mindfulness of the body
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I recently read the book Savor by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung and hosted a class series on mindfulness and wellness. I have learned over the years of the importance of bringing my practice off of the cushion and into my everyday life. The importance of this was what led us to begin our Daily Mindfulness Emails. However, reading this book, the class series, and continued practice has led to a new-found appreciation for my body, and its connection with my mind and heart.
Mindful Body Scans
Mindfulness of the body is not a new practice for me, as it is the First Foundation of Mindfulness. I regularly do mindful body scan meditations, which are greatly beneficial. In body scan meditations, I am able to go through my body and find where the tension is. As I focus on my tension with full concentration, I am able to loosen that area of my body and let it be. I also find that I have much more tension than I am generally mindful of. Although mindful body scans are best done lying down in a relaxed environment, we can do a quick body scan anywhere.
Recognizing the Body’s Sensations
The feelings I find in my body are often indicative of my mind state. As I experience anxiety, I may feel a tension in my chest, while resentment often manifests in my shoulders and neck. The mind body connection is undeniable. As I practice mindfulness in my life, I see the relationship more clearly. When we feel a strong emotion, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we can look to our body and see how it feels. We may feel tension, clenching, our heart rate increasing or decreasing, a change in our breathing, a lightness to our bodies, etc. As we experience an emotion and turn to our body, we begin to recognize that the body often has a constant response to each emotion.
Using our Mindfulness of the Body
Recognizing the relation between our body and mind, we can use this knowledge to gain insight about ourselves. As the relationships become clear, the body becomes a barometer for us. When we feel a certain sensation, we can remember what emotion usually goes along with it. In many meditation techniques, our bodies are the basis of our practice, often in the form of our breath. This is because we are often more easily able to be mindful of our bodies than we are our thoughts. Using this to our advantage, we can practice mindfulness of the body in order to better understand mental phenomena. A feeling is often more noticeable in the mindful body than anywhere else if we are truly mindful.
Doing a Mindful Body Scan
For the body scan meditation, find a place to lie down comfortably. A bed is probably not ideal, as you may fall asleep. In this meditation, we will go through each part of our body and notice where there is tension. When you notice tension somewhere in your body, don’t try to push it away. Breathe into it, feel the direct sensation, and move on.
Finding your place, let your eyes close. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself and your intentions. As you take these initial deep breaths, feel the ground supporting you. Notice where your body is touching the ground, and how it is effortlessly being supported.
Starting with your feet, move slowly across your body. Feel your toes, one by one, and where there may be tension in them. Notice the arch of your foot, the balls, and the space between your toes. As you concentrate on each spot, look for the direct experience and nothing else. Just notice what you feel in that specific part. Move up to your heel and your ankle. As a joint, our ankles may hold more tension that other spots. We make a note of the sensation, and continue moving.
We move up into the calf, feeling and pain or pleasure that may arise. If we are tense, we feel the tension, and move on. We stop for a moment at the knees, then move up to the thighs and pelvis.
Continue slowly up your lower back and abdomen, feeling whatever tension may arise. Climb up your shoulder blades and spine, rib cage and chest, until you reach the top of your shoulders. Slowly move down your arms, feeling your upper arms first. Stop at the elbow to feel what sensations may arise, and move down the forearm to the wrist. Move especially slowly through your hand. Take note of how your palm feels different than the top of your hand. Run along each finger individually, scanning for any feeling.
Then move up to the neck, moving mindfully up it. Feel the tension and pleasure, and continue moving. Reaching our head, we go up the back first. We feel any direct sensation, moving to the top of our heads. As we get to the face, we remind ourselves to move slowly. We feel our eyes, nose, forehead, cheeks, and chin. We try to notice the sensations without labeling them. We move to the mouth, feeling our jaw, usually a bit clenched. We feel our tongue and lips. We go up our jawline to our ears.
Touching every spot in our body mindfully and with concentration, this scan should take at least 10 minutes. As you finish scanning your body, let your eyes slowly open.
The point of this meditation is to practice being mindful of our bodily sensations. We take the time to feel everything that is going on. After completing this mindful body scan meditation, be mindful of your body’s sensations throughout your day.
This practice of the mindful body scan will help us see what are bodies are telling us, having open awareness in each moment.
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Thank you to The Easier Softer Way for a wonderful article. We encourage you to visit their wonderful site. The Easier Softer Way is an online community examining Buddhism, addiction, and all things spirituality. With guest posts, a discussion based social media presence, and regular meditation groups, The Easier Softer Way is working to spread wisdom and positivity. You can visit them at http://TheEasierSofterWay.com
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