Mindfulness means non-judgmental awareness. A direct knowing of what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
The purpose of the body scan is to pay attention to what the body is feeling. By becoming attuned to the physical sensations that arise in each moment inside the body, mindful awareness is grounded and increased.
In today's busy world, people are more aware of their mind than their body. As a result, it is easy to miss subtle signals broadcast by the body, such as pain, hunger and thirst as they get crowded out by more distracting and pressing thoughts such as scheduling, to-do lists and worries.
In this exercise pay full attention to the body and allow your curiosity to lead you into a deeper relationship with what you find.
The body scan can be practised in any posture. Experiment with different ones and see what suits you best.
If it is difficult to follow the exercise by tracing your attention through the body, it can help to add in a tense-and-release of the muscles in each body part. For example, beginning with the feet, start by clenching the feet and curling your toes for two seconds and then letting them go. Do the same with the calf muscles and so on as you continue the journey through the body. In this way, the physical sensations of holding on and letting go can guide you through the practice and give a sense of something tangible to notice as you go.
Begin by finding a comfortable posture and by bringing your attention to the breath. Take a few moments to let yourself arrive and allow the breath to draw you gently into internal awareness. Allow the gaze to soften, the eyes to close.
1) Breathe and notice the body. Remember it. Discover yourself in this moment as a physical being with weight, temperature, texture, colour and energy. Take five breaths here.
2) Are certain parts of your body calling for attention? An itch, a scratch? A shift of body weight? Attend to the body's needs until it is quietly resting at peace.
3) Now bring awareness to the feet and toes. What do you sense? What is present? What do your feet want you to know about how they are feeling in this moment? Take at least five breaths here and gather information.
4) On the next breath, allow your awareness to move up into the legs. How do they feel? Are they comfortable? Go slowly. Check in with the calves, shins, knees and thighs. Feel for temperature, movement and weight. Notice where you are holding on. Take at least five breaths here until ready to move on.
5) Bring your awareness now to the central core of the body: the abdomen and chest. Check in. Listen. Feel. Be in your body. Notice all sensations, images, feelings and words that arise and take five breaths here.
6) Next, bring your attention to the arms and hands. Let your awareness travel down through the upper limbs and into the fingers. Take your time and feel all of the sensations present. Simply notice. Whatever is there, whether it feels pleasant or challenging, take an inventory. Do not add any judgment or commentary to the sensation. Follow and breathe. Listen for five more breaths.
7) Finally awareness moves up through the neck and into the head. Breathe. Listen. Gather. Observe. Witness. Take at least five breaths here.
8) On the next breath set an intention to inhabit the body fully. Imagine the mind and body are one. Take five breaths here.
9) Return to wakefulness in your own way.
Draw the basic outline of your body in your Mindfulness Journal and then use shading, lines and comments to record your experience.
If practising with others, take turns sharing your discoveries.
This practice is an extract from 100 Mindfulness Meditations: The Ultimate Collection of Inspiring Daily Practices by Neil Seligman published by Conscious House and available on Amazon priced £12.99.
10 Mindfulness Meditations is an album of audio meditations to accompany the book and is now available on iTunes priced £7.99
Neil Seligman is the Founder of The Conscious Professional, home of Corporate Mindfulness, Resilience and Wellbeing Solutions.
Also offering 1-1 Mindfulness Coaching, Conscious Life Coaching and Luxury Mindfulness Retreats at Champneys.