Nancy Waring: Hello everyone. This is Nancy Waring, the founding director of the Mindfulness Studies program at Lesley University. And I’d like to invite you to join me in a body scan meditation. This is a practice that we do for deep relaxation as well as to come into close relationship to the body, which we often forget about during the day. It is a practice of full embodiment and deep relaxation.
So, to begin with, I’d like to invite you to lie down on a mat or on your bed, on your back. With your hands face down on the mat, allowing the feet to fall apart. Take a little pause here while you get settled. If it doesn’t work for you to lie on a mat, on your back, on your bed for a half hour or so, it is possible to do this in a sitting position. So, at the onset, allowing the entire body to sink into the support of the mat, all the limbs to be heavy. The legs, the arms, allowing the shoulders to drop back. You may want to have the back of the head supported by a shallow pillow if that works for you. This exercise is often the exercise that’s done at the very start of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, the premise being that the first thing we want people to have the opportunity to do is to find out what it feels like to really be relaxed. And also, to find out what it’s like to be fully aware of the body. Mindfulness of the body is the first foundation of mindfulness. So often, many of us are out of touch with our bodies or have ideas about our bodies suggesting that they should be different, this way or that way. So here, we are just allowing our bodies to be exactly as they are and appreciating them for being exactly as they are and for being, for offering us the possibility of deep relaxation. Sometimes it happens that people get really sleepy when doing this exercise and can even fall asleep. That may happen, not a problem. If it does, wherever we are in the exercise when you awaken, just pick up and continue from there. But our purpose is to fall awake. To really fall awake to our bodies, to being fully embodied in the present moment in quite a refined way. So we are going to move through different body parts and focus our attention as we go.
Let’s begin with the toes of the right foot. The toes of your right foot. Is it possible to isolate the toes: to feel the big toe, the second toe, the middle toe, the next toe, and finally the little toe. We can go back and forth, scanning among the toes as you like, noticing any sensations of coolness or warmth or sensations between the toes. Or lack of sensation if that’s how it is with your toes. Noticing the toe nails, giving a little attention to the part of the toes that connect to the floor when your standing, the toe joints. Contact with the sock if you’re wearing a sock. When you’re ready, moving the mind’s eye to the ball of the foot. The musculature of the ball of the foot begins at the base of the toes. And becoming aware of sensations, heat or coolness or contact with a sock, or lack of sensation. Now the arch of the right foot. We might not think of our arches very often but it’s certainly an important part of the anatomy of the foot. Your arch, your however concave arch, moving onto the heel. Considering the heel exactly as it is, moving to the top of the right foot. Between the base of the toes and the ankle, this region of the foot. And if you can, imagine sending the breath right down to the foot, sending the breath right down through the chest, through the abdomen, the right leg, all the way down to the foot. Breathing into the foot. And when you’re ready, bringing attention to the ankle, to the ankle bones on either side, front of the ankle, the back of the ankle, the Achilles tendon. And now the lower part of the right leg. Noticing the fleshy back of the calf in contact with the mat. The sharper, more vulnerable shin bone at the top of the leg. The lower portion of the leg and now the knee, the hinge joint of the knee that does so much for us. The back of the knee, where the knee bends, the knee cap, underside of the knee cap. And now the thigh, allowing the thigh to be heavy and soft. Noticing the back of the thigh in contact with the mat or the bed. And again, if you can in your mind’s eye, imagine sending the breath right down from the upper body to the leg. Breathing into the leg from the top of the thigh all the way down to the foot, allowing the breath to soothe and relax the leg.
Now noticing the front of the hip, front bony protrusion of the hip bone. In your mind’s eye, sweeping across the right hip to the left hip, that nubby part at the front of the hip bone. Directing the attention down to the left foot, the toes of the left foot. Once again, is it possible to isolate the individual toes? If that doesn’t work for you, not a problem. But if you can, see if it’s possible to notice the left big toe, the second toe, the third toe, the fourth toe, and the little toe. Each individually. And again, you can move your attention back and forth among the toes, between the toes. Noticing any sensation of warmness or coolness, moisture or contact with a sock perhaps, or lack of sensation, whatever is going on with you. Your left toes are ever so serviceable and should be appreciated. Moving now to the ball of the foot, the muscly ball of the foot at the base of the toes. Noticing its roundness, appreciating it, feeling for sensations, or lack thereof. And the arch: how is it with the arch, the arch of the left foot? And the heel. The place where the heel makes contact with the floor. And the two ankle bones jutting out a little bit on either side of the ankle. Top of the ankle, the Achille’s tendon. And again, if it’s possible, sending the breath right down through the chest and the abdomen, lower leg, all the way to the foot. Just noticing any sensations in the foot and the ankle, region of the foot and the ankle. Breathing down into the foot and the ankle. And now the lower left leg, noticing the weight of the muscly calf in contact with the mat. The more delicate shin bone that runs between the ankle and the knee. And now the knee, the back of the knee, the kneecap, underneath the kneecap. Moving on now to the thigh, noticing the back of the thigh and the more muscly top of the thigh. Allowing the thigh to be soft and heavy. If you can, sending the breath right down from its origin through the chest and the abdomen and the hip, right down through the lower left leg, all the way to the foot. Allowing the breath to gently soothe and massage the left leg.
Now coming back to the belly and noticing how the breath—on the in-breath, the belly naturally rises and drops back towards the spine on the out-breath. Lingering a bit in this region of the body that we’re so familiar with from our meditation practice. The in-breath, the space in between the in-breath and the out-breath, the out-breath. Just as it is. Not trying to control the breathing in any way. Moving around, noticing the buttocks in contact with the floor and seeing if it’s possible to relax the gluteus muscles in the buttocks. Telling the buttocks to be soft and at rest. Beginning now to notice the lower back above the buttocks and the space in the little arch of the back. The arch of the lower back. And if it’s possible and you can relax this region, you may find that the lower back gets closer to the mat. Mine is almost completely flat in contact with the mat. Or not, no straining or struggling here. Just seeing if the back does drop a little bit when we invite it to relax. Coming up the spine now, vertebrae by vertebrae, and noticing along the way when you reach the middle of the back. The shoulder blades, the upper back, backs of the shoulders, the spine right up to where the top cervical vertebrae meets the base of the skull. Tending now to the entirety of the back for a few moments, coming around the body again back to the abdomen and breathing of the abdomen. As we move up the front of the torso, noticing the ribcage which stretches around from the front of the body to the back. Considering the heart space, allowing the attention to move to the heart. Allowing the heart to be open. Noticing the breaths, starting at the collar bones.
As you lie here, attending to the upper part of your body, appreciating the heart and lungs knowing that with the beat of the heart and the air filling your lungs and your lungs sending out fresh oxygenating blood, nourishing every cell of the body. Moving back up to the collar bones and noticing the collar bones from the inner point, this little dip, to the outer sides where the collar bones meet the shoulders. Coming back in, noticing the neck, the front of the neck, noticing the Adam’s apple or the absence of an Adam’s apple. The thyroid, the back of the neck, where the neck meets the underside of the head in the front and back of the head in the back. Again, tending to the shoulders, moving out from where the shoulders meet the neck, across the shoulders, where the shoulders meet the arms. We’ll do both arms at once. Bringing the mind’s eye to the armpits. The armpits, noticing any sensation in the region of the armpits. Any moisture or warmth or coolness of the armpits, connecting with the arms. Noticing the upper arms, both the left and the right, backs of the upper arms, all the way down to the elbow. The fronts of the arms, the triceps, the biceps, right down to the inner space of the elbow where the elbow bends. Noticing the elbow bone and where the arm bends on the other side of the elbow. And now the forearms, both the left and right forearm. Top of the forearm, the underside of the forearm, right down to the wrists. Noticing the wrist bones, the slight protrusion of the wrist bones on the outer sides of the wrist. And the underside of the wrist, appreciating the front, back or the wrist and the mobility of this important region of the body. And now the hands. Starting with the base of the thumb, the muscly contour or the base of the thumb may be in contact with the mat. And each of the fingers: thumbs, the index finger, middle finger, ring finger, little finger. Nails, cuticles. The regions of the underside of the fingers, the bend joints, the upper side of the joints, top of the fingers, the knuckles. Top of the hands, the palms of the hands. Considering the entirety of the hands relaxed as you lie here appreciating your hands. Once again, if it’s possible for you, sending the breath down from its origin through the neck, tops of the shoulders, right down the arms to the tips of the fingers. You may find that it’s possible to breathe down to the fingertips and draw the breath back up again, allowing the breath to sweep through the arms down through the fingers and back up again.
Turning the attention now to the head, feeling the back of the head where it is in touch with the pillow and the mat. The skull, appreciating your skull for protecting your brain. Noticing the ears, the earlobes, the soft region of the ears. Cartilage of the ears, the winding cartilage of the ears, inside of the ears. Coming down to the bottom of the ears and noticing the jaw, how is it with the jaw. Allowing the jaw to be loose and relaxed, chin, noticing the lips. Perhaps the upper lip and the bottom lip are in contact and, if so, noticing the sensation of contact. The tongue, perhaps, resting gently near the roof of the mouth, in contact perhaps with the back of the teeth. However it is, allow it to be relaxed. Moving now to the area of the face above the upper lip. The nostrils. If you notice the breath coming in and out of the nostrils, you may notice that the breath feels cool as you breathe in and as you breathe out, the breath is warm as it touches the upper lip and warms the upper lip. Warmed by the body. Cool on the in-breath, warm on the out-breath. Noticing the now region of the face, on either sides of the nose, the cheekbones. Moving up to the region of the face underneath the eyes, and the eyes. Allowing the eyelids to rest gently on the eyes, noticing the orbital bones, the region above the eyes and below the eyebrows, the space between the eyebrows, the eyebrows themselves, the forehead, the temples. Allowing the whole face to drop slightly if it’s possible for you. You have hundreds of little muscles in your face, appreciating them and allowing them to relax. As you slowly begin to move the attention to the top of the head, top of the skull. If you like, you can imagine that there’s a hole in the top of the skull like the blowhole of a whale. A hole in the top of the skull like the blowhole of a whale and then it’s possible to imagine breathing in through the top of the head, through this whale-like blowhole and allow the breath to sweep down through the face, the chest, the back, torso, the legs, all the way down to the bottoms of the feet. Breathing in through the bottoms of the feet, all the way up through the body and out through the top of the head. As you lie here, imagining if you can, this sweeping of the breath from the opening of the top of the head right down through the entire body and out the soles of the feet, in through the soles of the feet, up through the opening at the top of the head. In through the opening at the top of the head, sweeping right through and out the bottoms of the feet. Simply lying here, allowing the sweeping of the breath to continue for a minute, noticing sensations.
The breath in through the top of the head, right down through the face, the neck, the chest, the abdomen. Right down to the tips of the feet, the bottoms of the feet. Let the breath just sweep in this way for a few more cycles. When you’re ready, allow the breathing to return to its regular pattern, to its rising and falling at the abdomen and just resting. Let the body exactly as it is, not wanting it to be any different. Appreciating the different parts of the body that we’ve attended to. Knowing that, at any time of the day, the body is there for you to attend to. Any region of the body that calls your attention is there for you as a refuge. The body as a whole is a refuge. The body is a refuge. Practicing this exercise at least once a day, setting yourself up for heightened awareness of the body throughout the day. Appreciating the body throughout the day for working as it does for us. When you’re ready, introducing a little bit of movement, perhaps stretching the fingers, bending the wrists, wiggling the feet from side to side, stretching the ankles forwards and backwards. To complete the exercise, rolling to one side. Rolling to one side and then coming to standing in whatever way works for you. Thank you for joining me in today’s body scan.