Meditation in Motion."
Image from examinetheglass.com