Author Topic: body scan difficulties  (Read 6257 times)

Luscious

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body scan difficulties
« on: February 09, 2015, 02:41:42 AM »
Hi,

Ive been meditating consistently for almost 3 years.  I started with concentration on breath and sometimes a mantra and in the last year I started doing some body scans and metta practice.      Ive always been interested in vipassana because I have read so many things about the technique but about 20 years ago I went to a 10 day retreat and left after 3 days because I found it too difficult.  However its still something I want to learn but not sure if I am ready for the asceticism of a retreat to learn it yet.  I found some instructions online which I have been following which I have found incredibly difficult.   Ill tell you a few of the issues I face and maybe someone has some suggestions for me to improve my practice.

-When I am trying to bring my attention to a specific body part what happens for me is I automatically visualise that area in my mind. Im unsure how to just feel an area without trying to see it.
-When I try to cover a body part in small increments I get confused about where I am at and what I have and haven't covered.
-I hardly feel any sensations anywhere just the occasional itch or tingle.
-My mind wanders a lot and I keep finding myself completely forgetting where Im up to.

The body scan I usually do you do one whole body part at a time such as the upper arm then the lower arm and you breathe into it instead of scanning it in small parts.  I fond it much easier.
Im wondering if maybe vipassana is not going to work for me.   Any suggestions much appreciated.

Goofaholix

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2015, 06:00:55 AM »
-When I am trying to bring my attention to a specific body part what happens for me is I automatically visualise that area in my mind. Im unsure how to just feel an area without trying to see it.
-When I try to cover a body part in small increments I get confused about where I am at and what I have and haven't covered.
-I hardly feel any sensations anywhere just the occasional itch or tingle.
-My mind wanders a lot and I keep finding myself completely forgetting where Im up to.

You've outlined some of the reasons that the body scanning technique is best learned in a retreat situation once you've got some momentum going.  Personally I find it quite hard work even after decades of experience and prefer to do other techniques unless on a retreat where body scanning is taught.

It's good you've noticed your tendency to visualise, just keep noticing it and try to let go of it each time you notice it.

A gentler way of getting started would be to observe the breathing for half of your sitting and then expand your awareness to feel the while body, breathing, sitting, and everything else you feel.   You may not feel subtle sensation but it's a good start to feeling the body.

Luscious

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2015, 12:21:06 AM »
Thanks for the advise goofaholix. I will stick to my breathing and body sans for now I think.

p340

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2015, 08:23:50 PM »
I started a big discussion on that topic some while ago. Maybe it helps to read it..

http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php?topic=2437.msg24958#msg24958

Long story short: i'd too recommend not doing this special technique, but it depends on what you want to achieve... meditation doesn't have to be hard - actually, the more you understand it, the easier and more pleasant it gets..


Alex

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2015, 10:52:57 PM »
Hey Luscious

In Mindfulness based Stress Reduction programmes there is a bodyscan exercise that I find very useful to increase body awareness. It's basically a guided tour of your body with relaxed and open awareness zooming in and out, but not in a carefully systematic or concentrative approach.

But in a way the specific technique is less important than the quality of your attention that you bring to it in order to "produce" vipassana. You could be washing the dishes... So think it's great that you notice all these things doing the bodyscan that you do. Maybe they are not dificulties, but opportunities to explore how you are engaging with what you encounter?  ;)

JMatlack

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2015, 01:02:55 AM »
As you say you can not feel a part of you body without visualizing it I question whether that is possible.  The brain is designed to do that. Use that to your advantage. Think how can I feel something without my brain creating an idea in the frontal lobe and than visualizing that idea and than making it a part of who I am. We do this with everything even Buddhists who claim to have no self. In meditation after about 3o minutes the parietal lobe decreases blood flow and therefore activity and gives a sense of what Buddhists call pure awareness as well as no self.  That is still a perception and perception is visual in nature.  I suggest you continue to use your visualization to see the parts of your body and try and see it in detail.  It can greatly improve your practice to go by psychologically and neuroscientific proof. Ideas do not cease in meditation they slow down. The whole brain slows down and decrease in blood flow unless you have a object of meditation which will increase activity in the prefrontal cortex.  The calmness of mind comes from flow which is being in the zone as athletes call it.  this comes from not being worried or anxious as well as not being bored.  This state leads to the sense of no self but it is temporary as everything else is and you will return but with wisdom as you will have gained knowledge each time you investigate the body.  This is a journey of investigation for pattern recognition. Rational thought is very important on the journey.  I hope I said something that could be of use to you!
"THE ALL (god) is MIND; the universe is mental" written in The Kybalion

Matthew

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2015, 01:14:26 AM »
Luscious,

As you did not complete the Goenka course it may not be advisable to continue with that practice.

It is entirely possible to feel the body without visualising it. Perception is not inherently visual. Hearing is not visual, smell is not visual, etc. Specifically proprioception is the feeling internally of the body. That is also not visual.

P340 is I believe suggesting a more useful way forward. On the homepage scroll down to the Shamatha/Calm Abiding meditation instructions which are there in full. Have a read of them and consider if starting fresh with this open, relaxed awareness based practice might be better suited to you than the forced silence developed using Goenka method.

JMatlock is right that meditation has to be based in relaxation (no anxiety or worry). The instruction there is.

Kindly,

Matthew
« Last Edit: February 11, 2015, 01:17:17 AM by Matthew »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

p340

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2015, 03:07:08 PM »
Yes exactly Matthew, that was the one twist that helped me too in the beginning. It helps to first learn to relax fully to understand in which way meditation aims..

Very many very old meditators i asked found body scanning even after many years very difficult. For a beginner who isn't a natural talent, it will probably lead to struggling and tenseness, the meditation won't go "deep" and won't feel pleasant, maybe you will even drop it completly, preventing you finding maybe finding the most usefull tool one can find in his life..

So.. If it feels very hard to achieve it, stop achieving. Practice what Matthew wrote above..

regards

Tobin

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2015, 10:06:44 AM »
Hi,

Ive been meditating consistently for almost 3 years.  I started with concentration on breath and sometimes a mantra and in the last year I started doing some body scans and metta practice.      Ive always been interested in vipassana because I have read so many things about the technique but about 20 years ago I went to a 10 day retreat and left after 3 days because I found it too difficult.  However its still something I want to learn but not sure if I am ready for the asceticism of a retreat to learn it yet.  I found some instructions online which I have been following which I have found incredibly difficult.   Ill tell you a few of the issues I face and maybe someone has some suggestions for me to improve my practice.

-When I am trying to bring my attention to a specific body part what happens for me is I automatically visualise that area in my mind. Im unsure how to just feel an area without trying to see it.
-When I try to cover a body part in small increments I get confused about where I am at and what I have and haven't covered.
-I hardly feel any sensations anywhere just the occasional itch or tingle.
-My mind wanders a lot and I keep finding myself completely forgetting where Im up to.

The body scan I usually do you do one whole body part at a time such as the upper arm then the lower arm and you breathe into it instead of scanning it in small parts.  I fond it much easier.
Im wondering if maybe vipassana is not going to work for me.   Any suggestions much appreciated.

If you decide you want to stick with body scans, Goenka does suggest that you start with whole body parts like you're doing. As you progress, you will be able to detect subtler and subtler sensations, in smaller and smaller sections. So don't worry about starting big. If I remember correctly, a whole scan from head to toe should take no more than 10 minutes. If you don't feel a sensation in the area you are focusing on within a minute, move on. And any sensation will do! Heat, cold, pressure, tingling, contraction, etc. Good luck!

P.s. don't feel bad about the retreat. I had a breakdown around day 7 it was so intense! Maybe you were just too young your first time. I found the "asceticism" of the retreat very freeing and relaxing. If you have any questions about the Goenka method, feel free to ask here or pm me. ☺
Regards,
Tobin

Stefan

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2015, 07:58:18 PM »


As you did not complete the Goenka course it may not be advisable to continue with that practice.


*sign*
It is not advisable. It is quite easy to "use" the body-scan-technique. But without having completed the retreat it will be very hard to deal with the results. Might be more dangerous than driving a car without having finished your driving lessons.
I tried some ways to explain why, but the best I can come up with is:
In this course you learn how to uncork the bottle. Only on the last day you learn how to cork it up again.
(Sorry, that's not the best metaphor, but I hope you get the picture.)
anicca

Marc

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2015, 08:29:22 PM »
Haha Stephan, I've attended two courses and Im not sure what you mean. I will probably open one tread regarding body scan vs other styles of meditation, because I've some questions. I do know that body scanning can become very frustrating if you are trying to get sensations, and I agree with others here that it is probably better to do more simple and relaxed meditation styles if you don't have a solid base

Stefan

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2015, 07:36:40 AM »


Haha Stephan, I've attended two courses and Im not sure what you mean.


Somehow Metta Bhavana is always underestimated ... but I believe it to be essential for the wholesomeness of the Goenka technique. And Master Goenka says that as well. Metta Bhavana is taught on the last day. That was the "corking up" I was referring to.
anicca

Marc

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2015, 08:57:57 AM »
Oh! Yes... I don't give much importance to metta bhavana. Maybe I should because it because I noticed its influence in my daily life when I used to do it.

Vivek

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2015, 01:19:37 PM »
Yes, you should give importance to Metta Bhavana. In fact, all aspects of Sila, Samadhi and Pannya also need to be given full importance.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Marc

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2015, 10:01:49 PM »
Ok thanks Vivek and Stephan, I will start again with it ;)

onederful

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2015, 09:09:01 PM »
Personally, as a beginner in meditation, I use guided recordings of body scans on my iPod and lie down on my yoga mat or on my bed and listen to them. That way when my mind wanders I just return to the instructions. I'm not sure I can help you about the visualization, as I only feel proprioception when doing them. As far as a guided body scan goes, I recommend Jon Kabbat- Zinn. He has some stuff on youtube. And youtube mp3 converters exist too.  :angel:

Stefan

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Re: body scan difficulties
« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2015, 08:08:26 AM »


... lie down ...



There are exercises in body relaxation that require to lie down. I always finish Hatha Yoga sessions like this.
But for any form of "meditation" (in a strict sense) sitting upright is highly recommended. Wether you sit on a cushion or on a chair may depend on your physical condition, but in any case try to keep your spine vertical and straight.
anicca

 

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