Welcome back to Mindfulness Monday! The second week of my mindfulness journey was quite interesting, and much more difficult. I’m not sure if it was the nature of this week’s focus or the increased time requirement. That’s not to say that the time requirement was that much; it was only about 15 minutes twice a day. I think my biggest challenge is just in finding the right time of day for me. As happens so often with things, I have good intentions of getting my two meditations in but before I know it, I’ve gotten busy and the day has passed without me doing it.
Before I get into the specifics of the meditation though, let’s take a look at what this week was all about. In case you missed last week’s post, I am going through the book Mindfulness, An Eight-Week Plan For Finding Peace In A Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Week Two is all about getting back in touch with your body. Now if you live with fibromyalgia or other chronic pain conditions you may be thinking, “trust me, I’m well aware of my body all the time” because your pain doesn’t let you forget it. The difference here is in understanding the complex feedback loop that is constantly going on between your body and your mind.
The body is extremely sensitive to the emotions that go through our minds and will react to them before we even have time to mentally process them sometimes, but the body also sends signals to the brain that can cause increased anxiety, worry, or other types of unhappiness. I had never thought of the body causing these issues with the mind, but once I read this, I realized I’ve experienced this. Sorry for the overshare here, but I have IBS and when my insides start twisting and turning giving me that feeling in the pit of my stomach that you get when you’re worried, I start to feel anxious. There’s nothing to be anxious about, but my insides have told my brain otherwise. The authors note that, “the judgments we make from moment to moment can be significantly affected by the state of our bodies at the time that we make them.”
Many of us get so “in our heads” that we start to tune out the messages our bodies send us, or act on the erroneous messages (such as my feelings of anxiety I mentioned above) without realizing that those messages are incorrect.
According to Williams and Penman,
“To cultivate mindfulness truly, we need to become fully integrated with our body once more.”
Enter the Body Scan meditation. The goal is to help reintegrate the mind and the body. It’s a simple meditation that focuses your attention on your entire body, one region at a time. As with the first week’s meditation, you can either use the instructions in the book, or the guided meditation via the link provided in the book.
We’re reminded again that if our mind wanders, just acknowledge the thought and “escort” your attention back to the region of your body you’re focusing on. For this particular one, I will definitely need more practice. I just couldn’t keep my mind focused for that long. Now that I’ve done it with the guided meditation I’m going to try it on my own – in the middle of the meditation, the gentleman guiding you through starts talking about what to do if you get distracted and that was an even bigger distraction for me.
I know I really need this because of how hard it was. Not being able to focus on each region showed me just how out of touch with my body I really am. I did feel I gained some immediate benefit from it though. Even with having to constantly refocus I felt more relaxed after each meditation, probably because they involved some deeper breathing which always seems to help me relax a little.
The habit releaser for this week was going for a walk, being as mindful as possible. It’s amazing what a difference just a walk can make if you do it with an openness to all your senses.
The authors are quite up-front about this process taking time. Not only does it not come naturally to many people (including yours truly) but the brain also needs time to rewire itself, making and strengthening new connections. The return on investment could be huge though. If we can get to the point where we realize what is going on with our minds and bodies at any given time, and get them working together as one, it could help us move from the frantic “doing” mode to the more peaceful “being” mode.
Have you tried anything similar to the Body Scan meditation? How did it work for you?