Psychologist Fritz Perls advised us to “lose our minds and come to our senses.” Beneath the clever word play is important advice. We have a tendency to get so caught up in our thinking, our projecting into the future, our attempts to deal with the past, and our narratives about what is going on in our lives that we forget we have a body.
Try this: close your eyes and take a few mindful breaths. Now focus on the sensation of your hair on your head. Notice this quite precisely. Then focus in the same careful way on the sensation of clothing on your shoulder. Then note the sensation of the chair you’re sitting on against your back. Next, in the same precise and careful way, notice what the clothes against the tops of your thighs feel like. Lastly, notice the sensation of shoes on your feet. Repeat this, taking at least twenty or thirty seconds for each area.
Now notice the effect this has had on your consciousness. Do you see that you are a little more centered, a little more present?
The Buddha called mindfulness of the body the first foundation of mindfulness. Without it, we could say that we are a disembodied presence. Or perhaps, that we are scarcely present at all.