The Mindfulness Body Scan
The body scan is a wonderful meditation to start your journey into mindfulness practices. You normally do the body scan lying down, so you get a sense of letting go straight away.
Set aside at least half an hour for the body scan. Find a time and a place where you won’t be disturbed, and where you feel comfortable and secure. Turn off any phones you have.
This is a time totally set aside for yourself, and to be with yourself. A time for renewal, rest and healing. A time to nourish your health and wellbeing. Remember that mindfulness is about being with things as they are, moment to moment, as they unfold in the present. So, let go of ideas about self-improvement and personal development.
Let go of your tendency for wanting things to be different from how they are, and allow them to be as they are. Give yourself the space to be as you are. You don’t even need to try to relax. Relaxation may happen or it may not. Relaxation isn’t the aim of the body scan. If anything, the aim is to be aware of your experience, whatever it may be.
Loosen any tight clothing, especially around your waist or neck.
You may like to remove your shoes.
Lie down on your bed or a mat with your arms by your sides, palms facing up, and legs gently apart.
If you feel uncomfortable, place a pillow under your knees, or just raise your knees. Experiment with your position – you may even prefer to sit up.
Begin by feeling the weight of your body on the mat, bed or chair.
Notice the points of contact between that and your body. Each time you breathe out, allow yourself to sink a little deeper into the mat, bed or chair.
Become aware of the sensations of your breath.
You may feel the breath going in and out of your nostrils, or passing through the back of your throat, or feel the chest or belly rising and falling. Be aware of your breath wherever it feels most predominant and comfortable for you. Continue for a few minutes.
When you’re ready, move your awareness down the left leg, past the knee and ankle and right down into the big toe of your left foot.
Notice the sensations in your big toe with a sense of curiosity. Is it warm or cold? Now expand your awareness to your little toe, then all the toes in-between. What do they feel like? If you can’t feel any sensation, that’s okay.
As you breathe, imagine the breath going down your body and into your toes.
As you breathe out, imagine the breath going back up your body and out of your nose. Use this strategy of breathing into and out of each part to which you’re paying attention.
Expand your awareness to the sole of your foot.
Focus on the ball and heel of the foot. The weight of the heel. The sides and upper part of the foot. The ankle. Breathe into the whole of the left foot. Then, when you’re ready, let go of the left foot.
Repeat this process of gentle, kind, curious accepting awareness with the lower part of the left leg, the knee and the upper part of the left leg.
Notice how your left leg may now feel different to your right leg.
Gently shift your awareness around and down the right leg, to the toes in your right foot.
Move your awareness up the right leg in the same way as before. Then let it go.
Become aware of your pelvis, hips, buttocks and all the delicate organs around here.
Breathe into them and imagine you’re filling them with nourishing oxygen.
Move up to the lower torso, the lower abdomen and lower back.
Notice the movement of the lower abdomen as you breathe in and out. Notice any emotions you feel here. See if you can explore and accept your feelings as they are.
Bring your attention to your chest and upper back.
Feel your rib cage rising and falling as you breathe in and out. Be mindful of your heart beating if you can. Be grateful that all these vital organs are currently functioning to keep you alive and conscious. Be mindful of any emotions arising from your heart area. Allow space for your emotions to express themselves.
Go to both arms together, beginning with the fingertips and moving up to the shoulders.
Breathe into and out of each body part before you move to the next one, if that feels helpful.
Focus on your neck.
Then move your mindful attention to your jaw, noticing if it’s clenched. Feel your lips, inside your mouth, your cheeks, your nose, your eyelids and eyes, your temples, your forehead and checking if it’s frowning, your eyes, the back of your head, and finally the top of your head. Take your time to be with each part of your head in a mindful way.
Imagine a space in the top of your head and soles of your feet.
Imagine your breath sweeping up and down your body as you breathe in and out. Feel the breath sweeping up and down your body, and get a sense of each cell in your body being nourished with energy and oxygen. Continue this for a few minutes.
Now let go of all effort to practice mindfulness.
Get a sense of your whole body. Feel yourself as complete, just as you are. Remember this sense of being is always available to you when you need it. Rest in this stillness.
Acknowledge the time you’ve taken to nourish your body and mind. Come out of this meditation gently.
Endeavor to bring this mindful awareness to whatever activity you engage in next.