– why you chose this topic
– how your belly, chest, and head each feel when you reflect on this topic
– the emotions that you can associate with these visceral feelings
– the positive or negative impact of any stories you believe in regarding this topic
– the consoling/humbling/inspiring fact that many others are feeling similarly about this topic as you
– how you will feel with increased awareness around this topic
– when you can apply increased mindfulness to this topic in your day-to-day life
When you’re feeling stressed out, you may carry tension in your neck, shoulders, and back; you may breathe more shallowly or have other physical symptoms of emotional stress. Many times, people aren’t even aware that they are carrying stress in their bodies. You may feel physical discomfort but not realize that it is connected to your thoughts. Body scan meditation is a helpful practice to learn that you can perform daily or even several times throughout the day to get in touch with what you’re feeling and why and learn to release the tension in your mind and body alike. Here’s how to try your own body scan meditation.
Start by getting into a comfortable position where you can fully relax your body. You may lie down or sit comfortably, whatever feels best to you. (Body scan meditation is a great way to help yourself get to sleep, too.) Focus on breathing more slowly, through your abdomen rather than through your chest. Your belly should inflate and deflate like a balloon with each breath.
Bring your awareness to your body. Begin with your head and notice any stress or tension here. Work your way slowly down your body, taking note of any tension in your neck, shoulders, back, hands, legs, or anywhere else. If you have more than a few minutes, you can even start with your head and check in with every single body part your encounter – scalp, forehead, ears, cheeks, lips, chin, etc.
Now that you are aware of the tension in your body and where it is; focus on each spot individually, intentionally relaxing these muscles and even massaging the area if you’d like. Move on to the next area when you feel ready. Breathe into the areas you notice, letting the energy and loving kindness cause your muscles to become more relaxed, and your emotions to become calmer.
Anytime you feel stressed but don’t have enough time to complete the entire body scan meditation; you can do an abbreviated version and enjoy similar benefits. Simply sit where you are and notice any area in your body that may be holding tension, rather than moving from head to toe and focusing on each area. Take a minute to focus on your areas of stress, perhaps briefly massaging the spot and breathing into it to achieve a more relaxed state. With practice, this exercise will become easier and almost automatic, helping you feel calmer and more relaxed every day.
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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