My first and central advice is always meditate experimentally to avoid closed mindedness ... and only do any exercise if it is interesting or enjoyable, because the practical question is : how to meditate in a pleasurable and thus self generating, self-perpetuating way – so that we want to repeat it.

There are so many different needs people have and so many different forms of meditation, but there seems to be a basic choice, we can either
a) use will power, disipline and concentration,
b) develop a meditation sequence, to give us something slow but interesting to do,
c) use love and devotion,
or any combination of these.

I don't enjoy meditating with concentration and will power, maybe you do. Focusing and concentrating on a beautific image, a new lover, anything awesome, is easy. But i find focusing single pointed on something which has no emotional or spiritual meaning, is pointless and i get bored. So, i wouldn't generally advise continually repeating the same routine, because then the possibility of needing will power to concentrate arises – but it alll depends on the individual.

I have a number of different exercises which have developed over the years. I use them flexibly, meditation develops and changes each time i do it. I find the element of creativity (instead of a fixed routine) keeps me interested, so i enjoy doing it, so then it is self-perpetuating, i.e. i repeat it and enjoy repeating it.

I sometimes use a sequence of head, arms, legs, torso, whole body, one breath at each focal point.

A recent development is as follows : Please have read about the 5 legged starfish read and being aware of the elements earth and water, hard and soft, in the essay on Body and Breathing Awareness.

First i focus on and feel the five sensitive hard ends, (hands feet and skull), for a few breaths – then the five limbs, (legs arms and neck) with softer watery blubber around harder middle areas – then, what i call the hard frame: (shoulders ribs spine hips and pelvis) – and then the soft inside areas, (lungs, diaphragm, stomach, intenstines, and at the back, muscles – (and then notice how all these softer areas have different consistencies).

To explore all the relative degrees of 'blubber'. Compare the feel of the intestines to the lungs and the sheets of muscle in the lower back, and the thigh muscle.

Then notice the fire, the feeling of warmth which comes from this central area, and the beating tangible throughout the body. And there's a lot of activity from chemical exchanges going on, a sense of excitement with different areas fermenting, bubbling and fizzing ... (the stomach digesting, the blood circulating, and maybe it's the nervous system itself). A basic feeling of vitality and life all over the body.

And then, as always come back to a few breaths with the whole breath-body.

I have already described my basic exercise of being aware of all the fingers and toes.

I often combine fingers and toes together, and then often start feeling all the channels and nerves – inter-related and connected with each finger and toe – running through the legs, arms and body.

Sometime later, it's a whole new dimension to go through the spaces in between the fingers where all the soft parts are, its easy to feel these soft parts because they are more sensitive and maybe(?) where all the nerves are.

When you've more time and motivation – going through the vertebrae in the spinal column is invigorating, and going through the spaces between the vertebrae is the next step.

Healing can involve imagining colours or sounds inside and around your body. Or imagining someone you love and trust laying their hands on your body, or even feeling inside your body, imagine being massaged. Imagine inserting acupuncture needles, or anything you have found to be helpful in practice.

You can also focus humming to vibrate and to relax any stiff parts of the body. Quite generally it seems healthy to allow yourself to make any sort of vocal noise you want, to vibrate and massage yourself inwardly.

Then there's the childhood fantasy of hundreds of little people working in your body, get them working again. And there's one specific subect.

Bio-Magnetic Whatever
It is outside the scope of this site but i find this worth noting. Most people agree that there must be some sort of electrical bio-magnetic lines swirling around such a complex chemically active neurological system as the human body. I find most ways of proving this are suspect. But among 20 people who i've asked: "If there is a bio-magnetic energy round your wrist, which way would the energy go round?", everyone answers the same, without more than a seconds thought.

So, ask yourself and your friends – and see if they all agree ... The stomach-belly area also seems to have a predominant direction, but mainly i find it appropriate, healthy and healing to imagine energy going round both ways at the same time, swirling around my body, sometimes like double helixes.

THE WHOLE BREATH BODY (A theoretical note from Buddhism)
There is a valuable passage right at the beginning of the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna, in Section 1. "Breathing In and Out". The original translation is wonderfully unclear about if body or breath is intended, or if the two are in fact intrinsically connected.

The first German translation from the 1890s was translated in English as follows. " 'Conscious of the whole (breath-) body. I shall breathe in', thus he trains himself. 'Conscious of the whole (breath-) body. I shall breathe out', thus he trains himself." (1962 – page 130)

A modern translation by U Jotika & U Dhamminda (1986)
"Aware of the whole breath body, I shall breathe in", thus he trains himself; "Aware of the whole breath body, I shall breathe out", thus he trains himself.

This "whole breath body" idea is lost in all other modern translations which give just "whole body' or 'entire body". (More info on translations and Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna References).

Please continue with Listening Inside and Seeing with Closed Eyes

Back to Chapter Three : Seeing and Listening