Mindfulness of Body is the First Foundation of Mindfulness, and is one of the most important practices we can do. In formal meditation and in daily life, bringing awareness to the body is a useful practice with many benefits. In order to be able to return to the body in our lives, we must practice this in formal sitting meditation.
Benefits of Body Meditations
There are many benefits to practicing with the body. Too much to cover in one post. For now, I will focus on the ways that I have found my mindfulness of body practice to be most beneficial. When I refer to a mindfulness of body practice here, I am speaking of both formal sitting meditation and a more daily mindfulness practice.
Awareness of the State of the Body
The simplest benefit that comes to mind is a general awareness of what is going on with the body. This is a rather obvious statement, but it is important to recognize how helpful this can be. Practicing body meditations such as body scans, walking meditation, and breath work really help us recognize what is occurring in daily life.
Through practicing with the body, we are able to listen to the body. Whether it is something physical like being tired, or an emotion such as anxiety, the body has a lot to say. We learn to recognize what is occurring, and what it means to us. Sitting in formal meditation practice with the body allows us to naturally know in daily life what is present in the body. We know when worry is arising, when anger is present, when we are tired, etc.
The Ever-Present Body
Practicing with the body is especially pragmatic. The body is always with us, whether we are sitting in formal meditation or going about our daily lives. Although the same may be said for any form of mindfulness meditation, the body really lends itself well to practicing in daily life. Because the body is always with us and there are always sensations present, we continually have an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Whether it is the breath, walking, or the simple sensations while sitting in our chair at work, we have a consistent opportunity to return to this practice. This makes working with the body approachable and applicable to life outside of formal meditation.
Practicing with the Body
There are many different ways we can practice with the body. There are guided meditations at the bottom of this post for those interested in trying some of these practices. We may try a body scan meditation to begin with. This is a simple practice of passing through the body methodically, looking at each individual part of the body to see what is present. Body scans often start at the top of the head and the person works his or her way down to the toes. This is not to change anything that is happening in the body, but just to bring awareness to our experience.
We may also work with the body in a more open practice. Rather than focusing on single parts of the body as you may do in a body scan, an open awareness practice incorporates the whole body at once. In an open body awareness practice we sit patiently awaiting any sensations in the body to arise. Again, the goal isn’t to fix anything or alter it in any way. We simply observe, noticing what is present, focusing on the direct experience, and observing the changing nature of sensations in the body.
Finally, I highly suggest you practice walking meditation! I recommend this to many people, and people seem to have some hesitation about walking meditation. It’s an important practice recommended in several of the Buddha’s teachings. Most importantly to this topic, walking meditation was included in the instructions on establishing mindfulness of body (www.EasierSofter.com/Foundations). Walking meditation is a different way in which we can practice with the body. We meditate while noticing the body move, rather than sitting still. In addition to providing a different method of looking at the body, walking meditation is beneficial because it carries over well to our daily life. We can practice a casual walking meditation any time we are walking throughout our days.
There are many practices that you may work in addition. These include the four elements meditation, mindfulness of breath, and mindfulness of death. These practices I explained above are more introductory and accessible.