When I meditate, part of my settling-in phase is a quick body scan. I think this is supposed to help connect me with the present, but often it is a series of rabbit-holes.
I’ll sit down, do my few deep breaths, close my eyes, and scan the immediate environment to take note of what’s going on so it doesn’t distract me later. Then, quick body scan starting with the top of my head and moving down through my whole body before bring my attention to the object of focus.
Or maybe not so quick.
Things are usually going fairly smoothly as I check in with my scalp. Maybe notice some tightness there and just relax it a bit. Great. Similar thing with the eyes, relax them. Slip into thoughts about whether they’re relaxed. Why aren’t they relaxed? Were they relaxed yesterday? Did I relax them enough or is there still some relaxing left to do?
OK. Eyes done, keep moving. How are the sinuses. A little congested? How congested? Better than yesterday. Maybe I should make some tea. Echinacea tea? How much do I have left. Do I need salt for my neti pot? Maybe it’s an allergic reaction to this time of year. Or the new carpet. Am I getting enough sleep? Am I stressed? Why am I not feeling more rested.
Oh, body scan. Right.
What other groceries do I need? Parsley? No, I’m good for parsley. What was that thing I needed from the health food store. Matcha? I think I only have one bag left. How long will that last? It’s hard to park there and it’s all the way across town. When will I be going over there for something else so I can stop in at the same time.
Facial muscles, relax them. Should I do my neck? Can I feel my neck? How about my throat. Maybe that’s the same. Is it neck/throat, or should I do them separately. Ugh, keep moving. Wait. Any tension in the neck? Let’s relax the neck and shoulders. OK. Shoulders. How’s my posture? Maybe sit up a little straighter. Like there’s a string attached to the top of my head, holding me up with the rest of my body dangling down from it.
Am I doing it? Am I dangling? Yeah, that’s better. Upright and alert, yet relaxed. The mind tends to mirror the shape of the body, that’s what I read. There were studies about that. Psychological studies. And evolutionary biology, the body language of lobsters after they’ve been in a fight and how that affects the level of serotonin in the brain.
Is my posture good enough? It should be better. I should do better. Maybe I’d feel better if I just stood up straighter. I should use my stand-up desk more. I haven’t been using it as much lately because it’s warmer to sit on the couch with a blanket and work that way. Also I crouch a lot while I’m doing pottery. And we were traveling. That was a good trip, I liked when we rented paddle boards on the river.
Body scan! Where was I. Shoulders? Sit up straight, shoulders relaxed. How’s my upper back. I should roll that out later. I should roll more. My legs have been tight. Not at legs yet. How about my chest. How do I feel my chest? Like, lungs? My lungs feel pretty good. I used to not be able to get a full breath a lot of the time, like hard to yawn without really trying. Been a while since I had that. I wonder if I’m less anxious. So, when I’m anxious does my diaphragm spasm or something? Diaphragm tightness? Or is there less space in my chest cavity. It feels like my sternum is closer to my spine and there’s not enough room for a full breath. That doesn’t make sense. Bones don’t move. Or maybe they kind of do, I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. Maybe the muscles tighten. What muscles?
Maybe just skip to the abdomen. Like, organs? Abs? Lower back, that seems concrete. Is there tension? Am I sitting up straight? Posture. Maybe roll that out too. My hips are probably tight because sitting is the new smoking, but I really don’t like rolling them. I wish someone could just massage them for me. Hey. I emailed that lady about yoga therapy and she didn’t email me back. Is it in my junk mail? Maybe she didn’t like me. But my email was only a couple of lines long. Should I have said more?
B O D Y S C A N ! ! ! !
OK hips. They’re pretty tight, that’s why I try and sit in half-lotus on my foam block. To stretch out my hips and find room in there. I’d like to be able to do full squats. I want to have full mobility. I don’t want to get stiff and stuck when I’m old. My mom’s mobility worries me. It’s getting better lately, though. For a while there I thought she had given up, but now she’s doing the exercises. I wish she’d do more. I mean, I don’t want her to be in pain. I don’t want her to trip over the floor mat because it’s hard to lift her legs up because of the hip aging. Will I get my mobility back in my hips? I used to practice squatting every day. I feel like there isn’t time. There’s not enough time to squat and to roll out and massage the muscles. So I meditate in half-lotus, alternating days. Should I do both muscles every day, or is it ok to alternate right side today, left side tomorrow?
Anyway, you get the idea.
The body scan is probably the most challenging part of my meditation practice.
I wonder if it’s because there are emotional memories that get stuck in the various places of the body. Perhaps my memories (thoughts, worries, beliefs) are triggered by physical sensations or physical awareness. Maybe the more aware I am of my body, the more aware I’ll be of my thoughts and feelings.
Maybe the stiffness in certain parts of my body represent a hanging-on to certain beliefs or memories.
If you have the answer, let me know!