Get Into Your Body

Practice of the Week
Get Into Your Body

Category: Occasional. These are practices suggested for "every once in a while." Some of them are responses to a particular need that may arise; others are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. All of them are worth a try at least once. And any of them might become a regular and central part of your spiritual practice.

James Joyce tells us in his short story, “A Painful Case,” that the story’s protagonist, a Mr. James Duffy, “lived at a little distance from his body.” Maybe you know the feeling. We all have bodies, but we might seek to distance ourselves from them. We might live in our heads, “at a little distance from” our bodies. This exercise is for reducing that distance.


Do a "Body Scan Meditation." About 10 mins. Lying down or sitting comfortably:

(a) Lower your eyelids – almost but not quite closing your eyes.

(b) Bring awareness to the body breathing in and out, noticing touch and pressure where it makes
contact with the seat or floor.

(c) When you’re ready (no rush), begin by bringing attention to the bottoms of your feet. Spend a
minute or two exploring what sensations you’re having on the bottoms of your feet. Sensations
might include buzzing, or tingling, pressure, tightness or temperature, or anything else you notice. If
you don’t notice any strong sensations or things feel neutral, simply notice that. Just tune in to
what’s present, as best you can, without judgement. The main point is being curious and open to
what you are noticing, investigating the sensations as fully as possible, and then intentionally
releasing the focus of attention before shifting to the next area to explore.

(d) Move to the tops and sides of the feet, and repeat (c). Then to the ankles, shins, calves, knees,
things, and so on all the way up your body.

(e) Each time your attention wanders, simply notice that this is happening, then gently and kindly
direct your attention back to exploring sensations in the body.

(f) After you’ve reached the top of your head and spent a minute exploring the sensations there,
take a few moments to expand your attention to feeling your entire body breathing freely.

(g) When you’re ready, raise your eyelids and move gently back into the rest of your day.


Do a Movement Exercise. About 5 mins. Find a suitable spot and “move in a way that feels expansive to
you. Open your arms wide, or raise your hand in a high five, or mimic Steve Martin doing his ‘wild and
crazy guy’ shoulder shimmy. Sync that movement with your breathing and notice how that changes
your mood. How did that feel? Do you notice a change in your thinking or energy level?” (Steve


Bodily Connect to Your Roots. 10-15 mins. (From Steve Sisgold, Whole Body Intelligence). The aim
of this exercise is to discover unconscious movement patterns – increasing self-awareness, and
affording you with choice to change those patterns (which you can’t do if you aren’t aware of them.)
Have your journal handy. Put it to the side, within reach. Sitting comfortably:

(a) Bring to mind the primary person who took care of you – Mom, Dad, Grandma – when you were
small. Choose whoever influenced you the most before age 6.

(b) Close your eyes and, in your mind’s eye, visualize how that person moves or moved through life.
Take a deep breath in and out as you do this, then open your eyes.

(c) Mimic any gestures you recall that person making. She may have swung her hands, scrunched her
nose, or exhaled with a puff when she was frustrated. As you do this, notice what sensations and
emotions you feel.

(d) Get up and walk the way you remember that person walked. After you walk like that, take a
moment to pause and reflect. You are beginning to piece together your movement history.

(e) Write down in your journal: What sensations, emotions, and discoveries do you notice when you
take on the movements of that person? Which of these discoveries are still present in the way you
move through life today? What movement patters or trains did you learn from your parents or
primary caretakers that you would like to change?

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