I have been focusing on a particular kind of mindfulness meditation lately, the body scan. It is a form of “simple awareness” in that the focus of the meditation is on basic bodily sensations such as warmth, itch, pressure, and pain. Although I practice formal meditations, I also adapt them at times, as a form of experimentation. Last week, I decided to see what it would be like to meditate on bodily sensation while I was in my hot tub.

It was the end of a long day. I was tired and it was near my bed time. My husband did not want to join me.  At the end of the day, I need a little momentum to do things. On top of this, it was rainy, dark, and cool outside. Despite this, I went out there, perhaps in part because I had set the intention earlier in the day to do so.

The tub water was warm but the rain was cold. My initial response was disappointment followed by a sense of vulnerability to the elements. Then I closed my eyes and started my meditation. My attention drifted, as it often does, between simple awareness and drifting off into thought. When I became aware of the drifting, I redirected my attention to the awareness. Mindfulness is not keeping your mind blank and it doesn’t only occur when our minds are laser-focused on the exercise. It is a process.

I carry a good deal of tension in my neck, shoulders, and upper back, which are exacerbated by my work on the pottery wheel. I observed the pain in this area of my body. As frequently occurs with the body scan, when I observe a sensation such as pain or itch, the quality of the sensation changes and often subsides. I sat in the tub, allowing myself to move to the different areas of it, as I wanted, and with intention. I spent most of the time sitting in the middle of the tub, sitting up with my legs crossed.

I felt the rain. I observed the rain. It was cool. It was refreshing. I was safe and warm. It rains frequently where I live. Rain is associated with spoiled plans, canceled baseball games, indoor recess, uncomfortable hikes in the mountains, and yes, being cold and afraid. It is true that weather can be dangerous. Weather can kill.

As my body and mind were drifting, I thought of all of this, about how scary the world can be, but also how much scarier I make it when I worry about the safety of myself and my loved ones when we are actually all safe.

I am learning to reduce the burdens of my own making. More importantly, I am learning that this is a practice rather than an endpoint. Mindfulness is iterative. It is repetitive. But it also changes. It is like saying, “I love you” to my husband each day. It is always true but the shades of meaning each day can differ.