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Mindfulness of the Body : Cultivating Ease & Calm

The body is an excellent vehicle for cultivating calm in the Citta (the responsive, emotive mind, separate from Manos, the intellectual mind and pronounced "chitta"). This is due, in part, to the nervous system's inherent ability to calm itself. If we consider the qualities of Citta as being similar to water - highly receptive, mutable, and responsive - we can consider that nature of Citta in the body is like the tidal ocean. Much like the ocean that grows calm and still on a windless day, we simply need to give the body the supportive conditions and relative stillness will arise. These conditions are none other than the conditions we foster in our meditation practice.

While sometimes agitation or restlessness is very obvious initially, there are also many pleasant sensations, and we can tune our attention to what registers as pleasant in the body. As the body becomes calm, a host of sensations becomes available such as calm, ease, relaxation, and a general sense of well-being. This supports the attention to want to stay with it because we like pleasant feelings and can use this habit of mind to our advantage in meditation. To the degree that the attention stays with the somatic experience of calm body, the Citta begins to pick up that signal. It too begins to calm. In addition, while the attention is connected to the somatic experience of the resting body, the mind is occupied and not filled with random thoughts, stories and machinations. The lack of these things creates a further calming effect on the Citta (the wind stops blowing and the ocean follows its natural, tidal rhythm) - and because the body and the Citta are sympathetic to one another, as the Citta calms, the body responds and calms further. This in turn helps the attention to want to stay with the pleasant, calm body even more, and the process of cultivating calm deepens organically in this way.

This process encourages the mind to arrest its habit of rushing out into the world of sense impressions and stimulation for nourishment, as it finds proper nourishment through connecting with the somatic experience of calm body. It starts to learn where home and happiness actually are, and through this we more easily maintain a sense of calm centeredness and resilience even when the winds of our lives inevitably shift.

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