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A Mindful Movement Meditation

Mindful Movement Meditation

First, stand barefoot or in socks, with your feet hips width apart, with the knees unlocked so that your legs can bend slightly with your feet more or less parallel to each other.

Shoulders relaxed, hands by your sides and remembering that it's very important to be gentle with yourself as you do these stretches. So look after yourself during the movement and let the wisdom of your body decide what's okay for you, how far to go with any stretch and how long to hold it.  See this practice as a chance to cultivate awareness of the body, even in the smallest movement. It is not a competition with yourself or anyone else.

As you are standing here, notice the contact between your feet on the floor.

1. Raising both arms

Then, on an in-breath, slowly and mindfully raise your arms out to the sides, parallel to the floor, and then, after breathing out, continue on the next in-breath, raising them, slowly and mindfully until the hands are raised above the head. While the arms are moving, see if you can be fully alive to the sensations in the muscles as they work to lift the arms and then maintain them in the stretch.

Letting the breath move in and out freely at its own pace, continue to stretch upward, fingertips gently pushing towards the sky, feet firmly grounded on the floor. Take some time to feel the sensations of stretch in the muscles and joints of your body, wherever they are presenting themselves, from the feet and legs up to the torso, shoulders, into the arms, hands and fingers.

As you maintain this stretch for a time, see what is happening to your breathing; allowing it to flow freely in and out. Remain open to any changes in the sensations and feelings in the body with each in-breath and each out-breath as you continue to hold the stretch. If you notice sensations of increasing tension or discomfort, open to this as well.

At a certain point, when you are ready, slowly, very slowly on and out-breath, allow the arms to come back down. Lower them slowly, feeling the changing sensations as they come down, and perhaps the clothes moving on the surface of your skin. Follow the sensations with close attention until your arms come back to rest, hanging from the shoulders.

If your eyes have been open, you may wish to allow them to close gently at this point and focus attention on the movements of the breath and the sensations and feelings throughout the body.  Simply stand here, perhaps noticing the after effects of doing the stretch.

2. Picking fruit

Next, opening the eyes, mindfully stretch each arm and hand up in turn, as if you were picking fruit from a tree that is just out of reach, with full awareness of the sensations throughout the body, and of the breath. Look out beyond your fingers. Allowing the opposite heel to the outstretched arm to come off the floor as you stretch, feel the stretch right through your body from the outstretched fingers of one hand to the toes of the opposite foot.

When you let go of this stretch, allow the heel to come back to the floor, then lower the hand, following the fingers with your eyes if you choose, noticing what colours and shapes your eyes are drinking in as they follow your hand down. Then moving the face back to centre, let your eyes close, tuning into the after effects of that stretch, along with sensations of the breath, before stretching up to pick fruit with the other hand.

3.  Sideways bending

Now slowly and mindfully putting your hands on your hips, allow the body to bend over as a whole to the left, with the hips moving a little to the right, so the body forms a big curve that extends sideways from the feet right through the hips and torso, making a big crescent shape. Imagine you were doing this between two large plate panes of glass front and back, so keeping your body in a single plane, rather than allowing it to bend forward or backward. Then come back to standing on an in-breath, and then on an out-breath, slowly bend over, forming a curve in the opposite direction. It is not important how much you bend sideways - you may even stand still, but what does matter is the quality of attention that you bring to the movement. What after-effects of the stretch are you aware of?

4.  Shoulder rolls

Finally, play with rolling your shoulders while letting your arms dangle passively,

     •     first raising the shoulders upwards towards the ears as far as they are able go,

     •     then backward as if you were attempting to draw the shoulder blades together,

     •     then letting them drop down completely,

     •     then squeezing the shoulders together in front of the body as far as they will go, as if you were trying to touch them together.

Let the breath determine the speed of rotation, so you are breathing in for half the movement and out for the other half. Continue rolling through these various positions as smoothly and mindfully as you can, first in one direction and then the opposite.

And finally at the end of the sequence of movements, remain still for a while, and tune into the sensations from your body, before perhaps moving on to a sitting meditation.