When you begin to practice mindfulness almost immediately you become aware of a new spaciousness inside yourself, a calmness and stillness- you give your mind a rest from incessant thinking and reacting.
The body plays a big part in mindfulness because as we learn to become aware of the sensations in our bodies, we learn to listen to the messages our bodies send us. Our bodies register emotions through feeling; tension creates tightening and clenching the muscles, joy and happiness create a lightness of being, joy ripples through our bodies as a sensational delight. Whatever the feeling the body signals by paying attention we can become more mindful; bring attention out of our heads and into our bodies. We can stop thinking and simply be present without doing anything; just enjoy being with nothing to do and nowhere to go. In our speedy, over stimulated lives filled minute by minute with ‘doing’ something this scan be very refreshing and healing. We discover whole new areas of our being that we previously covered over with business. We begin to access a gentler way of being and we are more attentive to the people around us realising we are all in this life together.
Being aware of your body, how it feels, the sensations inside it helps you become more present, let go of incessant aimless thinking and anchors you in the here and now in gentle meaningful way. You choose to be awake to life and get out of the robotic behaviours you previously lived by. This in turns brings a new vitality to your life; colour looks richer, the air is fresher, your mind is clearer, you process information more easily, you remain alert and aware to the mystery of life unfolding around you minute by minute, you escape from the robotic, repetitiveness of a life dulled by familiarity and repetition, people seem more unique as the spiritual beings they all are.
Body Scan Exercise
Body scanning is a practice to bring you fully in contact with the sensation of your body and to anchor you inside your body and take the focus away from your thoughts and get out of your head. With constant aimless thinking, we become numb to the sensations in the body and often miss important warning signals; tightening muscles, nerves in the stomach area, weakening from fear and stress. These are all important signs the body is sending out as warning signals that you are on overload. Learning to listen to your body and training your attention onto the sensation of the body is an important part of being mindful and developing and remaining present. Again, this is a simple technique to anchor you in being- being fully present in the her and now.
It usually takes a while to get the hang of body scanning because your mind will attempt to pull you away with any number of thoughts/ideas/things to do that suddenly seem so much more interesting than putting your attention on different parts of the body. Part of the success, as with the breathing practices is to come back again and again. You will probably lose your focus and start thinking, planning, wanting to do something else but it’s OK. Just continue to bring your attention back to the practice. As with the breathing practice, as soon as you experience the benefits of body scanning you will look forward to the time of day you allocate to it be it just before bedtime, when you wake up, as a break/recharge in the middle of the day. Whenever you choose to do it is the right time!
1. Either sitting on or a chair or lie stretched out on a mat, put your attention on your toes. The aim here is to feel whatever sensation is in the toes; tightness, warmth, cold etc. Don’t look for anything just experience the sensation exactly as they are. Maybe there is no sensation. That’s fine too.
2. Now breathing in and out easily on the out breath relax the toes, breath in, breath out and relax the soles of the feet, breath in , breathe out relax the top of the foot, then repeat the breathing and now relax the whole foot. Coming up the leg breathe in and out relaxing the whole lower leg.
3. Follow this practice to all the different parts of the body; the thighs, the buttocks, the lower back, upper back, pelvis, stomach, chest, fingers, palms, lower arms, upper arms, neck, back of the neck, chin, lips, cheeks, eyes, forehead side of the head, back of the head and finally the top of the head.
4. Now take a long deep breath and feel the whole body from the toes to the top of the head and as you breathe out feel the whole body relax.
5. Starting at the top of the head reverse the order using the same focus on breathing in and out/relax body parts until you reach the toes again and finish with one long, deep breath and feeling the whole body sitting/ lying in a deep state of relaxation.
6. Remember as with the breathing exercises, your mind will wander off but don’t worry, gently bring it back to focus on the scanning. Even if you do it again and again, return to the scanning- don’t judge. In time, you will become so anchored in this practice simply by experiencing the many benefits it brings to mind and body you will eventually do it with no interruptions and then you begin to experience the whole body’s flow of life energy moving in one movement up and down the body. This is very pleasurable as well as centring and calming.