Mindfulness Exercise Three
Many of us are involved in work and life that requires us to use our minds and pay scant attention to our body. Yet, our body is often the clue to what we are feeling and tells us what is going on, well before the mind has caught on and usually made sense with a particular, and not always helpful narrative.
This practice is aimed at developing our ability to tune into what is going on, what we are experiencing and recognising the deep contention between mind and body. The aim is to become more aware of how we pay attention – sometimes we will focus on particular areas and sensations and sometimes we will be zooming out to become aware of more general areas and experiences. We will also become more aware of how distracted the mind gets (and it will). This noticing is the crucial thing, as we can then bring back our focus to the body. The body scan can be a difficult practice for many people. Some people have a difficult or complicated relationship with their body, so be kind and compassionate to yourself. It will take practice.
This exercise is adapted from Mindfulness Association MBLC course materials.
Exercise 3: Becoming More Aware of the Body
This exercise is adapted from Mindfulness Association MBLC course materials. The exercise will take 30 minutes.
The Body Scan – Read by Karen Lawson
- Find a comfortable place to lie down, on the bed or on the floor, or sit on a comfortable chair, remembering that your intention is to foster awareness and wakefulness and not to fall asleep. Make sure that you will be warm enough and cover yourself with a blanket if necessary
- Set an intention to be mindful during this practice.
- Close your eyes and focus for a while on the rising and falling of the breath in your body. This breath renews our life with every in-breath. It lets go of what is no longer needed with each out-breath. Feel the letting go as each out-breath exits the body. Feel the flowing of the entire breath throughout the body – riding the sensations like surfing a wave. Take a few moments to have a sense of your body as a whole, from head to toe, the outline of your skin, the weight of your body with the sense of gravity bearing down upon it. Notice the points where your body is in contact with the surfaces it rests upon.
- Bring your attention to the big toes on both of your feet and explore the sensations that you find here. Not trying to make anything happen – just feeling what you are feeling. And gradually broaden your awareness to include your other toes, the soles of your feet, the other parts of your feet, and allow your feet to soften and relax. Imagine that your breath is moving down to your feet, and that your awareness is like a warm light, a shaft of sunlight allowing your feet to relax and be held in awareness.
- Gradually broaden this light of awareness to include your ankles, calves, knees and thighs, allowing the muscles to soften and become heavy. Imagine a sense of space in your joints and your muscles letting go of tension, falling away from the bones. Let your awareness include your buttocks and notice any holding of energy here. And again, bring the breath awareness into your legs, as if you could breathe into your legs, and broaden your awareness so you can hold the whole of your legs within this awareness.
- And gradually in stages, allow the awareness to spread to your abdomen, lower and upper back, shoulders, rib-cage and chest. Bring awareness to your spine, gently curving through your body, and the point at which it meets the skull. Have a sense of the solid frame of your body. And breathe awareness into each of these body parts – feeling the motion of the breath through the body. Bring your awareness down your arms and into your hands, fingers, finger-tips. Notice the warmth and energy that is stored in the palms of your hands. Notice what the hands feel like at rest.
- And gradually bring awareness to your head, neck, throat and face, noting any tension held in the muscles around the forehead, around the eyes, the jaw and the mouth. Notice how sensitive your face feels to the temperature of the air in the room. Allow your face to soften with your awareness.
- And now, bring your awareness back to your breathing and notice how the body tenses and relaxes as it rises and falls. Pay attention to the breath as it is felt in the body and try to maintain this awareness with an overall sense of your body – as if your whole body is breathing and held in awareness. Be aware of the quality of your experience and note any emotional tones present without judging them. When you are ending your practice, start by slowly moving the body, perhaps wriggling your toes, making sure not to come out of the practice too quickly.
After the Practice
After the practice take a few moments to reflect, and journal on these questions.
- What did you notice about the different parts of the body?
- What sensations did you experience?
- How aware are you generally of what is happening in your body?
- What did you notice about your mind during this exercise?