4.0 What have we experienced thus far in our journey of mindfulness?
In this journey to bring mindfulness into our daily experience, we learnt that mindfulness is awareness and mindfulness is heartfulness. Mindfulness allows us to respond to our environment, others and ourselves with lovingkindness. Paying attention in a purposeful and intentional way moment by moment is an act of self-care and it will make us more alive and appreciative in all that we do. In the mindfulness exercises thus far we may have experienced the calming effects of paying attention to our breath or the replenishing effects of tuning in to our surroundings and listening in an intentional way to sounds far and near.
Why do we need to be deeply aware of our bodies?
In our journey to cultivate lovingkindness to ourselves, we need to cultivate a deep awareness of the solidity our bodies provide us with. Much of the time our bodies raise deep seated insecurities as we have a tendency to constantly compare ourselves to picture perfect models and standards of beauty dictated by the external world.
What is the Body Scan Meditation?
Today we’ll experience the short version of the Body Scan Meditation. It is an invitation for you to pay attention, in an intentional way, to the different parts of your body that make up the whole: toes, soles of your feet, ankles and so on….
Purpose of the Body Scan Meditation
In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat Zinn postulates:
When we put energy into actually experiencing our body and we refuse to get caught up in the overlay of judgmental thinking about it…we get more in touch with how wonderful it is to have a body in the first place, no matter what it looks or feels like…the way to do this is to tune in to your body and be mindful of it without judging it.
We will feel a sense of wonder…even if some other parts of the body may be giving us trouble or not functioning at its optimum level. The body scan meditation is also an effective way of developing both concentration and flexibility of attention simultaneously as you focus on the different parts of your body before looking at your body as whole.
Body Scan Meditation for Beginners
This is a short body scan introductory meditation that invites you to scan just the left and right legs.
By now you should be familiar with the routine to begin meditating: sit comfortably or lie on your back for this meditation and relax. Be aware of discomfort or tightness in any part of your body due to clothing or hair accessories pinching your skin. Feel free to adjust till you are ready. When you are ready, drop your gaze and close your eyes gently.
1. Tune in to your breath and meditate
Bring your awareness to your breath. Watch your breath. Follow the rhythm of your breath as you inhale and exhale. Notice the passage of your breath as you inhale……(pause) Continue to watch your breath as you exhale. (pause) Do about 6 inhalations and exhalations without any expectations of yourself. Just follow your breath. (pause) Sit and be with the natural rhythm of your breath for a little longer.
2. Focus your attention to your big and second toes in your left leg
Next focus your attention to your big toe. Gently visualise your big toe…stay here for a while and observe the sensations you feel in your big toe. (pause) Then move your focus to the second toe…do the same…visualise the second toe and feel the sensations in your second toe. (pause) Observe if you feel any tingling sensations or numbness or pain. (pause) You may feel nothing and it’s quite okay…there is no right or wrong way. If there is pain, just observe and befriend the pain with kindness, friendliness and acceptance. If your thoughts stray to any other part of the body or some other moment, bring the attention gently back to the second toe…and get ready to move on to third toe.
3. Focus your attention to your third, fourth and fifth toes in your left leg
Moving to the third toe do the same…gently visualise your third toe…(pause) stay here for a while and observe the sensations you feel on your third toe. (pause) Then move your focus to the fourth toe…do the same…visualise the fourth toe and feel the sensations. Observe if you feel any tingling sensations or numbness or pain. (pause) Let your attention stay in that region for a little longer…(pause) before we move on to the fifth toe. Do the same…visualise and observe the sensations. (pause) We continue this way until we create awareness in all our five toes on our left leg.
4. Focus your attention to the whole of the left leg
As you breathe in and out normally, focus on your left leg, moving your attention systematically from the foot, up to the ankle, then shin, calf, knee and thigh. Get a sense of your whole left leg (pause…stay a little longer with the bodily sensations of your left leg before moving on to the right leg.
5. Repeat the process with your toes in the right leg
Now repeat the process with your toes in the right leg with the intention to befriend and get to know your body intimately. Beginning systematically with your big toe (pause), second (pause), third (pause), fourth (pause) and fifth toe (pause)…look at all five toes…(pause) then move your attention to the foot, ankle, shin, calf, knee and thigh. Get a sense of your whole right leg (pause)… stay a little longer with the bodily sensations.
6. Stay in silence and stillness and observe the sensations in both your legs
As you complete the body scan dwell in silence and stillness. Watch your attention. Where does it go? When you are ready, bring your attention to both your legs. (pause) Feel the solidity of both your legs resting against the surface. (pause) Slowly and gently wriggle your toes and feel whatever sensations arise for you. (pause) Observe the sensations and stay in this space a little longer before you bring this meditation to a close.
4.1 Mindful Journaling
Mindful journaling is an act of self-care. In many ways it helps you to explore and discover more about yourself, your relationship with others and the environment you live in.
Purpose of journaling about your body
This mindful journaling exercise will help you discover more about your attitude towards your body, your sense of body image and your relationship with your body.
Writing freely about your body without fear and judgment will allow you to come face to face with some of the insecurities you may have eluded all this time out of shame, guilt or any other reason. It will provide you with the opportunity to explore your fears and insecurities you may have about your body and ask questions: What is it I am feeling? Why do I feel the way I do? Where are they coming from? What can I do to have a greater appreciation of my body?
Some of you may discover that you have a healthy relationship with your body without being narcissistic and obsessive about looking like a star all the time. That is also a great finding…
When you accept and acknowledge your fears without judgement you’ll find it easier to let go of any insecurities you may have of your body and its appearance. It will eventually lead to you befriending your body with lovingkindness and self-care.
Treat yourself and give yourself the space and time to write freely and explore what is embedded within you.
6 Tips for journaling about your body
1. Visualize your body as a whole
Scan your body parts quickly from your head to toes systematically one by one, starting from the crown of your head to eyes, ears, nose and mouth before moving down to your neck. Move next to your shoulders, chest, abdomen, hips, thighs, calves and feet. Next, visualize your whole body sitting, walking, standing, lying down or in any posture or movement. Stay here comfortably feeling the weight of your body rest solidly on the ground that supports it. Enjoy the feeling of stability that the moment presents. Once you are ready reach out for your journal.
2. Make a list of everything you love about your body?
Now make a quick list of all the things that fill you with wonder and amazement about your body.
3. Read and select ONE thing from the list
Read through your list thoughtfully and select ONE thing you love most about your body. What made you choose this over the rest? When you are sure put a star against what you love most about your body.
4. Write about the ONE thing (5 min)
Now write without judgment or fear about the one thing you love most about your body…what does it make you feel? What are some emotions and thoughts that surface when you think about your body in this way…why do you feel this way? Write freely without worry.
5. Reflect on what you have written
What emotions did you feel while writing? What surprised you? What did you discover about your relationship with your body? What did you discover about your writing? How did it make you feel overall? You may write your responses to these questions in your journal or blog about it.
You may share this piece of writing on your blog or social media or just with your close family and friends. If sharing is not your thing, that is also fine.
6. List three things you can do to honour your body
Write about the top three things you want to do today to make your body feel honoured. Make a resolution today to treat your body as a friend you may have neglected. What can you do to make your friend feel loved and cared for?
I resolve to________________________________________________________________________________________________
Let your resolutions work for you and enjoy feeling at home in your body.