Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday, May 5: Chapter 4: Clarity in the now, via sensation

Here’s the good news: when we come to the present, we feel alive, we participate fully in our lives, we notice what’s really happening, we appreciate life and nature and people around us, we grow and learn and love and laugh.

Here’s the bad news: when we aren’t in the present, we are more or less a robot. Now, if we had chirpy happy, honest and friendly parents, full of praise and joy of life, there’s a chance we will be a well adjusted robot. This, in my experience, is only a theoretical possibility, since I’ve never meant one of these people.

Which means this: if we want to be happy and useful and loving and real: we’ve got to wake up to the present.

Okay, okay, Chris, so how to do this? Well, the whole book is about this, but as an ongoing meditation, here’s the start, and the start is how we got going in life: sensing ourselves.

Are we alive right now? What’s the test? The test is: Are we breathing? To wake to the present we can know we are breathing. Why bother? Is life different, sweeter, richer, more full and peace when we follow our breathing? For me it is. How about for you? Start it up, now, as you read these words and make it your goal, for the rest of your waking life: follow your breathing. Know where we are: breathing in, on the pause between in and out, breathing out, or on the pause between breathing out.

Feeling bad, emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually: count your breaths. See if you can follow your breaths up to ten and then start over. If you can do this four or five times I can almost guarantee a shift in whatever is bothering you.

Is this enough to be present? No.

We come out of the womb, the nice warm womb and we’ve got a new world. A world where if someone isn’t holding us, we fall to the next lowest surface. Gravity. Gravity. Gravity. It need not be a grave matter, but until we go to outer space, it’s always here, here, here. So, in addition to breathing, add on attention to what is, right now, our relationship to gravity. If we are sitting, sense the pressure on the sit bones, on the butt as it were, and on the feet, and the hands and arms if they are pressing down on something, and the back, too, if we are slouching.

If we are lying down, where is the pressure pulling us into that on which we are lying? Our back and back of legs? Our side, and ribs and shoulder and side of leg? Our belly and front of legs and chest? Feel this if we are lying.

If we are standing, what is the pressure on our feet? How does that feel, right now, as a concrete, observable sensation.

Okay, breathing and gravity, is that enough to get us present? Almost.

Add on the basics of what we are as a movable body, which means this, add on the sensation of each arm, each leg and our pelvis/spine/head. Think of us as five lines. Sense those lines, either slightly, or deeply, either as rough noticing, or as detailed sensation from hip to all the toes, from shoulder to all the fingers, from pelvis clearly through each vertebrae up the neck to the head.

That’s the fancy way, and the simple say, is to know what is our shape right now, the shape of our arms, bent or straight, legs what is their shape, and the spine.

This is a lot. So. Give it a go. This can be done. Take a try at it. Love yourself as we go about this. If you start to give yourself a hard time, bring the attention back to sensing the breathing, sensing your relationship to gravity and sensing your five lines. Hard? Yes. But a lot better than being a robot.


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