Disembodiment is the state of living in our head. By taking time to value, nourish and care for our embodiment, we wipe clean the daily dust of distraction, tune in to the innate wisdom of our body and re-commit to living from the heart, a place of acceptance, ease and clarity.
Even a few mindful minutes makes for a calmer, more focused mind, a richer sense of appreciation for yourself & others, greater health & wellbeing in your body and a more meaningful life. It's a series of small, subtle shifts make the biggest and longest lasting changes.
Take five minutes for yourself and all those you'll interact with today because the world needs you to be present in your body, not just your head.
Here are the 7 magic steps: Posture, Body Scan, Ground, Breathe, Gratitude, Intention and Touch.
This meditation can be done on the go at the mall or sitting on a park bench, on your mat before yoga class, while taking a break from work or a stressful confrontation or in "your meditation spot," a simple home altar holding images, flowers, or quotes that inspire you. As a daily home practice, keep your spot consistent throughout the year so you come to associate it with the regularity and intention- deepening the neuropathways of peace.
Let's do it!
Open & Close with a Bow:
Bringing your hands together at your chest, bow your head to your heart. A simple bow is a gesture of respect towards yourself, symbolizing entrance into the inner temple of your body. You might close your physical eyes, which opens your inner vision and increases sensitivity to subtle sensations.
Step #1: Posture
Sit, lie down or stand so your spine is as straight as possible without strain or rigidity. If sitting on the floor you'll need at least one pillow to lift up your pelvis up so you don't have to manage internal struggle and strain while focusing inward. We have enough physical tension already so there is no need to increase the challenge of relaxing by pretending we are monks or cave dwelling yogis by sitting on the floor- unless we don't have a lift and feel comfortable without one. Sitting on the edge of a chair is often better for releasing the mind and coming into the body then sitting slouched on the floor in cross legged position with your knees high. Check that your weight is even on both sit bones or feet, that your spine is erect but not rigid and that your chest is brave like a proud hen. Resting the palms easefully face down on the thighs reinforces a sense of grounding into the here and now.
Step #2 Body Scan (30 seconds- 1 minute)
Firtst, notice what you notice, feeling your breath and your heartbeat, the aliveness of the physical sensation of skin on clothing. Get curious and see what sensations are alive for you right now. Next, move systematically from the feet upward to the head, noticing areas of tension, numbness, vitality, areas that feel like they are holding emotions- notice anything at all. If it's challenging to focus, don't muscle through it, just notice what's really standing out today (for example, "I can't feel my feet, my knees ache, I have a knot of excitement and nervousness in my belly, my neck is tense, my head feels like it is floating") while attempting to be with the felt sensation versus the mental dialogue about what you are experiencing. During meditation allow yourself to meet your internal landscape versus judging or changing it. Notice when you get distracted, as you will multiple times, and without additional storyline, just label "thinking" and come right back to your breath. Adopting the attitude of 'no big deal' keeps us committed to the process.
Last for this step, place one hand on your heart and one on your belly and notice the quality of your breath: is it smooth or jagged, long or slow, even length of inhale and exhale, where does it enter first? Does it lift the hand on the belly at all? The state of our breathing will often tell us more about the state of our body-mind than our conscious mind. No need to change anything- for now, noticing is where the value is. Through this simple act of reverent mindfulness we begin to notice the signs of stress and ease throughout our day. Just by noting unevenness or irregularity in your breathing it will begin to shift towards harmony, especially after steps 3-5. Don't get caught on this step, just make space to notice what you notice and begin to create intentional presence in the following steps.
Step #3 Ground Using Your Hands, Your Imagination & Your Muscles (20 seconds- 1 minute)
With each breath think of your feet, legs & pelvis growing roots into the floor and beyond. Use your physical body to reinforce this sense of grounded stability by pressing your hands onto your feet and thighs if seated. Next, assure that you are rooted by fully and completely tensing & squeezing every muscle of your lower body. For a full body-mind reset squeeze as tight as you safely can! Hold for 5-10 seconds and then let everything go on an exhale, reveling in the relief. Repeat 1-4 times.
Step #4 Mindful Breathing: 4-10+ Slow, Deep, Even Belly Breaths (1-3 minutes)
Welcome to the most important step. Every moment we remember our breath is a moment of victory.
Shallow breathing = stress breathing = busy mind = ego takes the lead.
Belly breathing = better decision making due to increased oxygen = healthier cells due to increased circulation = calm mind = clarity for purpose.
Create harmony in the body by giving an even count to both the inhale and the exhale, pausing gently at the top and bottom of the breath. I suggest starting with a 2-4 count inhale/exhale and progressing after many months to 5-7 slow count inhale/exhale. Placing the hands on your belly here will ensure you don't fall into the typical bipedal homo sapien stress trap of chest breathing. As always, notice when you get distracted, as you will, probably multiple times, and without judgement or additional storyline, just label "thinking" and come right back to your breath. Remember, the attitude of 'no big deal' keeps us committed to the process.
If you are new to conscious or deep breathing, I recommend lying on the floor and placing your hands on your belly so you can feel your lungs filling. Lying on the back automatically disengages dysfunctional breathing habits and allows for the diaphragm to work optimally. You can't mess up healthy breathing while on your back- this is why babies can scream all night and not run out of breath. Whether sitting or lying, breath like a baby- full and deep without strain.
Step #5 Tune Into Gratitude & Smile Inwardly (20-40 Seconds)
Now that we are receiving the grounding benefits of increased oxygenation and awareness of the direct experience of life in our body, connect with a sense of appreciation, thanking yourself for showing up when it would have been so easy to skip checking in. Thank your body, perhaps offering an affirmation of gratitude like "I'm grateful for my health and wellbeing" or, much more advanced- a goal to work toward for many "I love my body." Thank your life (or Spirit or the Goddess/God/Source or the Great Mystery or the Random Collection of Atoms that somehow came together to create this complex planet and your body). If you have a hard time here, think of something or someone who you love immensely, and let that sense of warmth gently lift the corners of your mouth and eyes. Let gratitude bring the lift of an inner smile to your belly, your chest and your whole inner body so that you feel like you are radiating from the inside out.
Step #6 Allow an Intention to Arise (20-40 Seconds)
This might be the intention for the next ten minutes or hour (for example, 'I will arrive safely and calmly at work', 'I will efficiently finish my report and feel energized afterwards', 'I am safe', 'I am present in my body'), it might be a larger intention for your month or year ('I have the perfect new job or home', 'I am energized, motivated and focused') or a life intention ('I radiate gratitude wherever I go,' 'I am patient', 'I offer my gifts through my work', 'my life is simple and joyful'). My go-to set of intentions for many years has been "I accept myself/my life/my body exactly as I am/it is." In the yogic realm we call this Sankulpa, it's different than a goal, it's the energy behind a goal.
This is the step that creates magic. Words have much power. You significantly increase their power when you fuel them with emotion. Can you feel how good it feels to be living your intention in this moment? This is a practice that takes time to perfect so be patient. You'll know you've been gifted the right intention for you when it feel really good in your body! If you are wanting to cultivate "I finish my report by Friday" but that, for whatever reason, doesn't feel good in your body-mind, you might simplify to "I am energized/calm/focused/easeful," or something that gives you an sense of inner rest that will then allow you to accomplish your goal (or open to more auspicious alternatives) with more joy and less effort.
Step #7 Touch: Seal Intention into your Cells (20-40 Seconds)
While inwardly repeating or speaking your intention, touch your body in a way that feels good, bringing a sense of aliveness to your skin. You might rub your scalp or face, rub your hands in a circle on your belly or squeeze out neck and jaw tension at the tops of your shoulders. Whatever it is, you can't fake this step and it's worth the twenty seconds it takes to offer your body love, reassurance, pleasure and to remind it that self care is high on the priority list. This step continues to deepen the breath, draws you into your body and out of your head and sends a message of worthiness to the cells. Over time, you may prefer to substitute or add sound or simple movement here.
Once more, honor yourself by bowing your head down to the wisdom of the body.
Remember, it's small subtle shifts that make the biggest and longest lasting change. Take five minutes several times a week (or day) to feel better in your body and remember why you are here.
Please let me know how this meditation sits with you and you've made it your own by leaving a comment below.