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When beginning our seated MIDL Mindfulness meditation the first skill that we develop is concerned with Mindfulness of the Immersion of Awareness within the sensate quality of our body. The Buddha called this Kaya Gata Sati: Kaya is body or bodily sensations, Gat is immersion, and Sati is Mindfulness.
This MIDL skill of Mindfulness of the Immersion of Awareness within our body is trained in exercises 1/52 and 2/52 in the MIDL Mindfulness Training Series and is covered in different stages during our seated meditation. Since MIDL stands for Mindfulness in Daily Life, it comes with the understanding that when we sit down to meditate, we bring the busyness of our life with us. So the skill of Immersing Awareness within our body has the first benefit of allowing our mind to settle down.
The first thing that we turn our attention towards in seated MIDL Mindfulness meditation is not the breath, but rather the experience of just sitting here. We just notice what it feels like to be here now.
What does it feel like just to be here?
We Become aware of the different sensations within our body, the experience of sitting in a chair, on a cushion or the floor, aware of the general sounds around us, in a very soft way, not forcing our attention to be anywhere, giving the mind space to move, to run around. As we do this we will start to 'ground' in the experience of just being here.
Once Awareness is immersed and 'grounded within the experience of our body we widen our Awareness, very wide to become aware of sounds around us. This widening of Awareness gives our mind space, disperses mental energy and allows it to further settle down.
When we bring our Awareness out to sound, we stay with the sound. Not what the sound is about, but rather focusing on the change within the sound, focusing on its flow, its rhythm, how it comes and goes.
When listening to someone speak, you may notice that the sound of their voice is a rhythm, a flow. If you pay attention to every time a word ends, the ending will bring you into stillness, the ending will start to calm your mind, it will settle it down. Being with the sound is really important, if the sound is distracting to you. If the sound is distracting you and you try to ignore it, you try to fight it; you’ll just become mentally agitated, more restless.
In MIDL whenever anything distracts our attention, draws our attention away from our meditation object, then that distraction becomes our object of meditation. So sound is turned into that object of meditation by staying aware of its changing nature, noticing how it flows, it comes, it goes.
When we make distraction the focus of our attention, it is no longer distraction, it’s just something else in the field of our Awareness. Holding sound in this way, we start to develop some initial concentration.
Once sound no longer draws our attention, we then relax and allow our Awareness to go within our body. The first quality to pay attention to within our body is any experience of warmth or coolness. Warmth and coolness are dominant within all our bodies.
When using it as a meditation object we don’t have to be aware of both. The experience of warmth may be more dominant to us, or the experience of coolness. Whichever is most clear to us then we just keep it in mind. Holding Awareness of the experience of warmth or coolness within our body continuously.
At this stage we use the experience of warmth or coolness as a 'grounding' or 'anchoring' point, a point from which to observe when our attention moves. In particular when our mind attention shifts to a thought, a fantasy, a dream. The 'grounding' point of this warmth or coolness within our body is very important.
Our mind has the ability to transport us between past, present and future. It creates its own reality. The sound around us, the warmth or coolness within our body, can only be experienced now. We can’t experience them in the past or the future. So whenever we use a 'grounding' point in meditation, it always has to have the quality of 'nowness', of being here, 'now', present, a 'grounding' point. So we 'ground' within the elemental quality of our body, we 'ground' within the sounds around us.
So this next stage is just holding the experience of warmth or coolness in mind, and just observing with interest every time we forget it, every time we become lost within a thought. And when we do, that’s ok, that’s what the mind does: it thinks, it narrates on the world around us and our place within it.
Whenever we notice we are lost in a thought, we don’t get upset, that’s just being lost in thought even more. Instead we just notice it, acknowledge that we’ve wandered off, relax, and come back to the experience of warmth or coolness.
As concentration grows and our mind settles down even more, we then bring our attention down to points of 'touch'. It may be the experience of our hands 'touching' each other, the experience of our arms resting on our legs, the 'touch' of our body pressing against the chair or the floor, the 'touch' of our feet. Hold these points of 'touch' continuously in mind, this is the next 'grounding point'.
Again we use a 'grounding' point. This time using the point of 'touch' as a 'grounding' point to observe when our mind moves. This observing of attention move, observing of when our attention moves to a thought, to a sound is the developing the MIDL skill of observing the mind itself.
Where is your attention sitting now?
Where is the center of your Awareness?
At this stage, the next 'grounding' point appears when we relax, that’s the 'grounding' point of 'heaviness'. When we’re fully relaxed the 'heaviness' element appears. It appears as an experience of gravity pulling us down, but our actual experience of gravity pulling us down is 'heaviness', becoming very very heavy, relaxing deeply into our body. As this 'heaviness' grows, a relaxation grows, we allow our self to mentally sink into our body, mentally sink deeply into it, deeply, so deeply.
When Awareness is immersed fully within our body it’s as if we are becoming aware though our body or our body is becoming aware though itself. The sensate quality of the body becomes very obvious to us. This becomes our main 'grounding' point and also the viewing platform for Mindfulness of Breathing. It is also the foundation from which we observe movements of attention to develop understanding when the mind interacts with anything.
Awareness can be quite a large field. It can hold many things. but the center of our Awareness shifts around. If we don’t notice it move, if we don’t notice when it shifts, we become lost in whatever we are aware of. Observing attention move is the MIDL skill of staying on the wild horse’s back. We can train the horse by tying it to a post, allowing it to kick and buck until it starts to settle down, or we can develop understanding of the horse’s nature and become skilled at riding horses.
We can untie the horse, let it loose, and develop the skill of staying on its back, developing the skill to observe the horse move so we can understand horses, so we can become skilled at riding horses. In the same way in MIDL, we use these 'grounding' points to observe attention move, to observe the minds functions, to get to know our self, to understand ourselves better. MIDL is a path of self- inquiry; we learn to stay on the mind’s back without falling off.
Once we feel very grounded, we then widen our Awareness to take in our whole body, experiencing our whole body just sitting here, the warmth, the coolness, the points of touch, just becoming very, very aware of them. We can take a few gentle breaths at this point, just allowing our self to start to relax within our body.
We just slowly breathe in through our nose, deep into our belly and then we exaggerate the out-breath, allowing the breath to come our through our nose, very, very slowly, and we relax our Awareness into our body. We breathe in, filling our body, we slowly breathe out and we relax into it. We may need to take 5 or 6 relaxing breaths in this way, allowing our Awareness to immerse fully into our body.
At this stage to move into Mindfulness of Breathing we relax our chest and belly, allow our breathing to flow freely. Just experiencing breathing as a flow of sensations that moves up and down within the sensate quality of our body to be how it is. This is discussed in more detail in the Mindfulness of Breathing section of this guide.
So this is the task of exercise 1/52 “Grounding Your Attention” in the 52 MIDL Mindfulness Trainings. This 'grounding' of Awareness within the body also has another effect. Through training the ability of becoming aware of the sensate quality of our body, in learning how to observe the mind move, these two skills naturally transfer into daily life. We’ll find we’re at work, at home, with the children, with friends, and we’ll find that the 'grounding' will naturally appear, will naturally become very, very present.
This gives us the ability to observe ourself, the way we interact with our children, interact with work, interact with our life. Sensitivity to these interactions, in particular attraction and aversion, and the emotional qualities that arise within our body is a large part of MIDL. So this initial training of 'grounding' Awareness within the body is very, very important.
The second MIDL exercise 2/52 “Experiencing Your Whole Body” is developing these key MIDL skills. The ability to accurately move Awareness throughout our body. By placing our Awareness on one part of our body, being very aware of the sensate quality there, relaxing into it, and then moving into the next, we’re developing the accuracy of our attention. Keep this in mind when you are doing this exercise.
The next skill that we develop during this exercise is sensitivity to the sensations within our body. All of us have many parts of our body that are closed, literally, our mind doesn’t want to experience the sensate quality of the emotions that are held there.
By gently moving our Awareness through our body very accurately, and observing what sensations are there, parts of our body start to open up and the multitude of sensations and emotions within our body become very, very clear to us.
The third skill we develop in exercise 2/52 is a first initial introduction to Softening into. We accurately move our attention through our body part by part, we experience the sensate quality there, and using slow gentle breaths, we just allow ourselves to relax deeply, relax deeply into the sensate quality, relax deeply our relationship to those sensations. Relaxing our relationship to those sensations is the key here.
So training in these two exercises, the skill of Grounding Your Attention and the skill of Experiencing Your Whole Body opens up a whole world of sensations within our body, we learn to immerse Awareness within our body and create a strong foundation for MIDL Mindfulness meditation practice.
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This article was written by Stephen Procter, Meditation Instructor from Meditation in The Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you