Part one: Mindfulness of Body
By now, most of us have heard of mindfulness. Businesses and gurus alike stand by it as a means of improving individuals lives and boosting productivity. But, just what is mindfulness?
In this four-part series, we will be exploring the four foundations of mindfulness together. The information we’ll be exploring has all been discussed on the “Secular Buddhism” podcast, and if you are interested in the matter I would highly recommend checking it out. But for now, let’s dive in.
Mindfulness is one of the foundations of Buddhism, making up just one of the spokes in the Eightfold path. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t practice it secularly, or with our other religions.
Within the sect of mindfulness, we can further subdivide into mindfulness of body, feelings, mind, and life. Here, we’re going to focus on Mindfulness of Body.
The body component of mindfulness is perhaps the most easily identified. For readers who are learning or practicing meditation, you’ll recognize the major concepts here, such as focusing on the breath and bodily sensations. But, let’s break this down even further to see what this means, how we can do it – and most importantly – why.
The goal of mindfulness of the body is to center ourselves on the experience of the body “as the body.” This seems a bit redundant, but allow me to clarify. What this is conveying is that in practicing our mindfulness of body, we are attempting to observe one’s own being and the different parts that make it up. We try to take inventory and note what parts we do and what parts simply happen.
A perfect example is our breathing as was mentioned earlier. We aren’t always aware of our bodies taking in and pushing out air, nor can we always control it. But, regardless, there is never a time we aren’t breathing. Other examples are our hearts that are always beating or our hair which is constantly growing. There is no part of us that is actively doing these actions, we aren’t constantly reminding our hearts to beat. Rather, these processes just happen.
Mindfulness of the body asks us to recognize these functions, even if we can’t feel or see them. A lot of meditation aims at such practice, asking us to focus in on our breathing, to note and observe the sensations of the body. This helps to pull the mind away from the outside world and to focus it internally. We are reminded of our being and our body, about how everything we do every day is only possible because of all that happens without our constant consent.
The end goal of mindfulness of the mind is to demonstrate how there is “no doing without happening, and no happening without doing” as Alan Watts put it. Essentially, we can’t do anything without things happening, like our hearts beating or lungs breathing, and there would be no happening if we did not exist to do. Our bodies and our actions are tightly interwoven into one another, and mindfulness of the body gives us the moment to pause and recognize this.
On top of meditation, many martial arts use mindfulness of the body to help with discipline and focus. Some examples include Tai chi and Aikido, proving that not all mindfulness needs to happen in lotus position.
That was our first foundation of mindfulness. Again, if you’re interested in more, please check out “Secular Buddhism” and check back on here for our next segment where we’ll delve a bit into mindfulness of feelings.