During January and February, Practice Circle will be aligned with the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Online Live program offered by Ted Meissner and Amy Balentine. There may be people from that class joining Practice Circle as an additional opportunity to meditate with others, along with anyone curious about this community and what online practice is like. The themes and guidance will come from the MBSR program, and will be comparable to how those are delivered in class.
Our format for Practice Circle will remain the same half hour of guidance followed by the second half hour of dyads and group sharing. Ted and Amy will be leading for most of the sessions with Mark still hosting, and taking a much earned rest from developing Practice Circle content during this time. Guest teachers are also expected to join and lead.
Sunday, January 14th — Body Scan
A core practice of MBSR is the Body Scan, practiced almost every day throughout much of the eight week program, and is an opportunity to become more aware of the ongoing, dynamic process of bodily experiences. Relating more deeply to that constant unfolding helps bring attention from mind wandering about past or future, to a more intimate being in this present moment.
The rich depth of sensory input is a vast territory to explore. Becoming an investigator of internal experience can foster greater well-being, as the gift of noticing and attending unfolds more with continued practice. Cultivating this gentle and strong sensitivity can lead to learning to care for yourself in new and sometimes surprising ways.
More important than how the body is positioned is the intentional exercising of attending to whatever is present. As you may listen with your ears when there is silence, you may listen with the body when there is no felt sensation. Being aware, present, and wakeful to your experience, whatever that may be, is the practice. With the Body Scan, we’ll see what it’s like to invite a playful curiosity, discovering what’s happening in each unique moment.
During the practice, as best you can, do your best to let go of ideas about the way the body once was or should be. The practice of acceptance of how things are right now can be a relief, or difficult, or neither of those, and that itself may be an opportunity to learn. The close observation of what is here now, can help prompt appropriate and beneficial action when not doing the Body Scan. Letting go of expectations of what might be achieved by doing the Body Scan, even relaxation, allows the investigation of your experience to unfold on its own, with less distraction about what should be.
By attending with gentle and bright care, you may discover different ways of relating with what’s here with embodied presence, and an awareness of the dynamic shifting and changing happening all the time, just outside of our regular, less mindful awareness.
Other challenges may present themselves at different times during practice as well. You may encounter sleepiness, for example, and small adjustments may be called for. Keeping the elbows on the floor while raising the lower arms and hands up to point at the ceiling may help support wakefulness during this lying down body scan. Restlessness or other persistent thoughts may also come up, and like small discomforts, may be acknowledged as part of your experience that don’t have to be acted on, but simply and caringly received as you continue to bring attention back to the body each time it’s drawn away. This is a practice, not a perfect; kind understanding of that can shift the relationship with some of the challenges during practice in a helpful way. Self-criticism or judgment may also arise, again to be noted and let go as you return attention to experiencing.
Remember — Don’t drive, operate heavy machinery, or anything else that needs your full attention to do safely, while doing a Body Scan or other formal meditation!