Cultivate body mindfulness as a core element to working with fitness and weight loss. Mindfulness of the body, in my experience, helps me to have a sense of what I’m truly feeling in the present moment. This includes a sense of how foods make me feel and how exercise makes me feel. How tired I am vs how energized and ready for a good workout. What kind of exercises I want most for my body in the present moment.
What I find, and I expect you will find too if you start this practice, is that naturally as I notice how certain things make me feel, with a curious, kind and nonjudgmental awareness, I begin to move towards those things which make me feel good. In fact this is just common sense. As I discussed in my last post, this is the idea of trusting our natural sense of what is good for us, trusting our innate body wisdom to guide our choices. Get out of your own way.
The good news is that this makes the process of health and fitness quite a bit more organic, easy and pleasant. The “bad” news is that this is not a quick fix. This is the opposite of a quick fix. If you want to drop 20 pounds in two months, this is not the approach for you. Mindfulness is a slow training, but the rewards are great. They run far deeper than mere weight loss, in fact (to paraphrase) the Buddha himself said that mindfulness of body is at the core of spiritual growth.
So how do you begin to develop mindfulness of body. The obvious answer is to begin a meditation practice and stick with it. Even just 10 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation will make a huge difference.
In a more general sense, make a conscious choice to pay more attention to your body from the inside. Notice what you’re feeling. Notice emotions. Notice tensions. Notice sensations. Don’t judge, don’t try t achieve any special state, just notice with kind, gentle, curiosity. Trust that this awareness, by itself, will grow and begin to bring you more fully in touch with your body.
I find a simple body scan meditation is helpful. This takes me around 10 minutes to practice and can be done any time of day, anywhere. I start by relaxing as best I can, then I bring my attention to my feet and gently feel the sensations of my feet. I pay special attention to the feeling of my feet from within and often notice a kind of gentle buzzing, tingling energy. After I have a clear sense of my feet, I move up into my lower legs, then my upper legs, then my root, then core, then chest and heart, then arms and hands, then shoulders, neck and head. By the end I have a sense of my entire body as a unitary sense. I also find it helpful to finish with a sense of my surroundings, so that there is a feeling of body my body, and also my connection to the space around me.
I’ve found that while doing this practice I often notice numb or tight areas in my body. When I notice these, I just gently rest my attention on the space and allow it to be. Gently, over time, these spaces I find begin to open and soften. And usually there is some emotion trapped underneath.
I can go on about this in greater detail, but this isn’t a post about meditation work, except in so far as helping you start a basic body mindfulness practice. There are many ways to get more mindful of the body including yoga, martial arts, various other meditation practices, etc. Find something that works for you, something that you’ll stick with.