Through meditation and mindfulness we expand our awareness of the constant flow of thoughts, sensations and emotions that occur in each moment of our life. Through our practice, we also begin to notice the connection between the thoughts, sensations and emotions, and how they are constantly influencing one another. Awareness is key in our practice. In one way, meditation and mindfulness are an art of paying attention. To meditate is to really pay attention, deeply and sincerely.
Once we become aware of, for example, the thoughts that are arising in a given moment, we automatically create a little bit of space between our being and those thoughts, or the mind. In yoga, teachers often talk about creating space in the body. Most of the yoga poses are designed to lengthen the muscles, and as we do them, along with breathing deeply, we are creating more space in the body – so hopefully muscles that were previously tight or had knots in them, become expanded and relaxed. Energy can flow more freely in the body. Similarly, mindfulness and meditation create space, not just in the body and the mind, but it creates a sense of space that expands into all areas of our life. The truth is, this space is always present, but just like the space in a room it can become cluttered with objects so that it ends up being almost unnoticeable. When we have more space it becomes easier for us to notice the more subtle things in ourselves and in our life. We might see patterns in our behaviour and simply notice things we would have otherwise missed. So not only does this space give us a bigger sense of ease and peace, but just like a muscle that becomes stronger and more flexible, we become more and more perceptive, and more skilled in that art of paying attention.
To pay attention is also to focus or concentrate on something. In meditation we work with different techniques of concentration. A common one is focusing on the breath. As I mentioned in the previous post, our breath is a great tool for our practice because it is always there with us. And it connects us to our body and the present moment. Once we start practicing this in meditation, as well as our daily lives, even just by taking a few moments during the day to notice and feel the breath in our body, we will notice that space is starting to expand.
If you want, you can take a moment right now to notice your breath, how it feels in the body, how it is flowing in, and out. Pay attention to the small pauses between each in and outbreath. Maybe close your eyes for a few breaths, and see if you can notice any difference in how your body feels when you open your eyes.