Impatience, Agitation, Frustration with Body Scan

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Blake Barton 5 years, 1 month ago.

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    Hello everyone,

    I believe I’m working with Stage 5 since it seems like I can put my attention on my breath without having any gross distractions and no gross dullness with attention shifting very sparingly amidst seemingly continuous metacognitive introspective awareness. Although the breath at the nose seems tricky lately. I’ve gone through a few days in the past few weeks of some strong purification so maybe my attention isn’t very sharp right now because it seems like every time I sit, the sensations of the breath are clearest in different regions constantly. Maybe because it’s allergy season! Sometimes they’re clearest inside the nostrils, the philtrum, the rims of the nostrils, etc. I’m still doing the 4 step transition to the breath, and I wonder if that might even cause dullness when I’m trying to pick a spot where the breath is consistently felt at the nose region.

    I feel like maybe I’m trying to sustain peripheral awareness by “trying” rather than “intending” to be aware of sounds, overall sensations, but not so much thoughts (they seem easiest to be peripherally aware of) and that might cause the lack of clarity, vividness and intensity which would result in a greater ability to anchor attention in one place. I’m suspecting that sustaining peripheral awareness by use of intentions could be analogous to when someone asks you if you hear a sound, (perhaps the long distance whine of a windmill farm in the distance) and then all of a sudden you become aware of that sound when previously it wasn’t in your conscious awareness. From then on, you are aware of it whether you like it or not, until you get absorbed in some day dream,conversation, etc. So by continuously setting intentions, it could be like that person commenting on the sound of the windmills, thus requiring no doing in order to be peripherally aware of it. Does this sound accurate?

    I realize that the body scanning in Stage 5 will help make the sensations at the nose more vivid, so I’ve been doing that. Although I feel like I’m tensing up because I’m trying to be open to just feeling the sensations, rather than looking, but the task of moving my attention through the body seems so mentally abstract. It’s like trying to move numb legs, and your sense of location and where the ground is becomes very off and difficult to navigate.

    a) Should I set intentions to feel certain parts of my body that feel like there’s something blocking my attention from moving there smoothly? I feel this agitating eagerness to get through the whole body, like I’m taking too much or too little time at each part I focus on.

    b) Should I just feel something and immediately move, not necessarily caring if I’ve felt each face of a limb until the whole body becomes more vivid and then go back to the breath?

    c) Should the scanning be 2 dimensional, like the front of the arm, the back and the sides or should I make an effort to just feel all sides at once? I feel like I’m within a rigid way of observing and it’s causing tension since I’m falling into what seems like pitfalls of the body scan.

    d) Are there any other techniques that will inspire more joy in the pursuit of developing more mindfulness to overcome subtle dullness and move to stage 6?

    I hope this message doesn’t seem too scattered since there are a lot of questions!

    Thank you 🙂


    Blake Barton

    Hi Tony-James,

    I don’t try to pinpoint the breath within specific parts of the nose, nostrils, or upper lip. I just have the intention to feel any sensations in the nose region. Your attention will probably naturally be drawn to the sensations that are the most vivid.

    I would refer you to this post by Culadasa about attention and awareness for clarification.

    It sounds like you might be trying too hard. If you have your visual attention focused on something do you have to try to make peripheral vision happen, or is it pretty much an automatic process?

    For the body scanning I recommend a more relaxed approach. I am not sure what you mean by “rather than looking”, but I have found that directing my eyes and allowing a visual image to arise can be helpful to locate a body part and start noticing sensations. Once you connect with a body part and start noticing sensations, directing the eyes or a visual image may not be necessary. For me the subtle image that arises seems to be part of the intention to notice sensations at a body part, but I am definitely favoring sensations over the visual image.

    It is up to you how long you want to leave attention on a body part. I usually stick with a body part until I have have connected and noticed a few sensations there. You will have parts of the body where you may not feel much or anything, but if you wait there patiently you may start to notice something, but if you do not that is also fine. The lack of sensation is a sensation.

    You don’t necessarily need to get through the entire body in a session, but I recommend at your next meditation session starting with body parts with which you did not scan last time, so over time you get full coverage.

    I just rest my attention on an entire body part (like my whole forearm) an explore what is there. Some sensations may be on the surface, and some may be more internal. Some may be on the front and some on the back.

    If you take a more relaxed and accepting attitude you may find body scanning more pleasurable. Any time you are struggling is a good opportunity to examine you attitude, expectations and motivations.

    The loving-kindness practice in the appendix can be pleasurable once you get the hang of it.

    Best Wishes,
    Blake – Dharma Treasure Teacher



    I forgot to reply to this before retreat but I wanted to thank you for this reply! I started working out once I applied your suggestions.

    Thanks again for your time,



    Blake Barton

    Hi Tony-James,

    Thanks for the follow-up, and I am glad that I could be of service.


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