The Great-full Summer: Gratitude for the Body
I started meditating about a year ago. I am not very good at clearing my mind, focusing on one point or relaxing while music plays. But I can focus my thoughts; I can fill my mind with images, repeat a mantra and fight the urge to make a to-do list. You don't have to be "in to meditation" to focus your thoughts or take some time out of your day to say thank you. I began integrating gratitude into my meditation, particularly when I do the Metta Bhavana (Loving Kindness meditation) that asks you to cultivate a deep caring for your self and those around you, including those who you may not particularly like. I read something Pema Chodron said recently about leaning into and staying open when struggles come your way. I see grateful meditations as a way to do that.
Part of meditation and relaxing is focusing on the breath; this is true in yoga as well. This helps not only as a process to prepare your mind but also allows you to pay attention to your body, which is what I'd like us to consider and be grateful for today.
If you want to participate in the meditation itself, I encourage you to do so. If you can focus your thoughts for a few moments only, take that time to be grateful for your body.
The Meditation (inspired by and modified from bodypositive.com:
Close your eyes and let awareness settle over you. Breathe naturally as you relax into your body, feel the cushions beneath you, or the chair, floor or space supporting your body. Become aware of any sensations in your body, an ache, an itch, chill or warmth. Accept these sensations as you sit.
Imagine a path that your breath travels as it moves in and out of your body. Appreciate your breath as it enters your body through the nose, flows down your throat and enters your lungs. Imagine the path as it continues to flow, warming your stomach, your pelvis and radiating out to your arms and legs, fingertips and toes. Your breath travels this path and as you exhale, release all of the tension out of your body. Be grateful that the breath takes away this tension. Feel these waves for a few moments.
Think about all of the ways your body has been strong, gifted you experiences. Allow images of your body, its strengths, to fade in and out of your mind.
Perhaps your body has:
fought off an infection
stayed awake so you could drive safely
learned a new physical skill
rewarded you with a sight of a sunset or sunrise
healed a bruise
kept working despite pain
given you pleasure
given you a sound you love like laughter, or waves, typing keys, coffee brewing
given you smells like fresh mown grass, brewed coffee, perfume, bread baking
given you tastes you enjoy like chocolate, strawberries, melted cheese
refreshed itself in sleep
Think of one thing in particular to appreciate. Just one. Feel how special a gift your body provided, the awe and wonder of it, the magic. What would you like to say to your body? Create a phrase that expresses your appreciation. Let the phrase form in your mind.
Say the phrase to your body. Notice how you feel saying it aloud, hearing it. Repeat it.
Maybe you should say this to your body more often.
As I mentioned in previous posts, I'm working to form new habits for my body, focusing more on how I treat it and what I put into it. In tending to my body, I'm showing my appreciation for it. Yes, I want my body to change, to be stronger, more muscular, healthier. This doesn't mean I don't appreciate my body, that I am not grateful for its scars.
Thank you, body, for responding to my new habits.
I am grateful that my body is allowing me to get to know it in a new way, one that encourages me to push and challenge it, that lets me know it wants to move. One day last week, while I was working out in the hotel gym in Louisville, I felt such a rush, an endorphine high from pushing myself to keep going on the arc trainer/gazelle machine. I wanted to cry I felt so amazing, as if my body were responding to me in ways it hadn't before. I spend a lot of time in my head, thinking, some time in my heart and soul, feeling but not a lot of time being present in my body. Part of my gratitude practice for my body is an attempt to pay more attention, to be more present to how my body feels, to what it needs.
Thank you, body, for responding, for the breaths and pains and muscles, for the sweat and the tears and the encouragement to treat you better. Thank you.
Write about your feelings, emotions that came up during your reflection. What phrase did you use? Are there ways to incorporate gratitude for your body throughout your day? How might you express your gratitude and be more fully aware of your body each day?