Day 10 Meditation
Today’s body scan meditation is a wonderful way to relax and experience our bodies as ever-changing, dynamic, and more fully alive. It will open the door for new insights about how our bodies are always changing, as solid as they may seem on the surface.
Today’s meditation is one of the longer guided meditations this month (15 minutes) so you’ll need to set aside a longer practice period for it.
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Often people think, I don’t have the right kind of mindfulness or the right level of concentration. Progress is not about levels; it’s about frequency. If we can remember to be mindful, if we can add more moments of mindfulness, that makes all the difference. Countless times a day we lose mindfulness and become lost in reaction or disconnected from what is happening. But the moment we recognize that we’ve lost mindfulness, we have already regained it; that recognition is its essence. We can begin again.
Question & Answer
Q: Sometimes when I meditate after work, my body feels tense and twitchy, and I’m distracted. Would I have a better meditation if I did some yoga or other stretches first?
A: Knowing this about yourself is a good start. First I’d suggest doing a walking meditation before you sit if you tend to feel restless at the outset. Or you could replace the seated session altogether with a walking meditation if you’re in a place where that’s possible. Another option is right before doing a seated meditation, take five or ten minutes to stretch your body, or do a couple of yoga postures that you know get rid of kinks. Stretch in any way that your body is telling you it needs. Then settle in to your seated posture and begin your meditation session. See if your body has quieted down enough to free you to pay attention to the breath. Of course, if you feel agitation or discomfort while seated, try to be with these feelings in a balanced way to see what you can learn from them.
Today I’ll be taking you through a body scan meditation that helps us relax and also helps us experience our bodies as ever-changing, dynamic, and more fully alive. Start by lying down on a comfortable spot with your arms by your sides and your eyes closed. Breathe naturally. You’re going to do a scan of the entire body, from top to bottom, as a way of getting centered, a reminder that you can be at home in your body.
To begin, feel the floor, or the bed, or the couch supporting you. Relax and allow yourself to be supported. Bring your attention to your back. When you feel a spot that’s tense or resisting, take a deep breath and relax. If during your body scan you detect a sensation that’s pleasant, you may feel an urge to hang onto it. If so, relax, open up, and see if you can be with the sensation of pleasure without clinging to it.
If you detect a sensation that’s painful, you may reflexively try to push it away. You may feel angry about it or afraid of it. If you spot any of these reactions, see if you can release them. Come back to the direct experience of the moment. What is the actual sensation of the pain or pleasure? Feel it directly, without interpretation or judgment.
Bring your attention to the top of your head, and simply feel whatever sensations are there, tingling or itching, pulsing. Perhaps you notice an absence of sensation. Very slowly, let your attention move down the front of your face. Be aware of whatever you encounter, tightness, relaxation, pressure, whether pleasant, painful, or neutral. In your forehead, nose, mouth, cheeks. Is your jaw clenched or loose? Turn your attention to your eyes and feel the weight of your eyelids, the movement of your eyeballs in their sockets, the brush of the lashes. Feel your lips. The light pressure of skin on skin, softness, moisture, coolness.
You needn’t name these things, just feel them. If you can, try to step out of the world of concepts, like eyelids or lips, and into the world of direct sensation, intimate, immediate, alive, ever-changing. Return your attention to the top of your head. Then, move down the back of the head, over the curve of your skull. Notice your neck, any knots or sore spots. Once again, return to the top of the head. Then, move your attention down the sides, feeling your ears, the sides of your neck, the tops of your shoulders.
You don’t have to judge the sensations or trade them in for different ones. Just feel them. Slowly move your awareness down the upper arms, feeling the elbows, the forearms. Let your attention rest for a moment on your hands, the palms, the backs. See if you can feel each separate finger, each fingertip.
Bring your attention back to the neck and throat, and slowly move it down through the chest, noticing any sensations you find there. Keep moving your attention downward to the rib cage, the abdomen. Your awareness is gentle, receptive. You’re not looking for anything special, but rather staying open to whatever feelings you might find. You don’t have to do anything about them. You’re just noticing them.
Return your attention to your neck, and now let your awareness move down the back of your body. Shoulder blades, the mid back, the lower back. You may feel stiffness, tension, creakiness, quivering. Whatever you encounter, simply notice it. Now, bring your attention into the pelvic area and see what sensations you feel there. Slowly move your awareness down your thighs, your knees, your calves, and all the way down your legs. Feel your ankles. Settle your attention into your feet.
When you feel ready, open your eyes. As you end the meditation, see if you can continue to feel the world of sensation and all of its changes moment by moment, as you move into the activities of your daily life.