Living in the body.

When we sit down to meditate, we have an opportunity to observe what is actually going in our bodies. As the mind begins to quiet down, we can start to see that we are uncomfortable. Our hips ache. A knee hurts. Our skin is itchy. Our stomach is unset. In my case, these days I have tinnitus, a ringing in my right ear that has gotten quite loud. It is so loud that I notice it more of the time than I used to. I’ve had some hearing loss for several years, the result of a broken ear drum. Now it appears that the neural auditory pathways have gotten more insistent. Maybe I’ll need¬† hearing aid.

The invitation is to learn to hold changes with a certain lightness. Change is, of course, inevitable. When we are younger, our deaths are very far away and most of us don’t dwell on end of life issues. As the years flow along, friends die, family members die, our pets die. We encounter grief and sorrow in the face of separation from those we love. We watch as cities we live in change and grow or fall into decay. Our own bodies age daily and we sometimes find ourselves shocked to find new wrinkles, sagging skin, aches and pains we didn’t used to have. Activities we used to enjoy are no longer possible. This is the dance of life, brief precious life here on the Earth.

Weathering change is so hard. We are restless, distracted, impatient. Our sitting practice can be such a gift, an opportunity to observe without judging or correcting, whatever arises. As students we often judge our meditation periods by labeling them ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is heartening to remind ourselves that any sit is just a sit, a lesson in being with the body with kindness and compassion. I have slept through sits. I have wanted to jump right out of my skin at times. Is it possible to be with those real experiences without giving up or getting angry, depressed, or despairing. I remember a fellow meditator who complained that the last sitting period was no good because he was so twitchy for the entire time. The teacher gently reminded him that he’s been given the gift of twitchiness to work with. As we go through mind state after mind state throughout the day, how often to we really attend to unpleasant sensations, emotions or physical pain with kindness and patience.

The splendid practice of mindfulness invites us to be with change, as seasons flow into each other, as clouds roll through the sky. The dynamic nature of the body is our truest friend on the journey as we go through sickness, aging and our end. Our body can teach us all we need to know about kindness and love. We just need to show up and listen.