Here’s a valuable skill for landing squarely in the present moment, one that you can employ just about anytime. I teach it as part of a fantastic 8-week mindfulness meditation course called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. In the class we call it the Body Scan. For you working folks, let’s call it the Bottom Up-Top Down Scan. It can be done anytime, anywhere, in any position, for any length of time. Here’s how it goes:
You can begin by taking one or two full, maybe even delicious breaths. See if you can enjoy these breaths in some way. Now continue by bringing your attention to your feet and toes, contacting the physical sensations in this area of your body. Don’t worry about what you find, how strong it is, or whether you find no sensation at all. Right now it’s just time to notice what’s there. Pressure? Pain? Warmth? Tingling? It’s all there to be taken in, without needing to label what you find good or bad. Proceed up through the ankles, then calves, knees and so on, just observing what you feel for sensations, on the skin’s surface and also inside your body. No need to worry if you become distracted by thoughts or sounds; just as you notice this has happened, come back to the last place you can remember scanning and proceed from there. Continue right up through the pelvis, abdomen, back and chest. Notice sensation in the hands, wrists, etc., ending with the shoulders, neck and finally head. Once this is done, sweep a little faster back down your body, ending with your feet again. You can sweep up and down one or two more times, if you care to. Finally, sense the body overall and notice the after-effects of having scanned.
The amount of time you spend can be widely variable. In our class, we spend a long time on it: 45 minutes each day, lying quietly awake! On the other hand, you can easily accomplish this while standing in line at the bank or grocery store, in the 90 seconds you have. Basically, give it the time you can, whatever you have, in whatever position you’re in. It can really help to get a feel for the scan if you practice it reclining and put some time into it at first. For example, when you wake up, you could stretch a bit to rustle up enough alertness, and then spend 10 minutes doing the scan. Making it a daily act at some recurring juncture is a very good idea. Over time, the scan becomes richer with information, the critical sensory data you need to navigate your way through each day with less tension and more physical freedom. Enjoy!