In this article, we’ll discuss how you can practice self-compassion with Mindfulness. You can also consider the body scan as one element in the practice of self-compassion with mindfulness. By carefully watching the various components of your body with curiosity and openness, you are extending to your physical nature the same compassionate attentiveness you might offer to a good friend.
Sometimes we find it harder to be kind to ourselves than we do to others. That difficulty reflects an estrangement within us. By giving compassionate attention to our bodies, we come closer to healing that alienation.
(Also Read: Guided Meditation for Kids)
Table of Contents
I. Self-Compassion with mindfulness practice #1: The Body Scan
Mindfulness of the breath is not the only form of meditation in this tradition. Another kind of practice that builds upon the basics is known as a body scan. Because this technique uses some of the same skills as meditation that is focused on breathing, it can serve as a way to augment and support it.
Some instructors use the body scan as the foundational practice for teaching mindfulness. In becoming proficient with both techniques, you may find that you prefer one to the other, or you might discover them equally helpful in fostering moment-to-moment awareness.
In the body scan, we’ll take the same skill of directing attention that is used in the practice of attending to the breath and use it to focus our awareness on various aspects of our body. This operation allows us to build up the skill of concentration by systematically surveying the body using focused attention.
This process is similar to the way we can shine a flashlight to help illumine an object in the dark. The light brings the object of our choosing into relief while what surrounds it remains darkened. If we wish, we can move the light to other areas to bring them into view. This is the way focused attention operates.
This practice does more than simply strengthen our concentrative abilities; it also helps acquaint us with our bodies. Just as we are strangers to the operation of our minds, we’re often strangers to our physical entities. The body scan fosters awareness of our bodies by allowing us to feel its sensations on a part-by-part basis.
The body scan also has the great benefit of promoting relaxation— perhaps even to a greater extent than sitting meditation. You can become so relaxed using this technique that you may fall asleep, which is fine. However, to gain the greatest benefit from this exercise, you should be well-rested before you begin.
Like a meditation on breathing, the body scan can be practiced alone, but to learn this particular form of meditation, it is especially helpful to be guided through it in a step-by-step format. Once you have been led through a body scan, you can conduct it on your own at any time.
You will need to allocate about 20 minutes for the entire body scan meditation exercise that follows, and you will need to have access to a quiet place free from distractions and interruptions.
The body scan can be practiced in either a sitting or lying position, and you should try both postures at some point to see which best suits you. For our introduction to this exercise, however, we will use the lying position because many people find this posture easier. If you’re a practitioner of hatha yoga, you may recognize the position as Shavasana, the corpse pose.
Before we begin, you’ll need to be wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothes, and you’ll need some sort of padding to provide a little cushioning if you’ll be lying on the bare floor. A lightly padded but firm surface is best. You might also want to use a thin pillow to cushion your head.
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II. Self-Compassion with mindfulness practice #2: The Body Scan in Mindfulness Practice
When you’re prepared, lie down on your back in a supine position— with your face upward. If you want to relieve some of the tension in your back, place a pillow or blanket under your knees to elevate them slightly.
Allow your shoulders, middle back, lower back, and hips to settle into the surface on which you’re lying. Try to move your shoulder blades together slightly to allow your arm sockets to move toward the ground. Gently coax your shoulders toward your feet. Allow your hands to be open, palms up.
Let your feet fall open, away from each other. Allow your head to feel heavy against the ground. Take a few deep breaths and become attentive to the inhalation and exhalation as the breath returns to its natural rhythm. Focus your attention on the sensation of breathing at the nostrils or with the rising and falling of the abdomen.
If your mind begins to drift and dwell on thoughts or sounds, lightly return it to the sensation of breathing. Concentrate your efforts on being fully present to your experience. With each exhalation, feel your body become heavier and more relaxed.
Now, direct your attention to your feet: Let go of any tension you may feel, and allow your feet to relax as you breathe out. Pay attention to your legs. Release any tension you may feel in this area of your body, and let your legs relax as you breathe out. Be aware of your arms and hands. If you feel any tension, let it go; allow your arms and hands to relax as you breathe out.
Direct your awareness to your abdomen, chest, and back. Let go of any tension you may feel, and relax this area as you breathe out. Bring your attention to your neck, shoulders, and head. Allow any tightness you may feel to dissolve and relax these parts of your body as you breathe out.
Now that you have settled into position, allow yourself to feel your whole body as a single organism; continue to breathe naturally, letting yourself become deeply relaxed as you do.
Now, focus your awareness on your scalp and the area on the top of your head. Allow your attention to move systematically throughout this area. Be open and inquisitive. Try to feel the sensation in that area of your body as it is.
Be aware of the quality of the sensation. You may feel tightness, tingling, pressure, stiffness, or nothing in particular. If there is no sensation, just notice. Whatever the sensation, just permit it to be what it is, without judgment. Now, let go of those sensations in this part of the body and continue to breathe naturally.
Now, bring your attention to your face: For a few moments, focus on your forehead and temples and become aware of any sensation in this area. Allow your attention to survey this part of your body with openness, simply accepting what is there. Note the quality of those sensations and relinquish them.
Direct your awareness to your eyes and the area surrounding your eyes, and continue to note and accept the sensations you feel. If your mind has begun to wander from its attentiveness to the body, gently return it to where it should be.
Now, allow your attention to move to other parts of your face, focusing on the nose, cheeks, and mouth. Then, become mindful of your chin, jaw, and ears—all the while observing and accepting the sensations in these areas as they are.
Move your awareness now to the back of your head and the top of your neck. Notice if there is tension, tingling, stiffness, or no sensation at all. Just take note of whatever you feel and let that be sufficient. Be aware and open to whatever you sense. Allow your attention to move down your neck and throat and to the top of your shoulders. Feel every aspect of these areas.
Now, bring your awareness to your arms. Feel the inside and outside of your upper arms—noticing any sensations—as you move your attention down to the elbows, forearms, wrists, and then hands. Survey each of your fingers.
Carefully try to feel every sensation, every bit of tension or pressure, tingling or lightness. Examine if the area feels warm or cool—or has no sensation at all. Don’t struggle with what you feel; simply have a caring interest in what is happening. Try to be fully attentive to your experience.
Now, relinquish your attention to your arms and hands, and direct it to the top of the chest, noticing any sensation as you move along. From the chest, follow the ribs to the upper back and the shoulder blades. The sensation may be pleasurable, unpleasant, or simply absent. Accept whatever is there with gentleness and compassion.
Next, let your attention move down the spine to your lower back, and then bring your awareness to the abdomen. Take a moment to feel yourself breathe, as your belly and lower back expand and contract with each inhalation and exhalation.
Feel the subtle movements of the breath, noticing the slight pressure of your clothing as you breathe. In this area of your body, you may feel sensations in your internal organs as they function to keep you alive.
Allow your awareness to move to your hips and groin. If your mind has begun to drift, gently refocus your attention on this part of the body. Since the physical impressions in this area and note their qualities. Accept each sensation as it is; just observe and move on.
Bring your attention to your upper legs. First, observe the way the muscles and skin of your inner thighs feel, and then do the same for the muscles and skin of your outer thighs. Slowly scan downward to your knees. Feel every sensation. Be aware of everything, and continue to breathe. If your mind has wandered, escort it back to where you want it to be.
Continue to move your awareness down your legs, shifting attention to your shins and then your calves, noticing any tension or tingling—any pleasant or unpleasant feelings. Be mindful as you give attention to your ankles and heels, to the tops and soles of your feet, and finally to your toes. Try to bring your awareness to each of your toes, feeling whatever sensation might be perceptible.
Now, allow your awareness to encompass your entire body as a whole. Take time to feel the sensation of being alive at this moment. You may feel deeply relaxed and suffused with a sense of well-being and peacefulness. You can return to this peacefulness at any time.
When you are ready to end the meditation, slowly move your fingers and toes—and then your arms and legs. Open your eyes and gently move the other parts of your body. Then, very carefully, roll over to one side and use your arms and hands to bring yourself to a sitting position.
III. Self-Compassion with mindfulness practice #3: Variations on the Body Scan
Now that you have become acquainted with the basic features of the body scan, feel free to vary the practice in ways you find most beneficial. As mentioned, the body scan can be performed in the sitting posture or a standing pose.
You can conduct the practice at a faster or slower pace, or you can scan your body from toes to head or right to left or left to right. The variations are many, and you should determine for yourself which possibilities you find most valuable in promoting awareness and relaxation.
IV. Self-Compassion with mindfulness practice #4: Important Term to Remember:
Shavasana- This position is known as the corpse pose and is practiced in hatha yoga.
V. Self-Compassion with mindfulness practice #5: Things to Consider:
1. How do you imagine the relationship between the body and mind?
2. In what ways does the body scan augment the practice of sitting meditation
(Related: The Difficulties of Mindfulness Meditation)
VI. Mindfulness Practice with Music:
A list of a few mindful calming, relaxing, and soothing music tracks that help you concentrate, focus, and practice self-compassion with mindfulness. Tibetan Singing Bowls, Healing Meditation, Mindful Meditation | The Sound of Inner Peace.
This is the extended version of “The Sound of Inner Peace” series track #3. Listen to the sound of inner peace and experience the power of healing sounds! This 12-hour ambient music with Tibetan singing bowls and bells (tingsha) and wind chimes is ideal for mindful meditation, healing meditation and chakra meditation. It is also good for yoga, Zen and reiki practice, deep sleep, relaxation, studying, reading, focusing and stress relief.
(Source: Paradise Tonight (Meditation Music & more))