Today’s Body – Mindfulness Practices for Body Love

How a simple statement can change the way we feel about our body.

We are in tumultuous times. It feels to me that we need our mindfulness and compassion practices more than ever. The more grounded we are and the less inner conflict with ourselves we experience the more we are available for what is needed around us.

I have been teaching a lot of classes and retreats this year and so many people shared about their conflicted relationship with their body. So I’m always on the lookout for useful awareness practices that help us to live with more ease and joy – and bring more body love.

In a recent yoga class I attended, the teacher, when she moved us through the poses, used the term “today’s body”.  She didn’t’ say your body or even the body, but today’s body. I liked the unexpected playfulness of that expression. Immediately it made my body feel more acceptable, less personal and at the same time more connected with others in the room– and their bodies. We all have a “today’s body”.

So many of us struggle with our body, the way it looks, the way it’s build, the way it “performs”, or doesn’t. I see that all the time in my classes. “I’m not flexible” or “I’m too fat”, “I’m too old”, “too sick”, “too ugly”, “too clumsy”, “too messed up”, “too…”. We are not doing so great with body love.

When we give up the identification of “I, me, mine” with our body for even just moments at a time, something miraculous can happen. We can relax. We can ease up. If the body is not personal, not “mine”, then I can release the idea that it’s entirely in my hands to change what I don’t like about it. Then my body is not “my fault” and I can release for a moment the felt responsibility to fix it. As soon as I can let go of that, I can open up and my body awareness and perception can change significantly.

That’s too impersonal!

half-body-anatomyBut, you might say, the term “today’s body” is too impersonal and makes the body into an object. Don’t we want to try to love our body more and be more embodied?

Yes, absolutely. And yes, the idea of “today’s body” is impersonal. But think about it this way: What happens to my experience when I take it so personally? If I love my body, that’s not really an issue. But what if I don’t? That can make me feel like a failure that I can’t change whatever is bothersome in this moment. It can be as simple as not being able to do a forward bend in a way that the other people in the class can do or as difficult as having a chronic health challenge or simply hating one’s body or certain body parts.

I can take care of “today’s body” with a lot more tenderness and forgiveness. Or at the very least I can tolerate it being the way it is. And since it’s only “today’s body” and not “forever’s body” I can practice just for today. I can practice body awareness just for this moment and not worry so much about how it might be tomorrow or next week or what my mind happens to think about my “forever body”.

When we use the element of time in our experience we open up to the truth that perceptions change. The way I feel right now is probably not the same as I felt yesterday or I will feel tomorrow. Maybe not even like I felt 10min ago. Even if my body hasn’t changed one bit by tomorrow, the flow of body sensations and my mood will have. They never stay exactly the same.

As we practice mindfully with the idea of today’s body we can see more clearly that everybody has a “today’s body”. We all share that. And that might make us feel more connected with the other people around us.

Mindfulness teaches us to keep coming back to the present moment as we experience it in the body, like the breath in the mindfulness of breathing meditation. It’s good to remember that the body is always in the present moment.

Two Mindfulness Practices for Body Love

You can do these practices for “today’s body” sitting or lying in a relaxed way or as part of your regular meditation.

Loving Kindness for Today’s Body:

  1. Mindfulness: This is “today’s body”. Feel into the body as it is right now. What’s that like?
  2. Shared humanity: Reflecting: Every human being has a body (and so does every animal). This is what it feels like to have a human body. Or a male or female body. Or a gender fluid body.
  3. Loving kindness for today’s body: Use a sentence or two which you resonate with. For example: “May this body be happy and at ease” or  “May these legs be happy and at ease”. #
  4. Gentle touch: Try touching the body with kindness, like simply putting a hand on the body part you are practicing with. We are hard-wired for supportive touch and often that can get the message of kindness and support over like nothing else.
# For a guided audio of a “Loving Kindness Body Scan”, please sign up on my website.

Compassion for Today’s Body:

If you are struggling with your body or parts of your body, use compassion practice instead of just loving kindness.

  1. Mindfulness: This is “today’s body”. Feel into the body as it is right now. What’s that like?
  2. Shared humanity: Reflecting: Every human being has a body (and so does every animal). This is what it feels like to have a human body that is hurting. This is what is feels like to have (for example) a headache, or immobility in the knee after surgery etc. And thousands of other people feel the exact same thing. See if you can touch into a sense of solidarity with all the other people who know this pain, too.
  3. Compassion for today’s body: Use a sentence or two word which you resonate with. For example: “May this pain ease.” Or “I care about this pain.”
  4. Gentle Touch: Try a caring gesture, like putting your hand on the hurting body part, or even caressing it gently, the way a loving parent would hug a hurting child.
# This is an adaptation of the “Mindful Self-Compassion Break” developed by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer.

These practices can greatly change the way you experience your body and may even lead to serious body love. Give it a try!

I would love to hear from you about your experiences with today’s body. Please share in the comments below.

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