Body Scan Difficulties

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  maryhill 2 years ago.

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    Junot C

    Greetings everyone,

    I’m hoping you will be able to give me some help with the Stage 5 (S5) body scan.

    Here’s the context:

    I’ve been working on S5 since January and spent most of that time working on subtle dullness, which is now quickly dispelled, for the most part. My perception of the meditation object (MO) – sensations at the nose – isn’t particularly clear but that seems to have come about after attention and awareness seemed to merge, with out much distinction between them. It’s more like there’s one large field of awareness with a more congealed awareness at the center of it, which is the best way I can describe it. At any rate, my general state of mind is bright (there’s actually a physical brightening effect behind my eyes) and a general feeling of lightness and space in the mind – as opposed to subtle dullness which felt “foggy”. Subtle distractions are sometimes many and at other times just “floating around the edge”; I’m often not entirely sure what the thoughts are about (when they’re thoughts), just that they’re present – I can know the content of these thoughts if I want to, but I generally just let them hang around like letters floating around my head, unopened. I’ve recently dealt with a lot of “chaos” in the mind, a lot of bright aurora borealis type effects behind the eyelids and a general feeling of restlessness, which comes and goes. I’ve tried my best just to relax and release this without tensing up and without allowing dullness to creep back in – hit and miss there.

    Onto the body scan. One of my major problems is that whenever I focus on body parts, my eyes want to roll in that direction to “look” at that area which causes a lot of tension in the eyes and “contraction” of the mindspace. even my head tends to tip in the direction I’m focusing on. All this causes agitation and more restlessness. Should one’s eyes and head remain in the same position as when you’re focusing on the breath sensations at the nose, or is it okay to move the eyes and head? On some occasions, there isn’t any tension and it does seem like my mindfulness does increase but the head and eye movement does feel destabilising to the whole sit.

    Secondly, despite working on this body scan fairly diligently for 2 months now, I still don’t notice the subtle breath sensations and don’t even know what they might feel like. I can feel tingling in the area I focus on, almost like pins and needles (sometimes uncomfortable/unpleasant), but nothing which changes in sync with the breath. What do these sensations feel like? The physical ones (like the shoulders) are easy to pick out, but I don’t feel any subtle breath sensations (e.g., in the feet).

    Very recently the body scan has caused so much tension and agitation that I stopped doing it as I couldn’t even get back to a settled, mindful, bright state as I described above. Meditation started becoming something I dreaded doing because it left me feeling so unsettled afterwards.I will mention that eye and neck tension have been a bane since I started practicing and I have a history of anxiety, which is, thankfully, much much better since starting TMI.

    Any and all suggestions and information about the body scan practice (or anything else about my practice) would be most welcome and valued.

    I apologise for the rambling post and thank you for reading all of it.

    with metta,

    • This topic was modified 2 years ago by  Junot C.


    Hi Junot, here my 2 cents:

    – I feel every cm2 of skin as a lung, opening and closing. You feel as if inbreathing/outbreathing through your skin. If you can’t get that, before meditation you could try a 15 minutes qigong practice, that would help you notice it. Feng Ziquiang’s qigong should work fine. Just pick up one single exercise you like (eg: 2:00 or 6:34), doing it first at normal pace, then slower until you perceive expansions & contractions (and/or electric rushes). If you need kinesthetic imagery aid, imagine the air around you is thick as water or denser. Link: . Please check that: outbreathing = expansion = release of tension.

    – Regarding tension while meditating, focus on your head and recall that expansion / release of tension. Also search those pleasurable sensations at the sides of the mouth and eyes (as if feeling metta & gratitude). You could also let occasionally those thoughts at the edge come to the center, and check how they build tension in your head, so as to be aware how that tension happens to be.


    Junot C

    Thank you Pop, I’ll look at that video more closely, although my Chinese is a bit rusty 😉 I appreciate your advice regarding the tension too.


    Blake Barton

    Hi Junot,

    There quite a bit of material in your post, but I will try to discuss most of your questions.

    It makes sense that the sensations at the nose won’t be as clear if you have more of your mental power in awareness.

    The “chaos” in your mind could be the arising of Piti. Please see the relevant sections of TMI for more information about Piti. The Piti can also cause muscle contractions which may feel like tension.

    My natural tendency is for my eyes to move towards the body part when doing body scanning. It doesn’t seem to cause any tension for me. However it is easy to tense up when doing body scanning, particularly when you have expectations about what you should be feeling.

    I suspect you may be generating tension when trying to feel sensations that fluctuate with the breath. For me, these generally feel like the tingling sensations that you describe, but they tend to fluctuate (get stronger and weaker) with the breath. Please remember that even though you have the intention to notice these sensations, it is not required to do the practice correctly. It make take a considerable amount of time before your mind reaches this level of clarity, but is doesn’t matter.

    One of the key things to make body scanning more enjoyable is acceptance of whatever sensations you feel, even if that is the total lack of sensation in some parts of your body. The lack of sensations is a sensation.

    I recommend trying the body scanning with a more relaxed gentle attitude. If it gets tiring you can always switch back to the breath for awhile.

    Hope this is helpful,
    Blake – Dharma Treasure Teacher


    Junot C

    Hi Blake,

    Thank you for your response and suggestions. I’m taking a much more relaxed attitude to the body scan and the tension is much better; I find I need to monitor it quite closely. actively relax, and be gentle with myself to avoid forcing attention. I appreciate you giving me the context that it might take a long time to develop the clarity to sense the breath sensations everywhere. You reassurance is appreciated!

    • This reply was modified 2 years ago by  Junot C. Reason: Grammar


    I’m glad that Blake responded, as he’s much more experienced than I am. I’ve been in teacher training just since September, 2016. I’m glad that you are having a more relaxed attitude to the body scan and the tension is better.

    So, just keep doing what you’re doing and see where it leads you.

    If you feel like experimenting with Qi Gong, I do have to admit I practiced with a Qi Gong teacher, in a very small group, for 3 years, and in that time began to notice the subtle energies of the body. I suspect that is why body scanning came fairly easily to me. (Many other parts of TMI practice did not 🙂

    So, if you’re great with where you’re heading now, just keep doing it, and ignore this.

    I just wanted to second the suggestion of Qi Gong, if you’re interested. Also, it might be better to find a class with a facilitator, that has a good reputation, rather than learning it online.

    Again, no pressure and this isn’t necessary. It was just a tool that my nervous system responded to quite readily, some years back.

    Blessings, Mary

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