Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Let’s Get Physical

When I was seven, I had plans to go see my first movie at the theater.  While my cousin and I waited out on the front porch for our parents to get ready to leave, we played chase with a broom.  My cousin pulled the broom behind him and I tried to catch it.  At first, I used my foot and tried to stomp on the broom’s bristles.  When my cousin pulled the broom away and my first strategy failed, I came up with a second:  I dove for the broom.  I had one obstacle.  The corner of the concrete step on the porch got in my way.  I caught the corner square in my forehead.  My cousin screamed and my dad and aunt came running out of the house.  They brought wash cloths to try to stop the bleeding.  My father carried me to the car and we rushed to the emergency room.  I left the ER with three stitches in my forehead and an awareness.  I realized that my physical body was an important part of me.  When it was injured or sick, I, as a person, suffered.  My body, in and of itself, is what is.

When we chant the Heart Sutra, we say “form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” Form is our body.  Our body is form.  While in practice, we don’t identify as our body, we do realize that our body is an integral part of who we are: our body and our mind.  As a foundation of mindfulness practice, we pay attention to our body through our breathing, through our posture, through clear understanding of every thought, word, and action, and through our anatomy-our body parts.

Buddha said that we reflect “on this very body, enveloped by the skin and full of manifold impurity, from the soles up, and from the top of the head-hairs down, thinking: “There are in this body hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, midriff, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, urine.”

We take stock, without projection or judgment, of our body content.  We reflect on our body and its parts.  We contemplate the body in the body.  We are mindful through our awareness of the true nature of our physical body.


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