I've had a daily meditation practice for close to two years now, so I was a little surprised by how helpful the #RealHappiness book, and indeed the #MeditationChallenge itself, were to me in the first week. While I am already sitting, it is extremely helpful to practice these different methods and writing about it here has helped me consider the practice more as well. So, going in to Week Two, I'm looking forward to the other various practices I'll be trying.
With that in mind, I worked around the Body Scan Meditation last night. I knew going in to this one that I would face a challenge. A while back, I went through a period where I switched from a sitting practice to a lying down method. This created two issues for me. First, when I went back to the cushion I found it extremely difficult to sit for very long at all without back pain. It was as though I had started over. I've worked through that, and I'm back to my normal 30 minutes of sitting per day now. The other issue was that I would fall asleep at times. Because I now sit in the evenings I am, of course, more sleepy. It's far too easy when lying comfortably, to let the mind drift and then fall asleep.
Knowing that I was very likely going to fall asleep, I made plans for that. I used my Insight Timer App on the iPhone (one of the benefits I referred to yesterday of using technology to compliment practice) to keep me from falling asleep, or at least falling asleep for long. I set up interval bells to alert me every five minutes. I figured may not prevent sleep, but would at least allow me to "start over" as Sharon hammers home to us!
I was alert and scanned from the top of my head down. My eyes, my face where I found a lot of tension and was able to release it. And this is perhaps the true power of this kind of practice, or certainly a major benefit. One thing I've learned with all meditation is that simply by observing or bringing your attention to a feeling, it will often simply dissipate. If you have a painful feeling, sometimes just observing the feeling and acknowledging it makes it recede. If you have tension in a particular area, often if you observe it, and maybe - as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches - view your pain the way a mother greets her crying baby. The baby needs attention and she does not hate the child for crying, she cradles it and gives it attention and it immediately feels better.
I made it through without falling asleep, though I certainly drifted at times, but I just caught myself drifting, re-focused on the breath and began again. It was a very interesting practice and I was happy to have done it. I've only done a similar practice once before I think when I visited the Against The Stream Buddhist Meditation Society in Los Angeles where Pablo Das led a sitting meditation in which we focused on one area and then another, cycling through the body that way. I found that one much easier as it was sitting.
By the way, please keep in mind that I am experimenting with the various methods Sharon Salzberg offers in her book Real Happiness. There's no requirement to do them in the order I am doing them or even to do them all! For the Day 10 meditation I will be doing the Body Sensation Meditation. See you tomorrow!