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Lions Roar : July 2009
foundation includes a variety of meditations and contemplations. When practicing asana, we can choose to devote our practice to any one of these, or work through them sequentially. asana prac- tice need not be viewed as a complement or preliminary to sitting practice. it’s simply another way to practice mindfulness. first foundation: Body awareness of “the body within the body” is the first foundation of mindfulness. this phrasing reminds us that we are not dis- tant observers of the body, with awareness located in our heads watching our body as an object. rather, awareness permeates the whole body, like a sponge saturated with water. the Buddha’s first instruction is to bring mindfulness to breathing. We’re encouraged to simply know an in-breath as an in-breath, and an out-breath as an out-breath, free of manipu- lation. We become intimately familiar with the experience of breathing, noticing the varying qualities such as deep or shallow, fast or slow, rough or smooth. since mindfulness is a friendly, nonjudgmental, fully accepting kind of attention, we are already cultivating a transcendence of the pairs of opposites. expanding our awareness to include the whole body, in- cluding its posture and movement, we deepen our sense of embodiment. the body and breath do not get lost in the future or the past, so if attention is fully absorbed in the body, there is a fully integrated sense of presence. the body and breath keep us anchored to now. When practicing postures, we stay fully present through mind- fulness of the breath. When noticing the mind leaning away from our experience of an asana, we can remember to come back to the breath. in this way, the breath becomes the sutra—the thread— with which we weave our practice. We see for ourselves how the posture and movement of the body condition the breath. the qualities of the breath are conditioned by whether we are in a for- ward bend, a backbend, or a twist. When we maintain a posture, we see a change in the breath. We also see how the breath conditions the body, affecting both movement and posture. all this points to a core teaching of the Buddha: since all phenomena are con- ditioned, there is no real autonomous “thing” to speak of. We say “breath” or “posture” as if these were things separate from the flow of experience, but through this practice we see they are process- es—caused and conditioned, selfless and constantly changing. Bringing attention to the parts of the body, we become aware of any reaction we have. Which parts do we like? Which parts do we dislike? We may feel revulsion contemplating our earwax, bowels, or lymph, and prefer to contemplate our hair or our eyes. yet those eyes, free from their sockets, might provoke revulsion and fear; that hair clogged, in our shower drain, may seem dis- gusting. all reactivity is conditioned. We see that “beauty” and “disgust” are not inherent in the objects, but have interdepen- dently arisen. already, in the first foundation, we can get glimpses of the emptiness teaching of the Buddha. carlosalvarez/istocKPhoto