In the next part of the session we focused on our awareness of bodily sensations by doing a ‘body scan’. We lay on our backs and were guided through a process of being ‘aware’ of each part of our body in turn. Liam (one of the instructors) explained that our minds would wander while we did this. Each time we became aware that our minds had wandered off, we should gently bring them back to just focusing on part of the body.
It was a strange experience; it’s incredible how easy it is for your mind to wander off into default grooves of thinking, even when you are trying really hard not to let it happen. I expected something like this to be relaxing but in fact it was a real effort to keep the awareness focused on the body and to bring the mind back every time I realised it had wandered off into other thoughts.
What was interesting was that I started to get a glimpse of the processes my mind goes through as it moves through thoughts. I’d suddenly realise that my mind had wandered from the body scan to thinking of something else, to a low feeling. Then I’d think: ‘Well how did I get here?’ At this point I could start to trace it back and see how often I jumped from one thought, to a more negative one, to a worry about something else.
One of the things everyone found it hardest to get their heads around was the idea that there was no right or wrong way to do the body scan. In fact, doing it ‘well’ was not the issue – we’re not even trying to relax and it’s ok to feel bored, or uncomfortable, or for your mind to wander. It’s how you handle that experience that is important.
Next week, we were told, we would still be focusing on the first part of the session – developing awareness – but this time the focus would be on automatic judgements and how we handle difficult experiences. I’ll be writing about that in my next post.