Sometimes I live completely in my mind. It is as if my mind said sayonara to my body and hopped on a high-speed train to zip around my fidgety world of problems and ideas (which all seem monumental, of course). Suddenly I realize that I have no idea what’s happening around me. I am not at all present in my physical body. This is why yoga can be so difficult, but at the same time so needed.
Practicing yoga encourages us to come home to our bodies. Yesterday, as I was lying in “corpse” pose, my instructor guided me to “bring my mind down into my body.” Become aware of the places where your body meets the ground, she said, where parts of your body touch each other. Feel the earth supporting your body. Attune yourself to the here and how. Listen to your breath, feel your breath flowing in and out. Take note of the temperature.
As I did what she suggested, my bodily senses came into clear focus and all the monkeys jumping around in my head started to quiet down. I started to move my awareness away from the world of problems and plans in my mind and down into my arms, my blood, my legs, my breath. It’s hard to describe, but it’s as if the zippy problem train came to a slow crawl and then released my consciousness into the gentle river of my breath and pulse.
This practice of bringing mind into body reminds me of something my mom used to tell me to do when I couldn’t fall asleep as a kid. “Think about your stomach,” she urged at my bedside. Okay…so what? But now I see her point. Thinking about my stomach (or any body part, for that matter) forces me to disconnect from the other thoughts that are pulling me away from the here and now. And often those other thoughts are what keep me from giving in to my weariness in order to drift asleep. You’ve probably had moments too when you can’t turn your mind off even though your body is dead tired. Trying taking my mom’s advice :-). It’s a good excuse for navel-gazing, anyway.
Yoga is only one avenue for bringing the mind into the body. Some forms of meditative prayer also serve the same calming, centering purpose. The Jesus Prayer, for example, focuses on repeating one simple phrase on each inhale and exhale, over and over again: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me. Another form of contemplative prayer involves bringing the mind “down into the heart.” While prayer can often seem disembodied, having nothing to do with our physical existence, there are ways to bring our bodies into prayer, or, better said, to allow our bodies to bring us into prayer.
Whatever works for you to bring your mind into your body and become fully present, take a while to do this today.