Body Scan, Gratitude

Feeling meh? This eyes-open meditation and body scan will lift your spirits

Gratitude and an inner body scan that’s more than skin deep.

This eyes-open meditation and body scan is inspired by all the walks out in the neighbourhood while we’ve been isolated at home during coronavirus. Having the simple pleasure of time to notice the little things in and around the streets of where we live and even within our houses.

It reminds me of being a tourist in a brand new country. As soon as we land, our eyes are wide open, looking all around and marvelling at the things that we’ve never seen before. Our camera is out, ready to take a photograph of the most simple things. The welcome sign at the airport! An interesting rooftop, or a collection of colourful plants on a windowsill.

Something about this backyard mushroom is really, quite, magical!

In Stephen Batchelor’s book, After Buddhism, he refers to this concept as the ‘everyday sublime.’

The quality of beginner’s mind – the mind of a traveller exploring new sights – that brings unexpected joy; bliss and a reverence for life, even in our own backyard.

So despite isolation; of not being able to travel very far, we can still take a trip at any time, just like the tourist.

The Tourist

– MEDITATION –

Grab your headphones, settle in and hit listen in browser.

Welcome. Today’s practice helps us notice and appreciate the very things right in front of us.

So, spending a few moments setting yourself up. Getting cosy. In whatever position feels appropriate for you for the kind of day you’re having.

And before you close your eyes, take some time to bring yourself fully into your surroundings.

WHAT CAN YOU SEE?

Glancing around at all the things you can see in your midst… Looking at your environment… like you’re a tourist

What things grab your attention? What things have you never really looked at before in any detail?

Perhaps it’s as ordinary as the weave of the carpet. Or something so basic as the shapes and sharp edges of a remote control. Or some other object that’s right before you.

Just opening your eyes to all the sights like you’ve never been in this place before.

Using the gift of vision to become present and to be open to receiving a glimpse of something quite magical you’ve not ever spotted before. The awe in the ordinary.

EXPERIENCE THE BREATH

So now, if you’d like to do so, you’re welcome to close your eyes.

And make a connection with your breathing however you perceive it best. Taking the inquisitive nature of the tourist to really experience the breath like it’s the first breath.

You might like to place a hand on your tummy… and feel the rise and fall as the oxygen travels in, and the carbon dioxide travels out.

And just like a tourist, taking a snapshot of the in-breath. Maybe at the top.

And a snapshot of the out-breath. Perhaps at the bottom.

scan the BODY

And as you continue to breathe, the next destination on this little itinerary is the body.

And today we’ll explore the body beginning from the outside and travelling in.

FEEL THE SKIN

And so, we’ll start things off with the skin.

Just gently resting your attention on whichever part of the skin is most obvious, or sensitive to you.

Perhaps for you, it’s the hands, or the face, that are exposed to the cool air… or perhaps it’s a place where you can feel a lot of warmth… where the clothes are hugging snuggly against your body.

And breathing into the skin and out through the skin.

Pausing to observe all the different sensations that you can feel on your skin.

DISCOVER THE FLESH

For our next stop, we’ll travel a little deeper. Breathing into the flesh that lies beneath the skin. Inviting an awareness of the tender flesh just underneath. Breathing in and out through this soft layer of the body.

RELAX THE MUSCLES

And breathing more deeply still, going further within, next aware of your muscles… noticing any tightness that your muscles may be experiencing. …And using the breath to ever-so-slightly relax and dissolve this tension.

SCAN THE SPINE

Beyond the muscles lay the bones; like the spine, the ribcage, collar and shoulder bones. Perhaps you’d like to scan the spine… From top, down to bottom, and back up again.

FIND YOUR HEART

And for our final stop the organs. Discovering the kidneys. Lungs. Liver and Heart.

And as we draw to the end of this internal body scan, you might like to place a hand on your heart.

BREATHE IN LIFE

And just breathe. … Breathe life into all the layers of the body, from outside to within. Breathing life into every tiny little cell.

And if you feel like continuing, when you’re ready, transition into your own meditation. Allow the moments unfold … and for thoughts, emotions, and interruptions to be a welcome part of your experience.

Bon, voyage!

Body Scan

Unwind from stress with this grounding body scan meditation

Thinking harder doesn’t solve problems. Creating headspace does.

This working from home bizzo has seen the English language adopt a new phrase: Zoom fatigue. And with a sample size of me, I concur – this sh*t is real! From work and homeschooling to catchups with family and friends, our screentime has ballooned (as has my waistline) and my eyes have never been so stingy and dry.

Zoom fatigue is real! But not with my new glasses.

And that’s just the physical side effects. Without the twice-daily commute and alone time in the car, I’ve definitely noticed, come 5pm, my head is so chock-full with thoughts, tasks and deadlines I can barely string together a sentence.

It’s at this point I realise the alarm bells have been ringing for some time but I’ve only just bothered to look up and see what the fuss is. Oh yeah.

GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD.

But if we’re not in our heads, then where can we be? Here, in our body. Back down on Earth.

Here’s a grounding body scan meditation you can try to relax, unwind and clear that mental mud. xx

Gravity

– MEDITATION –

Grab your headphones, settle in and enjoy.


Hello.

Get yourself set up, nice and comfortable, wherever it is that you are.

MOVEMENT

Perhaps doing some gentle stretches to start things off. Tilting the head from side to side. Feeling the lovely stretch up the sides of the neck. Rolling the shoulders backwards three or four times… and then forwards.

And if it doesn’t feel too odd, try rocking your body; gently swaying from side to side as a way of preparing for stillness.

And if you’re laying down then you might like to move your hands and feet in a circular motion a few times one way and a few times another.

Just feeling into what the body is experiencing with these gentle movements.

And when you’re ready just becoming centred and still, readjusting yourself into your preferred meditation position.

BREATH

So, I invite you to make contact with the breath now.

Taking a deep refreshing inhalation… and a long cleansing exhalation.

Really feeling the chest open up and expand as the oxygen comes into the lungs. And allowing gravity to pull your muscles downward as you expel all the air out of the body.

Repeating that a few more times. Breathing in that energising in-breath. And on the out-breath allowing the body, and the muscles, to sink further and further towards the earth, allowing gravity to do its thing.

BODY SCAN

In times of stress, busyness or anxiety, feeling grounded and supported by the earth can help us relax, unwind and give us the headspace to navigate difficult situations.

And so, with your breathing returned to its natural state, what might be helpful now is to visit each part of the body and consciously invite gravity to connect it down with the earth.

We’ll start with the most obvious place: the feet. For as Thich Nhat Hanh said, it’s the feet that kiss the earth every time we walk.

Allowing the feet to sink into the floor, imagining if you can, or getting a sense that, they are rooted into the earth.

Then, feeling the underside of the thighs and the bottom making contact with your cushion or the chair… Allowing gravity to draw this base towards the earth, creating a sturdy and solid foundation. Feeling supported by the earth.

Moving upward a little to the pelvis and stomach. Allowing these body parts to yield to gravity. Taking a breath and letting the tummy hang loose. Giving permission for everything to relax and soften and be supported by your base. Your foundation.

As you’re sitting here breathing, you may be able to detect the ribs and the chest expanding and contracting. Moving in and out. So, on the exhale, as the chest contracts, let the gravity centre you, and root you further towards the earth. Imagining that out-breath is like a chord travelling downward, plugging into the earth, like a tether.

So, next, we’ll move up to the shoulders and the arms and surrender these to gravity. Letting them hang and drop, very comfortably and loose.

And finally, reaching the head and the neck. Noticing if there’s any tension… in temples, the jaw, the eyes. The neck.

Allowing the shoulders to support the neck and the head.
Allowing the chest and the ribs to support the shoulders and the arms.
Allowing the pelvis and the tummy to support the chest and the ribs.
Allowing the legs, the buttocks and the feet to support the pelvis and the tummy.
And allowing the earth to support your entire body.

Feeling that gravity attract you further down. Down, down, down towards the earth. The earth that is here to support you. And gravity that’s holding you here in place.

CHECK-IN

So, have a little check-in with the breath, once more. Perhaps, for you, it’s flowing a little more freely now. Or maybe it’s not and that’s okay. Whatever your experience, is completely valid. It will be different every time you meditate.

So, for now, I’ll leave you to go on with your own unguided practice and finish up in your own time.

See you next time.

Body Scan, Walking Meditation

Walking Meditation

MEDITATION THAT MAKES MINDFULNESS PORTABLE

When I first started meditating ago I came to it with a very narrow impression of what it would look like. That is, sitting cross-legged on the floor with my eyes closed. And whilst I soon learned there were also practices like walking meditation, eating meditation and drinking tea meditation, unfortunately, for my practice at home, I’m still very much a one-trick pony!

Of course on retreats, there are sessions of walking, eating and drinking meditation to break up the long sessions of sitting, but I think I’ve associated those as just that – meditations that break up the “real” practice of sitting.

So, what’s the point of walking meditation?

Walking meditation takes the mindfulness we cultivate on the cushion and makes it portable. It gets us used to focusing on movement as the object of meditation, as well as dealing with the added distraction of sight (because in walking meditation we keep our eyes open!)

Walking meditation helps build appreciation for our bodies and our senses. It helps grow the connection that everything we do is an opportunity to be present and experience it for its own sake – not merely as a means to an end.

What does it mean, experience things for their own sake?

What I mean – and we’ll take walking as the example – is that usually when we walk, we are doing it to get from A to B. The act of walking is usually something we do to be somewhere else. And that’s fine. We do need to be places. But at the same time, the walk can also be the destination.

After reading Barry Magid’s book Ending the Pursuit of Happiness, I’ve been using a phrase in meditation that’s helped make sense of this idea.

No gain, just sitting.

And we can modify this for whatever we’re doing.

  • No gain, just walking
  • No gain, just eating
  • No gain, just mowing the lawn
  • No gain, just filing

This means that the activity we’re engaged in isn’t just a vehicle to achieve something else, i.e. the means to an end. And when we don’t have to get anything from or out of these simple activities, it makes the activity itself so much more enjoyable.

How is walking meditation done?

If you’ve never tried walking meditation; it’s pretty easy.

  1. Choose a quiet path of around 10-20 steps where you won’t bump into anything (or anyone!) It could be your backyard, bedroom, hallway or office.
  2. You can dangle your arms down straight, or clasp them in front, or behind you.
  3. Lower your gaze a short distance in front of you.
  4. Walking deliberately slower than you normally would, keep your attention on your feet.
  5. Try to notice all the stages and sensations of walking. Lifting the heel, the ball, the toes, moving the whole foot forward, setting down the heel, the ball, the toes… repeat with the other foot!
  6. When you’ve reached the end of your designated path, turn around and start again.
  7. And just like in seated meditation, whenever you get lost in thoughts, stop, reset and return your attention to the object of meditation – your moving feet.

Tips

  • Like a one-year-old taking their first steps, walking meditation can be wobbly at first! Choose a wider stance to better keep your balance.
  • Try to also maintain awareness of your breathing – syncing the steps to the breath is helpful for some.
  • Just like the support method breath counting, you can count each step to help you stay focused and coordinated.
  • A suggested meditation session might include a 10-minute seated meditation, a 15-minute walking meditation and back on the cushion to finish off with another 10 minutes of seated meditation.

Here’s a short seated meditation to get you in the mood for a walk. See how you go!

Welcome. This is a short, seated meditation you can do to prepare yourself for a walking meditation.

Let’s first begin with some small adjustments to our bodies.

Making sure we’re sitting up as straight as we can. Not too rigid, but our backs free of the chair if we’re sitting in a chair. Supporting our own posture.

Checking that we’re not holding onto any tension in our tummies. Taking a deep breath in and allowing our tummy to relax as we exhale.

Following our breathing in and out, and on the exhale, also allowing the shoulders to drop and the arms to relax.

FOOT SCAN

And ahead of our walking meditation, let’s now spend some time down with our feet. Wonderful feet that bear the weight of our bodies and keep us active and mobile.

We’ll start with the left foot and give it some love and attention.

Beginning with left heel. Noticing any sensations. Drawing an imaginary circle around the heel if that helps maintain a connection.

Moving up to the left arch. Keeping that imaginary circle going as your attention stays here with the left arch.

Now to the ball of the left foot. Sending this particular part of the foot care and kindness for all the work that it does.

And working our way through the left toes. Big toe. Detecting any pulsing or throbbing here. Second toe. Again drawing that circle if it’s hard to sense any of the toes. Third toe. Fourth toe. And pinkie. And taking a deep breath all the way in till it envelopes the entire left foot.

And moving across now to the right foot.

Tending to our right heel. Imagining what it’s like to be the right heel.

Following along up the arch. Drawing that circle around the arch. Giving this part a mental massage if it needs it.

And then to the ball of the right foot. Noting any throbbing or tingling in this area. Keeping our attention just with the ball.

And working up to the right toes. Starting with the pinkie toe. Sensing the presence of the pinkie toe, noting any sensations we can detect in the pinkie.

And drawing our circles around the remaining toes. Fourth toe. Third toe. Second toe. And finally big toe. Sending kindness to all the right toes and breathing in all the way down to encompass the right foot.

You’re now ready for walking meditation.

Just sit for a few moments in silence, connecting with your breath, and when you’re ready you can get up and start your walk.

Enjoy.