EXERCISE: THE BODY SCAN
The body scan, as the name suggests, entails bringing awareness to each part of the body, starting with the feet and moving up from there.
Tips for the body scan:
1. During meditation, you may get distracted, fall asleep, find your mind wandering, and/or feel body sensations. Consider that it is a part of and a challenge of the exercise. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. The moment you realize that you are not present in the exercise, you are in fact already present. Simply realizing that you are not present is a success, and the non-presence makes success possible.
2. If your mind wanders a lot, consider these thoughts as passing events, nothing special). Then try to gently bring your attention back to the body scan in the present moment.
3. Try not to focus on ideas such as “success”, “failure”, “doing really well”, or “trying to relax the body.” The body scan is not a competition; it is not a skill to be achieved. The only thing that is important and that really helps is practice.
4. Try to approach your experience with an accepting attitude, or in other words, allow it to just happen, “that’s just how it is right here, right now.” If you try to avoid, suppress, or expel unpleasant thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations, chances are high that they will just return more often.
INFORMATION: THE BODY SCAN
· The body scan teaches us to recognize and experience physical sensations. Much of our attention focuses on our thoughts and on matters outside our body, such as our job, social environment, etc. This increases the risk that one will pay very little attention to physical signals. The recognition of physical signals, such as tension or restlessness, is important, especially for the prevention of stress and burn-out. The body scan is a method used to get more in touch with body sensations and signals and to become familiar with them.
· It allows us to experience the noise of our thoughts through our bodies. The simple instruction binds attention to one part of the body at a time, which can be much more difficult than one might initially think.
· It teaches us to draw attention to a specific point. In the body scan, the point of attention is one part of the body. The effect of such training of attention can also transfer to other areas, such as focusing (concentrating) the attention on a specific task, a conversation with someone, etc.
· The method teaches us to detect when attention wanders. Being able to notice when attention wanders is a critical component of successful self-control.
· It can provide insight into the nature and pattern of thoughts in general. This would allow you to notice recurring themes of thoughts that are played repeatedly like an old record.
· It teaches us to cultivate self-compassion. Rather than criticizing ourselves for being distracted, attention is returned to the body, gently without judgment.
HOW TO DO IT
Find a place where you will be safe, secure, and undisturbed.
▪ Lie on your back, on a firm mat or cushioned floor, arms resting by your side, palms facing upward.
▪ If you find yourself having a hard time staying awake during the meditation, it may be helpful to open your eyes or prop your head up with a pillow. If neither help, you have the option to move into another position that will allow for wakefulness. Other positions include standing or seated in a chair.
▪ Let your eyes close and start to focus your attention on the fact that you are breathing. Allow each inhale and exhale to flow through your body. Notice how your body feels with each breath as well as where the breath flows. With each breath, allow yourself to sink deeper into the floor.
▪ Keep in mind that your mind will inevitably wander through this practice as that is what all minds do. When this happens, notice it, and gently and kindly bring your attention back to the part of the body that you were focusing on.
▪ As you continue to breathe, on the inhale imagine the breath filling your lungs and then moving down into the belly, into the left leg, and all the way out of the left toes. As you exhale, imagine or feel your breath moving in through your toes, up the left leg, through the abdomen, all the way up into your chest, and finally out through your nose. With a playful approach, practice a couple of cycles of this kind of breathing.
▪ Use this breathing technique throughout the remainder of the scan. When you notice a tense or unpleasant sensation, breathe into it, and imagine relaxing, releasing, and letting go.
▪ Begin to notice all the sensations in your body, beginning with the bottom of your left foot. Where is there pressure here? What does it feel like?
▪ Move from the bottom of your left foot, up the ankle to the left leg, lower leg, knee, upper leg, across the pelvic region, down the right leg. Move into your pelvic region, scanning the front and back of your body. Notice all the sensations that arise and let them go.
▪ As you focus on each part of the body, observe what there is to see and feel there, without forcing anything to happen. If you don’t feel anything in an area of your body, that’s okay. Simply act as an observer, noticing how your body feels today. Continue up through the stomach, upper chest, neck, down the left arm, back up through the collarbone down the right arm, up to your hairline, forehead, and finally face.
▪ Remember to touch on each small area of every part of your body. For example, you may want to notice what is happening in between your toes, ankles, shoulders, ears, tongue. Investigate every area of the body with gentle curiosity.
▪ After touching on every point in the body, feel your body as a whole being, breathing in and out, fully alive.