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Common Obstacles with the Body Scan Meditation

Here are some of the common difficulties that arise with the body scan meditation. Look through the list to see if any of them apply to you. This may help to put your mind at rest if you had an unusual experience, which can happen, but is nothing to be alarmed about.

  • You fell asleep. Doing so is very common. The idea is to ‘fall awake’ (become more aware) rather than asleep, but don’t be hard on yourself if you end up snoozing. To overcome sleep, try practicing at a different time of day, practice the body scan with your eyes open or have a cool shower before the practice.

    If you still keep falling asleep, try doing the meditation in a seated upright position, with your back supporting itself. If you still keep falling asleep, just accept it for now. With time, your body will learn to stay awake — it just takes practice. The most important thing is to keep practicing, whether you fall asleep or not.

  • You couldn’t feel any sensation. This is another common experience. If you can’t feel sensation in a particular part, or large parts of your body, that’s okay. Just acknowledge and accept this — that’s what mindfulness is all about. With time, you may feel more sensation, as the part of your brain that detects physical sensation begins to naturally strengthen. But if not, it doesn’t matter.

  • You felt more anxious or stressed. That’s okay. Mindfulness isn’t relaxation spelt differently. Sometimes you may not find the body scan relaxing. If you find it stressful, you may be trying too hard or hoping to achieve a certain experience. Just let that idea go if you can.

    If the anxiety keeps coming, explore the feeling within your body. Notice where you specifically feel the sensation and gently allow your attention to rest there. Don’t be harsh or critical with yourself.

  • You felt bored or restless. If you’re an active person, you may find the body scan boring and begin to feel restless. Just notice the feeling of boredom or restlessness within your body. Become interested in the boredom or restlessness instead of trying to push it away. Watching the feelings of boredom, restlessness and difficulty in concentration is part and parcel of mindfulness. The experiences will pass with time.

  • You felt strong emotions. Sometimes emotions that have been suppressed can become released during the body scan meditation. Your body can unconsciously hold unresolved issues as tension. As you relax into the body scan, the thoughts and emotions can arise into your conscious awareness and then be released.

  • You felt dizzy. Feeling dizzy during the body scan isn’t common, but can happen. If you feel dizzy as you practice, simply open your eyes and come out of the meditation for a few moments until your mind settles down. Then begin again, perhaps keeping your eyes open to steady yourself.

  • You felt physically uncomfortable. Lying down still in one position can feel uncomfortable after some time, especially if you aren’t used to it. Slowly and mindfully move your position. Try lying on top of your bed or use pillows under your knees or elsewhere to ensure you’re more cozy and comfortable.

Record what sort of difficulties you encountered in the body scan meditation. Remember that these are quite common experiences, so don’t judge the meditation as bad or feel that you did it wrong. Just gently persevere, whatever your inner critic seems to say.

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