I love the body scan in mindfulness meditation for a number of reasons. For one, it is easy to learn and you can use the skill virtually anywhere at any time of the day. Secondly, it is literally the most important tool to becoming more aware of your entire body and being. It can help you to become more observant and aware, feel more “in tune” with yourself and can actually help with falling asleep faster, sleeping more sounder and reducing blood pressure if practiced often. When you are able to integrate your body into your overall awareness, you are allowing yourself to disarm that overworking brain of yours and become more observant of the entirety of you.
Did you know that you are not just your thoughts? Do you feel an impulsive need to Google something as soon as you become curious by a thought? Do you often feel controlled by your thoughts, forget things that happen/said to you shortly after it happens, difficulty falling asleep at night due to restless thoughts or have trouble remembering the last time you really took a solid look at how your body was feeling? If so, this is the perfect mindfulness meditation practice for you to start!
For the first timer, I highly recommend you supplement this practice with some theory. Check out this Audible Audiobook if you’re in a hurry and like listening to books on the go or this gem. Of course, there are plenty of great books out there on the theory of mindfulness so feel free to get whatever speaks to you personally. These are just some of my favorites. Now after you have found some theory on mindfulness, newbies: try this out just 1-3 times over a week’s span. Don’t get too crazy and try to do too much. Doing too much can often lead to quick burnout and we don’t want that!
So try this out for 1-3 times over the next week sitting or lying down (laying down is my personal favorite). Maybe 10 minutes tops. Of course, you’ll want to try to find a time when you aren’t too sleepy or you’ll just fall asleep. Right when I first wake up in the morning tends to be my personal fave time because I hate getting out of my soft cozy bed in the morning and it helps me come to terms with the departure of my soft, cuddly, loveable, warm bed (hey, I like my bed, okay?) but like I said, you do whatever makes most sense for you and your day.
Eventually you will want to work up to daily sitting practice 30 minutes/day according to the mindfulness gurus of the world out there but you know what? Who cares. You do you and if lying down for 15 minutes feels best to you like it does for me, then just do that! This isn’t about being perfect- this is about acknowledging and becoming more aware. We are not naturally great at this skill so you’ll likely think you suck at this and it isn’t doing much for you at all. If so, GREAT! You are doing it correctly! (And also, I’m so proud that you already have this observe-your-thoughts thing down!) Keep noticing your thoughts even if it’s “this really sucks”, “this is stupid”, etc. Notice them and then snap your thoughts right back to your body scan. If it helps, try Googling or Youtube’ing (That totally doesn’t look correct but I’m just going with it) “Guided meditation body scan” to listen to someone if you feel like you’re losing focus by doing it on your own. (Remember, you do YOU)
Here’s a sample script below.
*Use this body scan script for sitting or lying down practice. Use this script to familiarize yourself with a body scan before trying it on yourself or use when reading it to someone else.
Begin by bringing awareness to your body gently closing your eyes if that’s comfortable for you. As you begin this meditation, start to bring awareness to your breath. Notice the different sensations and quality of your breath between each inhale and exhale.
Begin to notice where your body is seated or lying down, feeling the texture of the fabric below you, feeling the weight of your body on the chair or bed, noticing the rise and fall of your breath.
Observe your legs against the support of the chair or bed gently noticing any sensations, pressure, heaviness when you bring attention to these areas.
Bring awareness to your feet and the sensations of your feet touching the floor or the bed underneath you. Notice any weight, pressure, vibration, or other sensations.
And as you exhale, notice where in your body that you notice the breath leaving your lungs and mouth and observe your body relaxing more deeply from this exchange of air.
Bring your attention to your face. Noticing any tension in your eyebrows, eyes, cheeks and mouth. Observe your jaw and any tightness or clenching.
Begin to move your awareness to your neck and throat. Observe any sensations in these areas, tightness, tingling. There is no need to correct what you are noticing. Simply observe and move on.
Begin to bring awareness to your shoulders and back. Notice where in these areas the sensations coming up, observing any sensations such as tightness or pain. Breathe into any feelings of discomfort.
Bring your attention into your abdominal area. Notice if your stomach is tense or tight. There is no need to correct what you are noticing. Simply observe.
Notice your arms and hands. Feel each finger starting with your pinky and moving towards your thumb. Notice the joints and bones in each finger and your hand. Notice the crease where your arm meets your hand. Let your breath move into these areas on your inhale in.
Notice your legs and feet. Notice any tingling, discomfort or tightness. Notice your ankles. Bring all of your awareness to each of these areas, acknowledging and validating each of these areas of your body.
Notice your entire body. Take a big breath in for 6 seconds and holding for 4 seconds. Release your breath for 10 seconds.
When you are ready, begin orienting yourself back to your room. Feel the area between your hip joint and where it meets your thigh and where it meets your seat. Bring awareness to the fabric and the support of the bed or chair underneath you. And then when you’re ready, you can open your eyes.
Sara Paules, LPC
Mindful Soul Center