Here is the eighth of my 50 Mindful Practices from my upcoming book. Please sign up for my weekly emails if you want to get the rest automatically in your email box. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!
MINDFULNESS MADE EASY – 50 PRACTICES TO REDUCE STRESS AND CREATE CALM – FOR HOME, SCHOOL AND WORK
Practice 8: Listen to your body
“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious awesome, indescribably magnificent world in its self.“ Henry Miller
What it is. We are often so busy in our minds that we forget completely about our bodies. Mindfulness expert and author, Tara Brach suggests returning to your body as often as you can each day. Your body is continually taking in and giving out vibrations and energy. As children we rarely learned how to really listen to the messages or how to understand them. Mindful listening usually begins with simply noticing when your body tenses or relaxes in response to your emotions – such as when you feel angry, pressured or criticized, or when you are excited or calm. It also involves watching how you respond to these senses and emotions and understanding their impact on you.
How to do it. Sit in complete silence for a few moments. Take three deep breaths. Do you feel any tension in your body? Is your neck stiff? Are your legs comfortable? Is your nose itchy? Does your skin feel warm or cool? Can you hear your heart pumping, your stomach growling? Now think about your feet. What do they feel like? Wiggle your toes. Flex your foot from side to side. Rotate your ankle. Press the ball of your foot against the ground. Now let it flop. How do your feet feel now? You can focus on and activate any part of your body such as your hands or arms. Often if you simply relax your shoulders, jaw and belly, you can activate an overall sense of well being in your body.
What to notice. If you listen closely to your body sensations, you may hear hundreds of tiny little messages. And over time you may begin to understand what they might be saying like: “Get more sleep’” or “You are thirsty, not hungry!” They might be trying to alert you to something like danger or urging you to open your hearts in forgiveness. Some agitation is a sign that you need to wait before making a decision, whereas other agitation is a sign you need to act immediately. Once you notice your sensations and their impact you can better understand why your body is behaving this way and you can adjust accordingly. If feeling stressed, for example, you may know it has to do with a comment someone made about your work or not getting a full night’s sleep. You can choose to send energy directly to those body areas that are seizing up, you can choose to take some down time or you can choose to push your emotions away for the time being. With increased mindfulness you can select the most appropriate response given your circumstances at that particular moment.
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