Technique 6: Running commentary
This is the technique that I use most often, probably three times a week for at least half and hour at a time. It is excellent for slowing down a busy head and for developing the ability to witness what is going on in your body at any one time. I am not joking or exaggerating when I say this has changed my life.
Create some time and space where you will not be disturbed for twenty minutes or so. Get yourself into a comfortable position and settle yourself into body awareness mode. By this level you should be quite good at doing this. If you are still struggling try some of the other techniques mentioned in the lower levels to settle your awareness into your body. If you mind is really racing, then have a shower or a bath first. Massage your feet and take some deep slow breaths.
I prefer doing this lying down on the floor with a big cushion supporting my knees and just the right number of pillows to take the pressure off my neck. It always feels comforting for me to lie under a blanket. Get into a comfortable position for you.
When you are ready, start giving a running commentary out loud of what is going on in your body, describing what you can feel. It may seem ridiculous at first to talk out loud by yourself, but speaking is in itself very focussing. Anything that helps you focus will help you settle.
So it might sound like this. “I’m lying here and feeling a bit hunched up around my upper back, and I don’t feel evenly placed on the floor. In fact my hips feel tilted to the right and my chest seems to be pointing to the left, and my head is tight.” You suddenly sigh deeply. “I’ve just taken a deep breath and I feel a bit more relaxed.”
As you lie there just describe any sensations that come up into your awareness. One moment it might be an itch here and then a twitch there. Suddenly you might become aware of a pain in your jaw or a tightness at the base of your back. Just notice all the physical sensations of how hot or cold you are, what feels light or heavy, free or tight, tingly, jangly or smooth.
The secret here is not to go looking for stuff. Much more interesting is to let the information come to you. You’re lying back and at any moment some sensation may come into your awareness. You have no idea what the next thing will be or where it will come from. It’s a bit like going to the cinema, you relax and let the information come. When it appears just describe it and then wait for the next thing to arise.
From time to time you may start thinking about something. This is quite normal. Don’t worry about it. When this happens its really useful to say, “I’m thinking again,” and just wait for the next felt sense to appear. If you find yourself thinking about something a lot, maybe take a deep breath and just settle your awareness back into the world of hot/cold, long/short, big/small, agitated/calm, floaty/solid.
I particularly like feeling how far my head is from my feet. Sometimes this feels a long way away, other times it feels short. Comparing the length of your legs is often an easy way to get back in touch with the body. Even though they are the same length, they may feel very different in length, height off the ground, size, weight etc. It can be surprising how things feel.
When pain comes up just notice what it is like. Is there a sense of pressure or does it feel like something wants to move? Is there numbness around the area or is it tingly? See if you can feel exactly where the pain is located, or notice if it is out of focus and slightly dispersed. Describe it out aloud. If tinnitus comes up, just say, “I’m focusing on my tinnitus,” and wait for the next felt thing to appear.
The mind gets bored quite easily and will not stay with the tinnitus before long, as it will be distracted by something else. This can be quite revealing. If you try and focus on the tinnitus, after a few seconds you will find you are thinking about something else. If you don’t believe me, try timing yourself! I bet you cannot focus on your tinnitus for more than one minute without your mind wandering onto something else. We all think we spend the whole time thinking about it, but the reality is very different. This might be quite surprising. It was for me, and actually very liberating. Anyway, where was I? If your mind starts wandering just go back to the body and wait for the next sensation to appear.
When you dry up and feel like you have run out of things to describe, this is really interesting. Just wait. Soon something else will pop up.
Learning to live in this state of body awareness is incredibly helpful. It’s like discovering an alternative to the normal thinking process. It takes you beneath all the mental chatter and puts you in touch with how you feel. You actually develop a much more accurate sense of how you are. We all know how our minds can run away with themselves and lead us into worry, exaggeration, fear and irrational thoughts.
When you get proficient at this, you can chose to focus inside in the middle of an argument or when you are fearful. This changes the dynamic totally and gives you a lot more options. Watch and enjoy how your mind really slows down!