the body….it’s not new, but living inside our body with awareness, attuned to our movements, our muscles, spine, pelvis, neck, arms, legs…it’s new when we pay attention in the here and now and concentrate on how we feel in our bodies.
As my meditation practice deepens — I lead two groups every week at my home, one group at my Fenelon Falls cottage, and my Ryerson Life Institute courses run for 8 weeks — I am experiencing the most obvious thing: our brain exists in our body. The mind-body connection is what we live. Why am I surprised at how important the body is to the brain?
As Pema Chodron teaches, the purpose of meditation is NOT to have a blank mind. It’s to be at home with ourselves, observing our thinking patterns without judgment, resting in our breath, watching our thoughts and feelings float by like clouds floating by a mountain. If we choose, we can interrupt our thoughts, touch them lightly with a feather and watch them dissolve. Our thoughts have no weight, they’re transparent, we don’t have to be hooked by our thoughts, we don’t have to bite the hook.
Back to the body. Resting in the breath. Feel the vibrant life in every cell of the body. At a deep subliminal level, our brain is sending neural signals throughout our body, down our spine, arms, legs.
Try lying down on the floor. Bend your knees, feet shoulder width apart. Windshield wipers. Drop the knees slowly to the right. Turn your head to the left. Knees to the left. Head to the right. Groove back and forth for a while. Imagine your spine like a long narrow towel that you’re wringing in opposite directions at both ends. Feel your spine gently twisting one way as your knees drop, the other way as your head turns. Really imagine your spine. Then pause in the centre and turn your head with your knees. This is the moment when you become aware of neural signalling. This is Moishe Feldenkrais’ gift to the world, ATM…Awareness Through Movement. Neural signalling from the brain to every part of the body. Norman Doidge says Feldenkrais was the first great neuroplastician. He understood brain plasticity and neurogenesis before they were “discovered” and understood by scientists.
To sum up: movement, exercise, walking, swimming, yoga, Pilates….anything you like to do physically is an important part of meditation, which is about being present in our bodies. To be continued.