Going inside – the body scan

Scanning the body

The first way to get in touch with your physicality is to carry out a body scan. This just means sitting or lying quietly, setting a timer on your phone or watch for five minutes to begin with. And then, starting at the head, moving your awareness slowly down your body, noticing how each part is feeling. You might be tempted to make mental commentaries around it – eg “ouch, my shoulder is really hurting, I must have done myself in playing squash last night” or “my chest is feeling really tight after that argument”. And then replaying the argument in your head.

But when you notice you’ve been distracted, just bring your attention back to the part of the body without additional commentary. Note the feeling (“this feels hot, this feels tight”) and then keep on moving down, until you reach your toes. If you get there before your timer sounds, repeat the process from the top of your head again. In time, you will feel comfortable going more slowly. But at first, the important thing is to just get into the habit. Do this at least every day, ideally twice a day, so you get into the habit of experiencing what your body is actually feeling like in any given moment. You’ll also begin to notice how no sensation is completely the same two body scans in a row. What might have felt like “general back pain” before will now be more subtle. You’ll notice how, when you scan the body in the morning, the sensations will be different from the evening – maybe more or less intense. Plus, you’ll notice you feel them in a different area.

Try and resist the temptation to label the sensations as “good” or “bad”. Just be with whatever you are feeling in your body for that moment. Not only is this good for generally checking in, but you also begin to notice how everything changes, even when we think it is fixed.

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