Guided Meditation: Developing an Embodied Presence
Sitting comfortably, close your eyes and take several long, deep breaths. Then rest in the natural flow of your breath and allow your body and mind to begin to settle.
With a relaxed, open awareness, now begin a gradual and thorough scan of your entire body. Place your attention at the top of your head and without looking for anything in particular, feel the sensations there. Then letting your attention move down, feel the sensations on the back of your head, on either side of your head, through your ears. Notice the sensations through your forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks, jaw and mouth. Be as slow and thorough as you like.
As you continue the scan, be careful not to use your eyes to direct your attention. (This will only create tension.) Rather, connect directly with sensations by feeling the body from within the body. In certain parts of the body it is common to feel numbness or for there to be no noticeable sensations. Let your attention remain in those areas for a few moments in a relaxed and easeful way. You may find that as your attention deepens, when you revisit these places, you become increasingly aware of sensations.
Images or thoughts will naturally arise. Notice them passing through and gently return your attention to the sensations. Let your intention be to release all ideas and experience your physical aliveness exactly as it is.
Place your attention on the area of your neck and throat, noticing without any judgment whatever sensations you feel. Be aware of each of your shoulders from the inside. Then let your attention move slowly down your arms, feeling the sensations and aliveness there. Bring awareness to your hands, making sure they are resting in an easy and effortless way. Feel each finger from the inside, the palms, the backs of the hands-noticing tingling, pulsing, pressure, warmth or cold. Arrive in the life of your body.
Now place your awareness on your chest, exploring the sensations in that whole area. Slowly allow your awareness to sink down into your stomach. With a soft, receptive awareness, take some moments to feel the sensations in your abdomen.
Place your attention on your upper back, feeling the sensations in the area around your shoulder blades. Moving down, be aware of the mid- and lower back, and then the entire spinal column. Continuing to let awareness sweep down the body, feel the sensations that arise through the hips, buttocks, genitals. What are the actual sensations that are arising? Move slowly down through the legs, feeling them from within. Explore the sensations in your feet and toes. At the places where your body touches the chair, cushion or the floor, feel the sensations of contact, pressure and temperature.
Now open your attention to include your body in a comprehensive way. Be aware of the body as a field of changing sensations.
Can you sense the subtle energy field that vitalizes and gives life to every cell, every organ in your body?
Is there anything in your experience that is solid, unmoving?
Is there any center or boundary to the field of sensation?
Is there any solid self you can locate that possesses these sensations?
What or who is aware of experience?
As you rest in awareness of your whole body, if particular sensations call your attention, bring a soft and allowing attention to them. Don’t manage or manipulate your experience, don’t grasp or push anything away. Simply open to the changing dance of sensations, feeling your life from the inside out. If no particular sensations call your attention, remain open to feeling energy simultaneously in all parts of the body.
If thoughts carry your attention away, gently note, “Thinking, thinking,” and then reconnect with the energetic field of aliveness. Rest in this awareness of your living being, letting life live through you.
The body scan from head to feet or feet to head can be repeated over and over during a single meditation sitting. You might do a full scan, rest in attention of the whole body for a few minutes, and then scan again. You might do an initial scan slowly and then subsequent scans more quickly. You might choose to scan once, and then continue to practice by attending to predominant sensations and, whenever possible, the whole field of bodily sensations. Experiment and find out what most helps you in sustaining a relaxed and wakeful presence in your body.
In daily life, return to the experience of your body as often as possible. You can readily arrive in your body by relaxing and softening through your shoulders, hands and belly. As you move through the various circumstances of your day, notice what sensations arise in your body.
When you feel excited or happy?
What happens when you feel angry?
When you are stressed and racing against time?
When you feel criticized or insulted by someone?
Pay particular attention to the difference between being inside thoughts and awakening again to the immediate experience of sensations
By Tara Brach, Reprinted with Permission
Adapted by G Ross Clark