Body Scan for Awareness


The first step in preparing for change, whether it be a small change like realizing that the clothes you are wearing are not comfortable to a large change like leaving a relationship or a job is awareness that a change is needed.  With awareness we can move away from denial or ignorance and into insight.  With insight, we can start to problem solve.  After we are aware we can start to ask questions like why, how, and when in terms of change.  But awareness is very difficult to allow, which is one of the reasons that change is so difficult.  Awareness takes two important elements, both of which are getting less and less available in our society, time and energy (uninterrupted focus).  Gaining awareness takes the two elements of our humanity that we are systematically getting rid of in this fast paced world of ours. 

Have you ever noticed that you feel upset or frustrated or sad but you don't know why?  You'll be going along doing whatever you do and then all of a sudden you feel badly but you don't know why.  At that moment you have an opportunity for awareness.  You can choose to stop and address the experience in order to better understand what you need to change in order to feel better. Or you can do as most of us do these days and ignore the experience and return to whatever text message or phone call you are responding too or whatever TV show you have been watching or you can smoke a cigarette, have a glass of wine, eat a donut or go for a run to ignore more fully your feelings.  The problem with this choice is of course that those feelings if not investigated will pile up hour after hour, day after day, month after month until it is far too time consuming to sort out all of the frustrations, sadness’s and disappointments.  Eventually with all of those feelings piled up we struggle very seriously and are unable to work, unable to love others or ourselves, unable to find joy in pleasurable experiences.  And then our body shuts down and we are forced to look at our experiences in the hopes of developing awareness.

My encouragement is too investigate those discomforts earlier.  I am suggesting that when you have the moment when you realize you feel upset but you don't know why that you stop and figure out why you feel uncomfortable and what you can do in order to resolve it.  Most often just acknowledging and becoming aware of what bothered you is therapeutic enough that you will be able to move forward without carrying along the hurt feelings.  So, the next time you feel that way, try this body scan that I ask my clients to practice when they are uncomfortable in order to do the exact opposite of denial.  You are going to really tune in and see if you can face your discomfort.  It will feel uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it and I think you will begin to enjoy the check-in self-time. 

Lay down somewhere but if there is nowhere to lie down, just sit comfortably.  Place one hand on your belly and start to breathe slowly into and out of your belly, letting your hand move.  Feel the breath coming in and out of your belly.  Bring your attention to your belly and your hand and the breath expanding and contracting.  With each breath out, soften your body.  Melt and soften.  With each breath out work towards more softness.  When your body has relaxed and your attention is with your breath, start at your feet and bring your attention there.  Notice your feet, your toes, your heels, the bareness of them, or the shoes around them.  If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your belly and your breath until you have regained your attention and then revisit your feet.  When you have noticed all there is to notice about your feet, move your attention to your ankles.  Try to feel your ankles and when you have noticed them completely move your attention up to your shins and calves.  Notice that area of your leg.  Are there sensations or experiences there to notice?  If your attention wanders, bring it back to your hand and your belly.  Once your attention has returned to your breath, return to your shins and calves and then slide up to your knees.  Scan for discomfort or pain or any experience.  You are not changing anything, only becoming aware of the experience of your knees.  Spend the next minutes gently moving your awareness up your entire body finishing with your scalp. Always paying attention to your breath. You are just noticing and becoming aware of the experience of each of your body parts.  Do not adjust or change or judge the experience, only notice.  Each time your attention wanders come back to your breath and your belly.  If the reason for your original discomfort has not come to you throughout the body scan (which usually it does), when you have finished with your face and head, bring your attention back to your belly and hand and breathe in and out letting your mind be blank creating space in case the cause for the discomfort will come to you.  When the cause of your discomfort is revealed, just notice it.  Did someone say something that offended or hurt you?  Are you disappointed about a missed opportunity or an unachievable desire?  Are you overtired or hungry?  Do you have shame or humiliation about a mistake you made?  Go back to your breath and when you are ready bring your attention back to the present moment and your task at hand.

Whatever it is that is revealed, just notice it.  Be proud that you have faced your discomfort, relax into your awareness.  Change will come, but realize that you have taken the first step toward avoiding piling that discomfort on top of others.  Once you are aware, you may return to whatever task you were attempting prior.  Actually addressing the concern is another topic, another blog.  But practice becoming more aware as often as you like.  Know that with awareness comes insight and eventually more health.  Know that awareness is a healthy tool you can use at any time, in any place to take care of yourself and your feelings.