MINDFULNESS OF THE BODY SCAN. The Reason. The Application. The Practice. The Benefits


In his masterly discourse on Mindfulness, the Buddha encouraged mindfulness of the body.

He referred to direct experience of physical life (the full range of sensations), sitting, walking, standing, reclining, all movement, including subtle movements, parts of the body, the elements (earth, air, heat, liquid), to witness death and more.

Who are we to argue with such clarity? Neglect attention to the body and suffering will arise.

The body accompanies us throughout the duration of life.

I have met far too many dedicated Buddhist meditators  in the insight meditation (vipassana) tradition who have given priority of mindfulness of the body in the sitting posture. Mindfulness of the body outside of this posture has less of a priority. Sadly.

A slow, mindful read of the Discourse on the Four Applications of Mindfulness in the Middle Length Discourses offers an expanded exploration of the experience of the whole or parts of the body.

Here are instructions for the Mindfulness of the Body Scan 

We can include the body scan practice sitting, standing, reclining and more.

Why practice the body scan? The regular body scan meditation develops a recognition earlier of an adverse condition in the body due to emotions, states of mind or outer situation, including people and environment.

It brings clarity to impermanence, unsatisfactory factors and non-self (body belongs to nature not to self) while giving mindful attention and respect to the body since the quality of our life depends on it.

The body scan develops harmony of body-mind, a sense of well-being, a capacity to stay in touch with one of the realities of daily life and a freeing up to break the shell of entrapment in the body.

The Body Scan

A body scan meditation might take a few minutes 10 minutes or 30 minutes.

Initially, direct your attention to a full awareness of the whole body.

You are not thinking about the body. You experience the body in the sitting posture. Allow a minute or two for this.

Then place the mindfulness at the top of the head and slowly scan from the head down through to the toes. Experience the head area. Vibrations, sensations, tingling.

Experience the sensations in the back, sides of the head and all over the face.

Move the attention down to experience the neck, back of the neck and sides of the neck. Feel the throat where stress, pressure and contraction can take place. Relax into this area for a minute or two.

Move on to the left shoulder. Notice any warmth, tingling or aches. Moving on through the left arm and then through the right arm to the hand and fingertips. Levels of energy affect different parts of the body or the whole body.

Experience the warmth coldness, coolness in the hands. The hands can reveal calmness or agitation, kindness or aggression, confusion or creativity.

A mindful scan of the body contributes to seeing the healthy and problematic states of mind. Direct mindfulness to the top of the back and move the attention down the spine to the contact of the backside with the cushion or chair. Feel the vibrations and sensations.

Now scan from the top of the chest contacting the chest, heart, diaphragm, stomach, organs, liver, kidney, abdomen and through to the genitals.

We connect with the all or parts of the body as organic life, as vibrations, as sensations. We move onto the legs, the thigh muscles, knees, shin, calf muscles and feet. Experience sensations, vibrations, tingling, throbbing, aching, pain. There is a direct connection with the experience of the body.

Relax into the experience. Change the posture if it becomes pain and resistance to the pain grows.

Once again, give full presence to the whole body. Be clear about specific locations of stress or tension. In the full experience of the whole body, allow yourself to stay present in a non-reactive way. Move mindfully when necessary.

Wisdom around the body liberates us from suffering through identifying with the body as a part of who I am or a possession such as my body. Years of habit govern these views.

Liberation includes a freedom from the contraction around such views while abiding with mindfulness and care to the body.



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