Body Scan

An article by on February 22, 2018

I began this podcast with a 10-day mindfulness challenge. I thought the start of Lent a fitting time to return to it. I encourage you consider using these 10 episodes to begin or renew a habit of mindfulness practice for your Lenten season intention.

Our bodies are complicated terrain. Most of us have a love-hate relationship with it, likely heavy on the hate end of the scale. There are more factors than any medical, psychological, sociological, anthropological, theological field can name for my occasional disdain for my body, but none are satisfying and none can really explain why perceived imperfections make me feel negatively toward my body. Because whatever I do not like about my body I internalize and ascribe a moral failure or deficiency to it. But why?

Cultures across the globe and spanning time, all the way back to fig leaf loin covers perceives beauty in unique ways. More fat on the body was indication that one is wealthy in many places and eras. Light skin is in many cultures historically indicates beauty and wealth, tanned skin the same in others. Curvy and slim figures represent equally fickle standards, as do the color of hair, etc. What does seem to be a common factor in determining such standards is where power lies, who controls the economy – in whatever forms that might take. And the power to take hold of ones own beauty, embrace the truth that beauty is so much more, seems to be taken out of our hands.

But it isn’t. Not really. I can choose to see beauty – in myself, in my environment, in others. It is a spiritual practice. It is mindfulness.

“Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells within you? . . . God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.” (1Cor3:16-7)

So, a body scan is typically paying attention, noticing each body part, starting at one end of the body and scanning to the other, relaxing, etc.. You can find guided body scans on most mindfulness meditation sites and apps that take the listener through this process. I’d like to do something different.

First, as always, begin by breathing. Notice your breath. Inhale, exhale, slow, unrushed. In through the nose, out through the mouth.

Notice how your body feels. Is there somewhere that is in pain or uncomfortable. Spend a moment there and look at the pain – is it burning, aching? Does it ebb and flow? As you breath out, allow that area to loosen and the breath draw some of the pain out; feel the weight of it. Breathe in and notice, imagine the endorphins rushing around the area to soften the ache, heal the inflammation.

Now notice areas of your body that make you uncomfortable. Perhaps your nose is bigger than you’d like, maybe your belly is rounder than you think it ought to be. Maybe your ears stick out or your teeth are crooked. Notice those areas. Look in a mirror if you have one nearby. What characterizes that “imperfection”? By whose standard is it imperfect? Notice how it forms your own look – maybe your smile is distinct because of your teeth; or perhaps your larger nose draws the attention to your eyes that welcome and accept others, make them feel comfortable in your company. Notice. See the beauty of your shape, configured in a way that no one else’s is. Maybe you grew human beings in that belly! Or a child sits comfortably, safely on it – one round, warm, loving belly just for her.

Next, notice someone around you. Perhaps that person has an imperfection that you do not and have judged imperfect. Notice. How does that birthmark bring character to her face, accentuate the twinkle in her deep brown eyes? What story does that scar on her arm or on his cheek hold? See the beauty of that person, as an individual. What aspect of God’s character does the person, with that body contain? How has he shown love to someone by using those legs that carries a hitch? Notice. See beauty. See God. Be thankful.

Find a moment today to practice mindfulness toward your body by mindfully rubbing lotion on it – your hands, your arms, your legs. Rub the lotion into the areas that you haven’t liked and lovingly massage those areas. If there is someone around you might share this with, perhaps you might massage the back of another, or offer to rub lotion into the hands of someone with arthritis, etc.

As always, resources used in these episodes, along with the transcript can be found on my website:

And today, may you walk at the pace of grace.


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About Nicole

Nicole Oliver Snyder’s expertise lies in the areas of leadership, gender issues, and mindfulness practice as it affects both. Leadership, particularly in an urban setting, requires community-relations skills, and an ability to clearly convey justice issues as they relate to felt, spiritual ones. Dr. Snyder is author of Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone, and specializes in teaching mindfulness leadership development, formative spirituality, counseling, and Old Testament theology (emphasis on justice issues). She has a diverse background in international community-relations work combined with volunteer work in multi-ethnic communities, and with local institutions. She is an ordained Clergy; holds a BS in Human Development and Family Studies, w/Education Certificate, an MA-Counseling, MDiv Equiv., holds a Doctor of Ministry and Advanced Certification in Formative Spiritual Direction, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (MI).

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