A group of anthropologists were studying the culture of a remote South Pacific tribe. After gaining some familiarity with each other, one of the tribesmen confided to a member of the research team that he thought Western people were all crazy. When asked why he believed this, he patiently explained that Westerners are crazy because they think with their heads. Puzzled, the researcher asked what he thought with. He replied, “With the gut, of course.”
This view of our own culture teaches us something important. We tend to ignore the body and its wisdom. Yet the body can teach us much when we are attuned to it. In practicing mindfulness, it is important to start with awareness of the body. In fact, it is always important to be in touch with the body at all levels of practice. When we are in touch with the breath, we are already also in touch with the body, bringing body and mind together. We can also learn to note the positions of the body—standing, sitting, lying down, or walking, and, very importantly, the transitions between these postures.
This practice keeps us grounded, in touch with the physical world, preventing us from getting so easily lost in our thinking and our worries.