Tag Archives: awareness

Body Scan and Mindfulness

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.

The Habit of Smiling

Recently, I tried to get into the habit of smiling.

Why does that need to be made into a habit? Because more often than not, I realize that I wait for happiness or some form of pleasure to come before I smile.

We have been socially conditioned to think that people smile and laugh when they are happy. So we spend our whole lives waiting for something or someone to make us laugh and smile (Eg: “I will be happy once the holidays come”, “I will be happy when I find someone to settle down with”) It does not need to be that way. We have always heard about our happiness need not and should not depend on the external, and I think being able to smile without any external reason can reflect and affect our inner state.

I admit I was a little skeptical about this at first, not to mention self-conscious (and still am, lest people on campus start noticing me as the crazy girl who goes around smiling to herself). I started trying it out when I was doing yoga, in the privacy of my own space and time. Breathe in, breathe out, smile. Not the widest smile I could give, but a gentle half-smile, something that reflected and ignited a sense of peace and tranquility. I didn’t think of anything particularly happy. Just focused on the breath, and half-smiled. The facial muscles felt awkward at first – I could tell they were totally not used to this. They are used to reacting to emotions, and having them work this way without any emotional stimulation must have felt weird to them.

But gradually, as I persevered, I can feel much less of that initial awkwardness. It’s very liberating. I’ve also realized that this much is true: The brain does not differentiate between the smile we give when we are pleased, from the smile we give at a physical level. Because the brain has been conditioned to link the physical act of smiling to the emotion of pleasure, simply working our muscles into a smile can trick the brain into thinking that we are happy.

It’s definitely something worth trying, to make the world a better place. Have you smiled today?