The other day someone asked me if I were to name one potent practice above all others for increasing Mindfulness, what would it be?
I truly had to reflect on this question for there are so many tools when working with being present out in the world. In my twelve week course we spend weeks experimenting with different ways to notice how we are not here…and not aware of our awareness. When we wake up and realize we are here, there are actions to take to reveal more of what is going on inside of us. We can set up cues to remind us to wake up.
Meditation is also important, creating strength in single minded focus, accessing stillness and increasing the ability to watch and observe our inner landscape. Doing meditation will create the play of more refined energy with which to work, but there is something else that I would deem even more helpful out in the world.
Even after 8 years of working in a zen dojo, meditating every morning and night, plus daily yoga sessions, I still noticed that I had a lot of emotional reaction and stories playing out in my head as I went about my day.
It was not until I met my second great teacher, John MacPherson, a student of John Bennett and The Fourth Way Work, that I was shown how to use this secret weapon in ways that would change my world from black and white to color. My expanded awareness increased because I was using that subtle rounded attention to be aware of two things at once. I was not toggling between two things or multi tasking…I was understanding the use of more than one of my centers at the same time.
What am I actually talking about?
The secret weapon is sensation and something you can begin to use right away to understand what it means to be in your body, to be grounded and to access information from the perspective of felt sense.
The body is always in the present moment.
Asking someone to get in their body is easier said than done. We do all kinds of things to get in our body like exercise, yoga, meditation, walking, and massage. However, being in our body while doing something other than those things can prove rather difficult. One of the reasons is because the intellectual emotional complex steals the energy in the form of habitual association and analysis.
Another reason is that we have neuro pathways grooved into our mode of behavior. Our flow of ordinary associations is so habitual that it takes more attention than usual to break. We are generally not in our bodies as this is happening.
If there were any tool to help us create space outside of the energy of the psycho-emotional drama it is sensation. Becoming aware of the physical sensation of my hands, for example, in the midst of another activity can bring breadth and perspective on what is happening within me.
One of the easiest ways to work with sensation is to maintain an awareness of a body part while doing mundane repetitive activities like folding the laundry, chopping vegetables, or gardening. This is one of the reasons we do these kinds of activities regularly during our retreats, giving the student a chance to develop skills in intentional conditions higher in energies but mimicking daily life. Once this practice is strengthened, there is a chance of developing an observer who can catch emotional wind up before it begins to happen. This takes practice, so we start with the subtle awareness of our hands and maintain that while doing something less charged like chopping wood.
The other important result of using sensation is that we are grounded and able to accumulate higher energies and transform our attention into food for the soul. Grounding is more than contact with the earth, although this is very very important. When we incorporate literally, we have a new impression of the energy of not only the body, but also the energy of emotion, thought, like and dislike, our environment and nature. We are able to take in a new mode of information in terms of felt sense of these energies. We are open to a new way of seeing called Self Observation.
We are meant to be in these bodies of ours, incarnating to the degree that we have new understanding and actual transformation. Working with this kind of expanded awareness generates sensitive energy which is conducive to connecting us with the here and now. The more that happens, the more we experience objective awareness which leads to a higher order of experience.
I decided to do a video to go along with this blog. Enjoy!!!