Note: Physical pain is unavoidable. Please adress the causes of physical distress where and when you can. Managing pain while allowing the cause of the discomfort to go untreated is not a wise plan.
Background: Body Scan’s deserve the great acclaim they recieve. They are outstanding mindfulness practices. Today’s variation of a body scan handles the idea of what to do with places we find discomfort in a somewhat unusual manner. The idea in this practice is to clearly define the boundary of where the sorness begins in end. This careful analysis, this three dimensional mind-map of precisely where the pain begins and ends does a few different things.
First, this careful focus recognizes clearly and specifically the part of ourselves that is hurting. We have a tendency to want to shut down, close off, and even deny the existence of our hurting places. Carefully studying the parameters of our pain helps to welcome the injured body part back into the body, and helps us realize, often, that the pain is not quite as bad as we had made it out to be.
Secondly, it helps to focus our attention. One of the things that mindfulness practices do for us is build up a sort-of mental muscle, an ability to turn our attention to notice very precise details. This practice gives us some experience with just that.
Finally, mentally mapping the hurting areas of our body helps us to find the area around the injury that actually feels healthy and strong. The act of spreading this lack of painfulness is something I find incredibly powerful. Imagining the sensation of not-hurting spreading into the inpated area really does turn down the pain for me. I hope it does for you, too.
- Release your worries for this time.
- Turn your attention to the tips of your toes. Become aware of them.
- Breathe deeply and very slowly and precisely, bring your attention across your feet.
- Be on the look out for areas that are tender, tense, or sore.
- Bring your attention up through your ankles and into the shins.
- Make a mental note of anywhere you notice that seems to be hurting. We’ll be returning to these points later.
- Draw your perceptions up through the knees and thighs.
- Make sure you’re aware of the whole depth and width of these body parts.
- Notice your lap, pelvis, hips and buttocks.
- Continue to be on the watch for soreness as you bring your awareness into the lower belly and back.
- Bring attention to the belly and mid-back, and the chest and shoulders.
- Apply your awareness to the finger tips.
- Continuing those deep breaths, bring your awareness up through the lengths of the fingers; across the palm, and around the back of the hand.
- Now become aware of your wrists, and forearms. Remind yourself here, to note those places which feel tight and sore. We’ll be returning to one or more of those spots shortly.
- Notice the elbow and upper arms, now bring up your attention through the chest and shoulders. Continue the long, calming breaths.
- Bring your attention to the neck, all the way around, bring the attention up to the jaw line, the place where the skull meets the spine.
- Become aware of the chin, lips, cheeks; look for those tense, warm, sore places as you become aware of the nose, eye sockets, and forhead. Finally, become aware of your scalp and hairline.
- Take three breaths. Remind yourself of the places you noted that were sore and tense. Choose one of these places.
- Now, study this area with gentle curiosity. Make note, first, of the quality of the sensations of the pain itself. Is there any movement or change? How would you describe it?
- Continuing to breathe calmly, now, study the parameters of the spot that feels different. Make yourself an expert in it’s size and topography. Note the shape and volume, the surface area and the realms within. Is the pain consistent all the way through?
- Take three more deep breaths.
- Now, bring your attention to the space that is around this soreness. Turn your attention to the area just outside of the pain. Find the boundary between hurting and not hurting. In your minds eye, see it as an envelope, or wrapping paper. Fulling engulfing the sort spot within you.
- Take three more deep breaths.
- Now, let the non envelope infilitrate the hurt place within you. Let the healthy spot which is not uncomfortable enfold and take over the pain; stretch it through and let it penetrate all the way to the core of the place that hurts within you.
- Many people find these places of soreness diminish or erase themselves entirely. Sit as long as you like, luxuriating in the reduction of pain. If you wish, begin this process again on some other part of your body.
This practice will accompany an upcoming episode of the Snipe hunting Podcast. Click here to see the youtube video featuring Snipe Hunting and mystical poetry with video and musical accompaniement.