Body scan meditations are a wonderful way to practice, tuning into the natural experience in the body. As a beginner, a body scan meditation can help you settle into present-time experience and begin to investigate the physical body. Resting with the body can provide great insight, ease, and help us in all other practices (including daily life). I often start each sitting period with a few minutes of scanning the body, as it is a powerful way to ground in the body.
What is a Body Scan?
Body scanning is a type of mindfulness practice (more on this in a moment) that falls under the First Establishment of Mindfulness. In a body scan meditation, we move through the body slowly and deliberately, tuning into different spaces and the experiences present. During the period of practice, the task is just to be present with what is going on. There are many different types of body scans spanning various meditation traditions. In Buddhism, body scans are traditionally done without trying to fix anything. That is, we don’t move through the body intentionally changing our experience. We may relax the shoulders or breathe deeply into the belly, but the practice is really to tune into whatever is present, pleasant or unpleasant. If you want to investigate a body scan, we have a guided meditation at the bottom, a script, or you can use the form and we’ll send you a guided body scan meditation mp3!
Although a body scan may be done with the intention of offering metta to the body, it is generally considered an insight, or mindfulness, practice. As such, there are a few things to remember when doing a body scan. First, you don’t need to fix or change anything as you move through the body. Return to your intention to simply observe the body. As we tune in repeatedly to the sensations in the body, we are able to see more clearly the nature of our physical experience. You may notice yourself tempted to intervene or change posture, and that’s okay. Notice the thinking mind, and return to the body.
On that note, you don’t need to block all thoughts in mindfulness meditation. The mind naturally thinks. When thoughts arise, notice that they are present and return to the body. Make it a part of your practice, not an obstacle to overcome. When the mind begins thinking, don’t hook in to each arising thought. Notice the temptation and return to the body as many times as necessary.
A final thing to keep in mind is that this is a practice! If you were able to tune in perfectly 100% of the time to the sensations in the body without the mind wandering or clinging and aversion arising, you wouldn’t need a body scan meditation! Allow yourself room for growth. Don’t judge yourself too harshly, and notice the judgements when they do arise.
Body Scan Meditation Script
Here we provide a body scan meditation script. You may read this if you wish to practice yourself in silence, and it is designed to read out loud if you wish to read it to a group or friend! If you would like a PDF version of this script to print, put on your phone, or keep on your computer, just use the form below and we will send it over to you!
Find a comfortable position in which to sit. You may sit or lie down, but make sure you remain awake and aware. If you’re comfortable doing so, allow the eyes to gently close. Start by tuning into the posture of the body. It is helpful to keep the spine straight and energized, while relaxing the muscles around the skeleton.
You can use the breath to aid in this process: as you breathe in, breathe energy and awareness into the spine, reaching the spine gently upward. As you exhale, let go. Allow the shoulders to drop, let there be some slack in the jaw, and soften the belly.
(Allow for a few deep breaths like this.)
We’ll start the body scan by tuning into the crown of the head. Simply bring your awareness to the top of the head, tuning into whatever is present for you. Can you feel the skin of the scalp? The temperature of the air on the skin? Your hair? There’s no right or wrong; just tune into whatever is physically present.
You can drop down into the forehead and brow, again tuning into whatever is present. You may notice the temperature of the air, some slight scrunching of the brow, or some relaxation. Whatever is present, simply be with it.
Drop down into the eyes and cheekbones. Even with eyes closed, you may notice some movement in the eyes.
Continue down to the tip of the nose and upper lip. Here you can feel the body breathing gently and naturally. You may notice the air tickling on its way in, and coming out just a little bit warmer.
Move on into the mouth, looking at the lips, the jaw, and the tongue. You may notice the moisture, how the tongue is resting, any tension or slack in the jaw, or whatever it is that is present.
Drop down into the neck and throat, noticing any tension or any movement of the body with the breath. Remember, there is nothing you should be experiencing; there is no right or wrong. Just tune into the direct physical experience. Let go of the judgements and thoughts, and return to the actual physical body.
You can move out the tops of the shoulders and into shoulder blades, perhaps noticing any movement with the breath or the sensation of the clothes on the body.
Dropping down into the upper arms and elbows, again just tune into whatever is directory present in your experience.
Continue down into the forearms and wrists, perhaps noticing any points of contact. Maybe your arms are resting in your lap or on the arms of the chair, and just notice how that feels.
And moving into the hands, go over the palms, the fingers, and the back of the hand. Notice any points of contact where the hands may be touching each other or resting in the lap. You may notice that the temperature of the air feels different on the back of the hand than it does on the palm.
Come back up into the chest and rest here for a moment, tuning in to the body breathing. You can notice the rising and falling, the expansion and contraction, the natural movement of the body breathing itself.
(Allow a few moments to sit with the breath in the chest)
As you drop down into the abdomen and stomach, again you may notice the sensations of the body breathing. Rest your awareness with the body and just stick with whatever sensations arise.
Drop down into the hips, the pelvis, and the butt. You can probably feel the point of contact where your body meets the chair or cushion, and taking a moment to feel these sensations.
Move on into the thighs and knees, noticing any points of contact, any tensions, the clothes on the body, and anything else present in your direct experience.
Drop into the calves, shins, and ankles, seeing what’s present for you. Perhaps there is some ease, or some jittery or anxious feeling in the legs. Whatever is present, be with it.
Finally, move into the feet, going over the heel, the arch, the ball of the foot, the toes, and the top of the foot. Tune into the points of contact where the feet are touching the ground or tucked up underneath you.
Take a moment here at the end to tune into the whole body together, from head to toe. You may be able to feel the breath energy as it moves through the body. You can get a sense of the entire outline or posture of the body as it rests here.