Taking a moment to settle into a meditation posture, allowing the body to be alert yet relaxed. If you’d like, you can close your eyes for the following practice or you can also allow your eyes to rest half-open or even fully open, whatever works for you.
Take a second to connect with a motivation for the practice, bringing in an intention of love, an intention of warmth, appreciating the time to practice, appreciating that we have this body to practice, this mind to practice.
And if you can, bringing in a sense of warmth, a sense of inner connection. We’re practicing to understand the mind, to understand our emotions; not just for our own wellbeing and happiness, but that this may influence the world around us. And again, not that we have to be someone, but that this can influence the world around us naturally, just as we transform ourselves; so coming into this intention in whatever way you can relate to these words.
Sometimes I just sit and connect with a warm heart, a sense of appreciation, a sense of love.
With that we’re going to start the practice by inhabiting the basis of the body. So particularly in this embodied open inquiry, we’re going to practice the space of openness, awareness with the body.
Just feeling your feet as they connect with the ground below you, you can wiggle the toes a little bit, whatever need to do to access the sense of your feet, the feeling of the ground, internal space of the feet, the sides, the back, the top.
And if you’re new to embodied awareness practices, see if you can just relate to what you can relate to. Sometimes it can be challenging to feel or be present with certain parts of the body when we’re not used to it. So just relate as much as you can right now.
There is no perfect practice, just putting in the effort.
And so, as we’re connecting with the feet, inhabiting the space of the feet, we turn this capacity of mind that can be aware and knowing toward the presence of ourselves within the feet, a sense of our present moment experience as it is, as it’s arising within the feet.
In the same way, we start to be present with our ankles, our lower legs, our calves. You can start with the outer sensations and see if you can move internally almost as if you’re trying to see from within the calves, from within the legs.
In the same way, we move into the knees. Just letting your awareness gently rest within the knees, within the legs.
Now all the way up into your seat, feeling the seat below you, your thighs, feeling the pressure of the body on your seat.
As we move forward in the practice, I find that these spaces of the body, the feet, the legs can be quite grounding. And so as we move into the main trunk of the body, where often our emotional content can be felt. If you need to, you can always come back to the feet or the legs if it gets too overwhelming or too intense emotionally. And of course you can stop the practice at any time.
But moving from the seat now into the lower abdomen, just noticing what’s arising for you in the abdomen, maybe starting with the outer sensations of the breath, the abdomen expanding and contracting with the inhalation and exhalation.
If you need to, you can also place one hand on your abdomen, right at the level of your belly button if you like; if you’re having trouble feeling sensations.
From there, just allowing the awareness to enter the center of your body, right along the spine. Just as we did with the feet and legs, imagine seeing from within the abdomen. Another way to think of this or applying this is, What if we’re experiencing ourselves in the world from within the abdomen right now, just in front of the spine, sensing the space to the sides of the body, the front, the back; noticing how that widens when we start to sense ourself within space, rather than trying to pinpoint a location.
In the same way, you allow that to expand up into the mid-body of the solar plexus, sensing your awareness of yourself deep within the body, in front of the spine, connecting to the front, the back, the sides.
Maybe you’re able to connect with a sense of spaciousness in the body now. And that spaciousness also doesn’t have to mean we’re eliminating or rejecting any other sensations or feelings. We can still feel the butterflies of anxiety or feel the tension of anger, but now it’s being held within space, within the body; a sense of spaciousness, or at least allowing the potential for that to happen.
Moving up the body into the chest, same, as we move up in front of the spine, in the center of our chest, sensing the front, your breastplate to the sides, to the back. Maybe you’re feeling more expansion here between the chest, the midsection, and the abdomen. It’s almost as if we’re sensing a hollow tube inside of the body, but it’s full of energy. It’s full of sensation.
Just allow yourself to rest into that. Or in other words, to allow the body to play out as it’s playing out this moment, which really can be anything, it can be something comfortable, pleasant. It can be something uncomfortable. Or it could just be neutral.
And what I want to invite you into at this point is also letting go of an intellectual interpretation of that. If you can really drop into the feeling in the body and remain open with whatever’s arising. The inquiry here is very light. It’s just a knowing capacity of mind being aware of feeling. But we’re not inquiring into the nature of that feeling, what it is or trying to name it or analyze it. See if you can drop that into the feeling, just be with the feeling.
And the same as you begin to enter the shoulders, arms, and hands, throat, full space of the throat between the front, the sides, and the back of the throat.
And without trying to relax, just allow the body to become spacious and at ease.
This is really similar to allowing a glass of muddy water to just sit on our desk or table and allowing the mud or dirt to naturally settle to the bottom. If we actually stop pushing on the body, on the body systems, sensations, emotions, energies, they began to settle on their own. And our inquiry can become more spacious and open.
From the throat now, coming to the point between your eyebrows and the forehead, just sensing that point very vividly and clearly.
From that point, drawing a line deep into the head where the brain sits. And allowing yourself to look back physically from a sense-based perception or a physical location deep within the head and the brain, look back at the forehead. Now you’re looking from within the brain, toward the front of the head, face; allowing the muscles to relax around the eyes, cheeks, jaw, mouth.
Now seeing if you can open up the spaciousness in the head. There’s a sense of the front, the back, the sides, just as we sensed the fullness of the core of our body, but now you’re living within the center of your head. There’s a presence with, there’s an openness to sensations all around the head.
Now, for some of you listening, you may want to pause the audio here and repeat some of these steps. Or you can continue as we start to open to the body as a whole, allowing a reverse scan all the way down from the head, the throat, shoulders, arms. But we’re going to continue to take with us the previous parts of the body.
So as you’re present with the arms, the hands, the shoulders and throat, you’re also present with the head. The same as we move into the chest, midsection, abdomen, your seat, the pelvic area, the legs, the knees, calves, and finally all the way into the feet and toes.
And see now, if you can allow the awareness connecting with the sensation in the body to be felt and experienced within the body as a whole, almost as if you’re sitting within the body in a similar way to how you’re sitting in the room you’re in right now.
There’s a sense of space. There’s a sense of openness. And that space does not deny what’s arising. So some of us might feel a sense of relaxation right now. Some of us might feel the opposite. Can you include all of that? And if you can’t, go ahead and just navigate to the feet or somewhere that feels more neutral or grounded, then you can come back to the body as a whole.
We’re just sitting inside the body open to its arisings, open to sensations, emotions, movement of energy.
And if we drop the need to figure anything out and simply just be aware of what’s arising to this unfolding story in the present moment of the subtleties in the body, when we’re not analyzing them.
When we practiced this for some time, we may receive some insights into our emotions and embodied experience. Initially, we may just start to come into a sense of more presence and ease within the body. And for some of us, myself included, we may also sense some of our limitations and how we relate to our anxiety or fear or anger.
We may sense resistance. So can you be with the resistance as well?
So just for the last minute or so, still having some silence here with ourselves to really be mindful of where our awareness is. Are we present here and allowing, or are we analyzing and fighting? if you need to, you can drop back into the body as we come into it again and again.
There’s a slight object. There’s an openness to feeling, being with, and aware of sensations, emotions, and energies in the body. We’ll just sit with that for a minute or so.
In this space of open inquiry, there’s nothing you need to be, produce, or become. There’s actually no real set goal here of how you should feel at the end of the practice. It’s just simply, what are you aware of? What are you noticing? What parts of ourselves that are constricted can unwind naturally, which is not a goal, it’s simply a natural process of letting be.
As the practice begins to come to a close, we’re going to add one last experience or process to this open-bodied inquiry. Allow the eyes to gently open if they’ve been closed. Allow the eyes to rest in space just as the ears and other sense perceptions rest in space. You don’t have to look around the room. It’s okay to blink as much as you need.
Allow the eyes to meet with space, become wide. Some people call this a soft gaze, but 90% of our attention and awareness is just remaining in the body.
Now we may notice we’re in a room. And maybe we can feel the body sitting within the environment or space of the room; just as we did in the middle of the body, sensing the front of our space, the sides and the back, even though we can’t see it with our eyes.
Being open to our environment, to what phenomena are saying, but without analyzing it conceptually, just allowing it to come to us rather than us have to meet it and analyze it.
You can sit like this for as long as you want.
To close the practice, now, shifting the body a little bit, beginning to sense the body and movement, maybe allowing the feet to stretch or the hands and fingers to stretch. Maybe shifting from side to side a little bit, or doing some gentle stretches that feel good to us.
Dedicating the practice the same way we cultivated a constructive intention or motivation at the beginning; dedicating it, that whatever time and energy we put into relating to our minds and bodies in this way, may this have benefit for ourselves and others. And knowing causes of suffering, knowing the causes of happiness, and being able to shift more to them for ourself, of course, through that transformation, being able to benefit others, making that aspiration.
Produced by Stephen Butler
Edited & mastered by Russell Marsden
Theme music by Bradley Parsons of Train Sound Studio