Mindfulness For Stress Reduction: Body Scan
Mindfulness and meditation involve practices that help us become more aware of ourselves, our world and others while also helping us reduce stress in high-stress situations. By changing our relationship with the stressful situation and the emotions we are feeling, mindfulness and meditation techniques also help increase our focus and attention at work, in relationships and in all aspects of life.
Right now, I think that those of us serving in hospice and in medical settings are carrying a great deal of stress, and we can find help through mindfulness and meditation. I think this is a concern outside the hospice world and medical settings as well, since collectively we all are dealing with new and unforeseen fears and anxieties.
Since no culture or religion has the monopoly on mindfulness or meditation practices, I have been sharing forms of mindfulness and meditation rooted in different spiritual traditions.
Perhaps the most basic kind of mindfulness technique I can share is a “body scan.” During a body scan, first find a comfortable position to sit or stand. Take deep breaths. Slowly let the bottom of your lungs fill up, hold that breath, and slowly let the breath leave you. Then repeat that pattern–breathing in, holding your breath and then breathing out–throughout this meditation.
Now sit or stand comfortably for a while, paying attention to the feeling of the breath going in and out of your body. You may find your attention wavering with thoughts, feelings, questions, worries, hopes and more flooding your mind and pulling your attention away from your body again and again.
When this happens, return attention to your breath. Don’t berate yourself for lack of attention, but instead treat that recognition that you are focused on other things like a “return to class bell” that might have called you back from recess at school. Return your attention to your breath.
Once you’ve gotten some peace with returning to your breath, after several minutes, turn your focus on each part of your body. Begin with the top of your head, whether with long hair or shorn short like mine. Pay attention to how it feels, whether comfortable or tense, pleasant or painful, breathing in and out your experience of it.
Then go down to your face, your neck, your shoulders. Take time to pay attention to how you feel in each part. When your mind wanders again, just let your noticing that it is wandering be like that “return from recess” bell to call you back to the body scan, moving back to the last part you focused on.
Continue until you feel the soles of your feet. As you finish, imagine your whole body like a tree, with the soles of your feet like tree roots, spreading deep into your own consciousness and enabling you to stand secure and strong where you are.
As that image fills you, hear the words of Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh: “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”
— By Micah Royal, Transitions LifeCare Spiritual Care Counselor