I captured an insight the first time I read Dr. Joan Borysenko’s Minding Your Body, Mending Your Mind – put yourself in the position of a witness, progressively observing and relaxing different parts of my body. It has a healing, soothing effect, calming my mind. I learned more about this from Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You are. I learned how to visualize this in several lessons from the Mindfulness Daily program by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach.
In this blog post, I am sharing my reflection and experience on this.
My Identity: Spacious Awareness
It is as if I am part of a big blue open sky. Sounds happen all around me, near and far; I listen to them, observe them, see them come and go.
Like that, my mind’s thoughts emerge and dissolve as if they are clouds and bubbles in the blue sky.
I am the stillness that isn’t impacted by these thoughts. I am the one that observes; I am not my mind, nor my thoughts.
If a glass of water gets a droplet of pigment, the water’s color will change because it is such a small space. However, it will dissolve in a vast lake without any noticeable mark or coloration, as there is a massive amount of water.
My feelings and emotions are like the pigment coloring my mind. When I identify with my stillness, I have the potential to expand my mental space, letting my feelings and emotions dissolve without any trace. How expansive or open or vast my spaciousness can be? The sky is the limit.
My mind creates thoughts similar to how my body produces enzymes, imagining a world different from the present moment’s reality. My ego can be relentless in preserving this virtual reality, making this current moment a reflection of a past moment or experience or a figment of imagination from a future scenario. It contracts or compresses the inner space and can bind me in the cocoon of thoughts, coloring my present moment with fear, anxiety, stress, anger, worries, etc.
How do I identify with, and in the process expand, the spacious awareness? How can I be a witness to my thoughts rather than being swept away by them? I have one powerful ally – my body.
My Body is Always Here
Even when my mind takes me to virtual reality’s fantasy land, the body is always here in the present moment. I can tune into sensations and vibrations in my body. Focus on my breathing – the air going through nostrils and filling in the abdominal cavity when I inhale, and then air going out when I exhale.
My spacious awareness as if I am part of the sky can put me in an observer of my bodily sensations and vibrations. When I can focus my attention on feeling sensations, pain points, and vibrations in my body, it guides me to be in the present. I can use that to be a witness to my thoughts as well.
The spacious awareness of the present moment can bring stillness, immediacy, liveliness, and vividness. It can also empower me to tap into my thinking ability to learn new things, solve problems, develop ideas with clarity, contemplate, communicate, and elevate my perspective or level of thinking for further insights. In that nurturing space of stillness, I can allow the pain to touch me and dissolve, opening myself up to compassion, to let go, to forgive. It can help me manage my stress, worries, and anxieties.
I saw these couple of one-liners in the present moment reminder emails of the Eckhart Teachings:
- Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.
- When you are present in this moment, you break your story’s continuity from the past to the future. Then natural intelligence arises, and also love.
Tapping into the Stillness
One more idea can be nurturing, healing, growing, and soothing – lose myself in something engaging. Sometimes, when I run, it takes me into a zone where I am focused entirely on my steps and how different muscles move. I am so relaxed after that. When I write or develop a presentation, organizing my thoughts, I have experienced moments when I dissolve in the creative process, becoming oblivious to anything outside. I have seen it at work when I can focus on a task that I enjoy; it unleashes energy and happiness, making it a pleasurable experience rather than a chore. I have read or heard from at least a few sources that creating music or something artistic naturally connects you to the stillness and peace from inside. I have seen on TV accounts from athletes getting in a zone while playing a sport.
Can I engage myself all of my time in only those ideas and activities that are naturally so fun? That would probably be in a dream. It is still beneficial when I take on a hobby or an activity that taps into creativity.
Another thought is, enjoy what I am doing, whatever or however, that might be. Be a witness to observe my body and mind taking on the task on hand, in that way detaching myself from emotions of boredom, irritation, impatience, frustration, etc. Of course, easier said than done for me.
Be a Witness, Surf the Waves
The idea that I am a witness, I am the one that observes is an empowering shift. The mindfulness visualizations and meditative breathing techniques can help me with that.
Is it simple or easy? I don’t think so. I have to work against the firm and relentless gravitational pull of my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It is an ongoing process or a journey and not an overnight miracle.
Daily breathing meditations for a few minutes can help.
One nugget from Pema Chodron’s reading resonated with me – give your mind a pause a few times a day with three conscious breathes – three breathes all it takes to pause and connect with my self-awareness.
Excerpt from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, Wherever You Go There You are: One way to envision how mindfulness works is to think of your mind as a surface of a lake or ocean. There are always waves on the water. Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are almost imperceptible. The water’s waves are churned up by the winds, which come and go and vary in direction and intensity, just as do winds of stress and change in our lives, which stir up waves in our mind. You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.
Wu Men Hui-k’ai:
Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.
Note: Our physical intelligence can be such a blessing to have when we can tune into it and listen to it. It can unblock our innate healing capabilities, allowing them to emerge and heal or help us in several ways. I copied a prayer that resonated with me – The Prayer from my Body.