I first heard of the phrase “body scan” a few months ago at a mindfulness session. It’s not unlike yoga practice, where we are taught to be aware of our body and breathing.
Then I recently I read this in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, and feel much clearer about the approach, nuances and benefits of such a practice.
“To practice mindfulness of the body, you might like to lie down and practice total relaxation. Allow your body to rest, and then be mindful of your forehead. “Breathing in, I am aware of my forehead. Breathing out, I smile to me forehead.” Use the energy of mindfulness to embrace your forehead, your brain, your eyes, your ears, and your nose. Each time you breathe in, become aware of one part of your body, and every time you breathe out, smile to that part of your body. Use the energies of mindfulness and love to embrace each part. Embrace your heart, your lungs, and your stomach. “Breathing in, I am aware of my heart. Breathing out, I embrace my heart.” Practice scanning your body with the light of mindfulness and smiling to each part of your body with compassion and love. When you finish scanning in this way, you will feel wonderful. It takes only half and hour, and your body will rest deeply during those thirty minutes. Please take good care of your body, allowing it to rest and embracing it with tenderness, compassion, mindfulness and love.
Learn to look at our body as a river in which every cell is a drop of water. In every moment, cells are born and cells die. Birth and death support each other. To practice mindfulness of the body, follow your breathing and focus your attention on each part of the body, from the hair on your head to the soles of your feet. Breathe mindfully an embrace each part of the body with mindfulness, smiling to it with recognition and love. Identify the form elements in your body: earth, water, air and heat. See the connection of these four elements inside and outside of your body. See the living presence of your ancestors and future generations, as well as the presence of all other beings in the animal, vegetal and mineral realms. Become aware of the positions of your body (standing, sitting, walking, lying down) and it’s movements (bending, stretching, taking a shower, getting dressed, eating, etc.). When we master this practice, we will be able to be aware of our feelings and our perceptions as they arise, and we will be able to practice looking deeply into them.”
Being aware of our emotions even as they are arising will drastically reduce the chances and frequency of us reacting to them without control. It’s definitely something I would like to work towards and cultivate in my work and life.