Meditating off the cushion

Awareness, awareness. Such a beautiful thing. I’ve been developing my bodily awareness for the last few months. From cleaning up my diet and adding all kinds of living enzymes and probiotics to determining imbalances in strength and mobility. It’s not that a healthy body is strictly necessary for developing awareness, but it sure makes it a lot easier. Feeling good just feels so, well, good.

I’ve started doing quite a bit of yoga. I always used to think yoga wasn’t for me. I never really connected to the whole ‘the body is your temple’ thing, but recently I decided to really give it a go, and I’m glad I did. It’s a way of developing strength, flexibility and awareness simultaneously, and there are so many different routines and asanas that you’ll never get bored. So I’m definitely going to see where this takes me.

In meditation awareness of the body is paramount. In all kinds of different practices, the ability to move your attention from your thoughts to your bodily sensations is very important, be it in whole body awareness like in Vipassana or narrowed down awareness of breath or touch as in single-pointed meditation and Samatha. But what I’ve finally started to realize is that the time between meditation sessions is just as important, if not more important than the sessions themselves.

Mindfulness is the first thing that comes to mind in that regard, and for good reason: it’s an umbrella term for everything that’s done with fully present awareness, be it doing the dishes, walking to school or doing yoga.

I’ve been trying my very best to develop the habit of becoming mindful of my body at multiple times throughout the day, discovering tensions and aches and examining my posture. I’ve discovered that like a lot of people I tend to hunch up my shoulders and tense my jaw, especially in stressful situations. A big part of that is habit, but another part is strength and mobility imbalances.

For example, I’ve been doing way to many pushups, as well as sitting too much in a hunched position. That makes my pectoral muscles stronger than my back muscles, which leads to my chest contracting and rolling forwards, and the muscles on my back overextending throughout the day. Chronic extension or contraction of a muscle isn’t a good thing, and leads to nastiness like pinched nerves and sprained muscles. Which is exactly what I’ve been experiencing, along with a chronically stiff neck and upper back.

Fortunately there are ways to fix this, and that’s what I’ve been focusing on. I want my body to be strong, flexible, healthy and balanced, because I now understand the way mind and body complement each other in so many ways. In my post A Midnight of the Soul, I detailed how my sick, weakened skin and body in general lead me to the depths of despair and depression. Likewise, the healthier I feel my body become, the easier it is to feel happy and fulfilled.

I’ve started doing lots of yoga, as I said in the beginning of this article, but I’ve also started doing more varied exercises, like pull ups, bridges, squats, running and so on. I think as long as I make sure to work out my whole body, not just parts, I’ll be able to fix this.

On a different note, in March I’ve decided to leave the desolate winter landscape of Reykjavik for European adventures. On March 15 I’ll go to Riga in Latvia and with my mother and sister for the weekend, and from there I’ll fly to Tirana in Albania and meet up with my girlfriend for a two week stay.

Then, god willing, after Albania I’ll be flying to France in the beginning of April, where I intend on starting the 844 km trail from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Finisterre, the trail known as the Way of Saint James, El Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

Oh man, I’m so happy and excited to be healthy again. To be young and full of energy. I’ve realized that life is to short to not live it exactly the way you want it to. Funny that it took two years of serious chronic illness to show me that little insight.

Much love.

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