If you have trouble with meditation but know how beneficial it can be, a body scan might be a good way to start. Putting attention on body sensation can be used at any time to bring you back to the present moment.
Practice with this technique helps us to realize that sensations, thoughts and feelings do come and go. An itch, which would normally seem unbearable can be seen as a pulsating sensation that quickly fades away when we pay attention to the sensations involved. Pain can sometimes be picked apart, seen as heat or cold, pressure or stretching.
Sit or lay down in a comfortable position. Take a few breaths to relax.
Then start scanning or sweeping your body. Bring your attention to any sensations in the top of your head. Then the scalp, cheeks, around the eyes, the jaw line. Continue to your neck and shoulders, arms and hands and fingers, chest and back, your belly and pelvis, thighs and knees, calves and shins, ankles, feet and toes. Once complete, scan the body as a whole.
Then reverse the process, sweeping the body with your attention, from your toes to the top of your head. Take your time with this.
The idea is to note any sensation or lack of sensation in each of these places. Don’t make up a sensation that isn’t there. Just move on. Don’t make up a story or worry about a sensation. It’s the process of observing that is important. Remember that sensation is not opinion. For example, while our opinion of pain may be that it is “unbearable” and our fear of pain may be that it will never ease, the actual body sensation may be a sensation of cold, or heat, of pulsation or vibration or pulling or weight. When the sensation is fierce, if we can stay with it, we may notice it changing in intensity as we watch.
In itself this exercise can be used for relaxation or as a preliminary to deeper meditations. It’s a good everyday practice under almost any circumstance, for it helps us to see how fluid and changing life is. It helps us to move into life’s flow.
After some practice, you may discover that emotions such as anger or fear can also be felt as body sensations. For me, anger feels like a heat creeping up my back. Mild fear feels like a buzzy sensation just above the surface of the skin of my arms especially.
Thoughts can also be felt as body sensation.
As you get more accustomed to noticing sensation, you can begin to make correlations that you may not have been conscious of in the past.
You may also discover that body sensations that seem unexpected or disconnected from your current experience may not even belong to you. Psychic energy sometimes can take a while to dissipate. So that sudden stab of pain in your arm as you are walking down a street may actually be a recent injury felt by a passerby.
If you want to know more about this type of practice, I recommend the book, “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach. Guided meditation tapes are also available for a modest fee. Look for “Guided Mindfulness Meditation”, series 1, by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.
A variation of this meditation is to pay attention to contact sensations. Pay attention to the sensations of touch – your hands against your legs or each other, your clothing against your skin, the pressure of your bottom against the cushion or chair, the sensation of your feet against the floor and the air against your skin.
Content © Janet Dane unless otherwise stated.