* Settle in a meditative posture, a posture you can sit as comfortably in for the duration of the meditation
This often means body relaxed and hanging off of an upright and extended spine
* When you’re ready, attempt to feel the physical sensation at the crown of your head. Make contact with whatever sensations you feel there – deeply encounter, sense, feel, be with, open to, be intimate with, and allow to them. Let your awareness sink deeply into the sensations in the crown of your head like water in a sponge. Try to sink your awareness into the subtle, ever changing vibration of each body sensation as you feel it. Be aware of the dynamic change through time of the sensation, its constant vibration of expansion and contraction.
* The sensations that you are noticing may be intense or subtle, may be hot or cold, maybe hard and heavy or light and soft, may feel like pressure or like release, may be experienced as painful, pleasant, or neutral, may be coming into existence or disappearing from awareness, may be rapidly vibrating or slowly humming, and may be expanding and spreading or contracting and collapsing (or both). They can have any sort of characteristics at all.
* Do your best to try to not change your body sensations, or regulate them in any way. Just notice them as they are, let them change or stay as they do.
— Let your scalp “speak to” your conscious mind, and you just receptively listen, with gentle spacious curiosity.
— Try to have no expectations of how this part of your body will feel. You are not trying to make anything
in particular happen. You are just intimately noticing what is actually there and happening right now.
— Get closer to your sensations. Get to know them. See if you can discover something new about them
by experiencing them more intimately.
— Do your best to be precisely aware of sensations exactly as they are, but also be openly allowing of them.
Experience their perfection, exactly as they are.
— Do your best to deeply enter the primordial world of pure feeling, without thinking.
* If this area is blank, or it is difficult to make contact, sit and hover for a few seconds, patiently waiting for sensation to reveal itself.
* Keep your awareness fluid, relaxed, open, receptive, and alert. Cultivate a pure awareness that is independent of what it is aware of – neither for or against, just deeply aware.
* After a certain period of time, move you awareness to another small part of your scalp. Feel the sensation there. Eventually move your awareness though your entire scalp, small part-by-small part. Try to spend approximately the same amount of time with each section – don’t zoom past some parts that are unpleasant and linger in others that feel good.
* When you are done moving your awareness through all of the sub-sections of the scalp, sit and feel sensations on the entire scalp.
* When done with scalp – move on to each little subsection of your face and ears. When done with each subsection of the face, feel your entire face at once. Then move on to sweeping your awareness though one arm part-by-part from shoulder to hand, then the other arm, then the front of the torso, then the back, then your pelvis and lower torso, then one leg from the hip down to the foot, then the other.
— With each area/limb, feel a tiny subsection at a time, scanning through the part methodically and patiently
— When finished with each subsection of a limb/area, feel the entire limb/area
— When finished with all areas/limbs, feel the entire body for a bit
— Then start back upwards, in reverse, feeling each little bit of the body as you go
* You can move your attention through the body in a way such that it takes hours to get all the way from one end to the other, spending lots of time with each sequential tiny area. You can also move your attention through the body in a way such that it takes just one breath to get all the way from one end to the other, spending a brief time with a few large areas (head, arm, arm, torso, leg, leg). Most body scans are done in a time and area size somewhat in between, adjusted to fit into the time available for a meditation session.
* Try to let go of and not encourage any mental visualizing of body parts that you may do as you scan through the body. This visualization is a common thing for the brain to do, and please make no attempt to suppress it or fight it. But do your best to ignore your mind’s visualizing of body parts as you sweep awareness through.
* If mind wanders off into thoughts, plans, memories, other physical sensations, wondering what you are doing, or anything else that is not the precise part of the body that you are paying attention to at the moment – gently let go of that other object of mind, and return to sweeping through the body. Think of it as like training a puppy to sit in its box – do not be harsh, be patient and kind, but do be persistent and intentional in picking the puppy/mind up and repeatedly bringing it back.
Do your best to let the whole inner and outer universes fall away from the one point where you are feeling your body. If you find it helpful, you may want to say some words inside your mind to briefly make an internal label for the type of distraction that has come up for you:
— “hear in”, for thinking that is internal conversations, analysis, evaluations, and music stuck in your head
— “hear out”, for words and sounds in the outside world that you hear with your actual ears
— “body”, for body sensations other than the one specific one that you are currently attending to
— “see in”, for images and movies that you see in your thoughts, in your mind’s eye
— “see out”, for actual images that you see in the external world, if your eyes are open
as a way of helping you to let go of it, of letting it blow away like dry leaves in an autumn wind. Then gently bring your awareness back to the body sensation you are working with.
Sometimes bringing your mind back is relatively difficult, and sometime it is relatively easy. Either way, give it the best you are able. And any time you notice that your mind has wandered, rather than get down on yourself, it is a cause to celebrate – that is something that you would not have even noticed if you weren’t meditating. It is a sign that you are actually doing the technique correctly, that you are actually meditating.
You can use this mindfulness meditation to strengthen body mindfulness by sweeping your awareness through your body. Begin at the top of your head and allow your attention to focus your attention in this region. Simply be aware of any sensations or vibrations that you experience here. Then allow your mindful attention to travel slowly down through all parts of your body in an orderly progression, part by part, lighting each part up with awareness. Let your mindfulness flow through your body like a warm wave or gentle breeze.
Welcome whatever comes to your attention. If what you encounter is pleasurable or painful, let those feelings flow into and through your awareness of the present, ever-changing moment. In the practice of body sweeping, we simply observe natural bodily sensations, not searching for any particular type of sensation, nor try to avoid sensations of another type. The effort is only to observe ordinary physical sensations as they naturally occur objectively, to be aware of whatever sensations manifest themselves throughout the body.
Body sensations may be of any type: heat, cold, heaviness, lightness, itching, throbbing, contraction, expansion, pressure, pain, tingling, pulsation, vibration, or anything else. Whether the sensations are pleasant or unpleasant, intense or subtle is irrelevant in this practice. The task is simply to observe objectively. Whatever the discomforts of the unpleasant sensations, whatever the attractions of the pleasant ones, we simply observe ourselves with the same detachment as a scientist observing in a laboratory.
When we first begin this practice, we may be able to perceive sensations in some parts of the body and not in others. Try not to be discouraged that you are not noticing sensations. At all times there are sensations on all parts of the body, although they may be subtle, and you might be not able to notice them yet. The faculty of awareness is not yet fully developed, so we only experience the intense sensations and not the finer, subtler ones. If you feel no strong sensations in certain areas, pause for a few seconds before moving onto another area, and see what may emerge. In this way, we gradually reach the point where we can experience sensations in every part of the body.
Concentration gives us the ability to fix the attention on an object of conscious choosing, which in this case means being aware of sensations that occurs at this moment in the part of the body where the attention is focused. This also means not jump from the current area being scanned to another area since the sensations in the other area might be stronger. Just simply tell yourself “I will get to those strong sensations, when I get to that area.”
Thoughts may pop up during the meditation, but simply note them as a thought and continue bringing your attention to the scanned area.
Pay particular attention to how subtle sensations change, how everything inside you is moving, vibrating, changing moment to moment. As your mindfulness of your body deepens through practice of body scan meditation, it will reveal a treasury of profound insights to you.
From Shinzen Young, in “Sources of Body Sensation“:
Physical sensation can come from:
* The physical impact of your environment (such as the touch or feeling of what you are sitting on, your clothes, the air, jewelry watches and glasses, or another part of your body)
* Ordinary body processes, temporary states of the body, and other internal factors (such as respiration, digestion, muscle twitches, blood circulation, aches and pains, heart beat, itches, full bladder, rumbling stomach, posture, or tiredness/freshness)
* Body sensations triggered in reaction to the other senses on your body (for example, hearing – for example, smiling when hearing a bird chirp, cringing when hearing nails on a blackboard), seeing (for example, the body may feel different with eyes closed as opposed to open – specific visual objects may cause distinct body reactions), smell, or taste)
* Body sensations associated with moods and emotions (for example, anger, love, fear, excitement, amusement, sadness, shame, relaxation, joy, repose, fascination, disgust, sexual arousal, or pleasurable concentration)
* A physical reaction to something that you think about (a reaction to internal talk and internal imagery)
* Body sensations from reactions to other body sensations (for example, agitation, fear, or “poor me” sensations may arise in reaction to physical pain)
* Body sensations associated with urges and desires (for example, driven-ness, impatience, compulsion, agitation, curiosity or urges to know, motivation, tempting memories of pleasure, abd aversive memories of discomfort)