A journey into mindfulness #2

As our instructor tells us to focus on our feet, on our toes, then on our ankles, I’m reminded of a poem by Henry Reed, ‘Naming of Parts’, To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday, we had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning…

We continue to name our parts, and I struggle to keep my ankle joint in mind. It takes me until my knees for my mind to stop actively resisting my attempts at remembering where my lower legs are. There is a word for this sensation, proprioception. This is your ability to sense the relative positions of neighbouring parts of your body. But I find that maintaining focus in the body scan meditation is difficult to achieve. I keep wondering off to think about last night’s events, or my next coaching session, even what words I’ll write in this blog.

We switch back to our breath and are asked to imagine breathing into our legs. Surprisingly, I find this easier to experience, imagining my breath flowing like water into my legs, which then become two sausage-shaped balloons. As I breathe in, my chest rises, my legs fill with air and I am pulled upwards. My whole body follows a slightly curving trajectory, as I’m being pulled up from the hips, then, as I release my breath, I’m pulled back down and I have a sensation of the yoga mat wrapping around me.

We continue to find parts of our body, identifying and noticing our chest, neck shoulders, arms and fingers. We switch back to breathing into our heads, imagining our head filling up with air and feeling a pressure from the inside out. Again this is easier to achieve than it sounds, but unlike my balloon legs, my head stays intact as I feel the pressure increase on the inside of my skull.

I’m not the only one who found enhanced proprioception difficult. We all share a similar but different experience. “Terrible,” said one, “I found it difficult to feel any sensation,” someone volunteers, “I had a headache and felt blocked in my chest”. Others enjoyed the experience, becoming relaxed and nearly drifting off to sleep. I felt restless with either excitement or anxiety, I wanted the meditation to stop, but once it did I felt OK and calm. Subjectively, it feels much easier to focus on breathing than a part of the body.

Even with the difficulties of the body scan, I already find it easier to catch wondering thoughts quicker, cutting them off before they are fully formed. And as subjective as my experience is, I already feel calmer and a sense of clarity. I’m not the only one that has noticed an improvement in focus already, others share an ability to focus and feel as they have achieved more in the day.

Our instructor finishes the session by stressing the importance of practice and building up a habit of mindfulness and meditation as it is only through practice we will receive the benefits. I think the problem is that we wait until we have the burnout, suffer emotional loss or have a health scare before we begin with self-improvement practices, when in fact, we need these resources already established to help us through our difficult times.


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