Monday, May 24, 2010

The Body's Wisdom V

Today I would like to explore with you one these deeper meanings. We might think of it as one of the exercises of the cell, although I would encourage you, weather permitting, to go outside and find a quiet place to practice. To approach this exercise we need to understand that the mind has a way of taking out its excesses on the body, especially non-material stress such as the pressure of work or family, the jangling noise of a technological society, or its ever-increasing pace.

The body has its own normal music: the heart leads with its rhythm, the circulation of the blood carries its pulse, the body clock regulates patterns of waking and sleeping. There are other innate rhythms, such as walking, so beautifully described by the late Bruce Chatwin.

But stress disrupts these rhythms; the over-stressed mind manifests itself in physical twitches and jiggles; muscles taughten; hands twist and shake. If we can find a way to make the body relax, then the mind could reconnect with its wellspring of silence. The exercise I am going to describe can be done anywhere, in any context, and the beauty of it is that once you learn it, you can call on it in any situation. But don't expect to be able to do it in its entirety today, or for many days. On the other hand, if eventually you manage it only once and never do it again, it will still provide a resource on which you can draw for the rest of your life.

The goal is to sit upright, absolutely still and perfectly relaxed for thirty minutes, no twitching, no scratching, no looking at a watch.

This sort of physical stillness happens inadvertently as a consequence of one-pointed meditation; but in this exercise the mind is alert and receptive to the body without focusing on anything in particular. It is best to learn to do it in stages, gradually increasing the amount of time as your body learns to be still.

In the beginning, of course, you may feel phantom ants crawling up your leg, your scalp may suddenly itch to the point of tears, or perhaps you may imagine a tick is crawling up your spine. You may catch yourself jiggling your fingers or have a desperate need to crack your big toe. These manifestations are perfectly normal and the exercise is best approached as a wryly humorous game you are playing with yourself. If you absolutely must check for ants and ticks, or scratch the itch, or crack your big toe, then just compose yourself and begin again. But above all pay attention to the body as it composes itself, and opens the way to a conscious physical connection with our core silence.

I repeat: if you can learn to sit upright, absolutely still and utterly relaxed, for thirty minutes, even if you manage to do it only once, it will be a resource you can draw on whenever you feel stressed and notice that you are jiggling or twitching. When you become aware that you are expressing stress through your body, you can bring to mind the physical memory of what your body felt like at the end of the thirty minutes, and almost instantly relax back into the deep silence. In consequence your speech and thoughts will be enabled to reconnect with the flow from their inner wellspring.

Peace be with you.


Blogger Jack H said...

I agree. It does help to do this enormously.

6:42 pm, May 24, 2010  
Blogger Jack H said...

I agree. This is helpful and I do it.

6:47 pm, May 24, 2010  

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