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Mindfulness as Embodied Awareness

We are living in an increasingly complicated digital age, where the impact of a rapidly developing technology is all pervasive in our lives. So it might be worth hitting the pause button to consider two very different kinds of information and how we process each one.

DIGITAL

First, there is digital information. It consists of zeros and ones, bits or bites. Digital information makes our world go 'round. It powers our computers, our cars and the airplanes we fly. It's either on or it's off. If you're looking at a digital watch, its essentially dead time because nothing happens until the screen flips to the next minute. 

ANALOG

A second kind of information is called analog. Analog is contextual. Human experience is largely analog. We tell stories to find meaning. We think in metaphors. We write poetry, dance and make music. Our analog experience is embodied. It's slower and messier than digital. Many people still prefer analog watches because they provide context - they help you orient yourself in a time matrix that includes past, present and future. 

OUR MODERN DIS-EASE

Because the technology is so all-pervasive it's easy to miss the difference between digital and analog. We begin to imagine that we should be digital. We feel this obligation to always be on. We begin sleeping with our cell phone by our bed so we won't miss anything, even though it may disturb our sleep which our analog body needs. 

This failure to appreciate the importance of our embodied awareness is causing an increasing amount of dis-embodiment and fragmented attention. When our awareness is not rooted in our body, it leads to a great deal of stress and anxiety. 

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

Many people find meditation difficult to do. Perhaps this is because increasingly we have less patience for our embodied, analog experience. Though we might obsess about our bodies, we don't really respect or listen to them. So turn off the TV. Turn off the computer. Turn off your cell phone. 

In our Primer mindfulness meditation class at ZLMC, we teach mindfulness as an embodied awareness. Many people find this helpful. Many healing modalities are based on retrieving the energies of the body. 

The initial meditation instruction is very simple. We ask you to simply notice you have an intention to be still, sit upright either on the floor or in a chair and watch what you do for ten minutes. Allow the gentle awareness of your breath to keep you present and embodied. But don't try to change your experience. Use this beginning practice to open and become curious about what you actually do. 

This may be challenging at first. It might be scary to let go of the speed and compulsive energies that drive your daily life. But mindfulness can bring many benefits to you, both physically, mentally and spiritually. So take the time to be with yourself in this simple way. You'll be surprised at what you discover.

 

Roshi Robert Althouse

 

Robert Althouse

Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago, 38 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL, 60302