INSIGHT TIMER PLAYLIST: Body Work
INSIGHT TIMER PLAYLIST: Body Work
ANNOTATED GUIDE by CSC Staff
Contemplation is often thought of as something you do with the mind; the body is just the thing that gets us to the cushion so we can start our contemplation and then distracts us with discomfort when we do! However, many contemplative traditions deeply integrate body practices into their total regimen, for one objective is not just to develop awareness when formally practicing in stillness, but to apply that awareness to everything we do, no matter the activity, whether in stillness or in motion. Moreover, the body and its sensations are of course a major component of our experience, not just as distractors to be ignored but as rich content that can actually aid practice precisely because they engage our attention and interest. The guided content below provides instructions for mindfully experiencing the body in states of rest as well as states of movement.
*Note that for ideal functionality, it is best to link to the recordings in this playlist via the Insight Timer app on your mobile device rather than through the Insight Timer website.
Body Scan (18:22)
Body scan is a popular practice introduced by the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. This is an abbreviated version (full-length is typically around 45 minutes) that helps the listener settle into the body, let go of thoughts, and relax deeply. Many people use it to help fall asleep, and this tends to be a welcome side effect for many.
As the study and practice of mindfulness has matured, scientific researchers and popular practitioners alike have begun to reconcile the fact that it is not a panacea and, moreover, that it can provoke adverse reactions for some people. One population that can be more at risk are people with histories of trauma, because the impact of that trauma might be inscribed on and encoded within their bodies in challenging ways, both visible and not. Focusing attention on the breath, while a source of relaxation for many, can be a trigger for others.
Trauma-sensitive or -informed practices are a relatively recent genre of instruction designed to help trauma survivors effectively apply contemplative techniques. In this brief exercise, the guide helps listeners focus on calming elements of the five senses, which can help them find a sense of stability whenever it’s needed.
Emotional Sensation Body Scan (18:04)
An exercise from UVA’s Art and Science of Human Flourishing course, this body scan incorporates contextual discussion of affect and emotion before proceeding into practical instructions on the contemplative exercise itself. It teaches how to let go of conceptual thoughts, judgments, and interpretations to focus solely on the raw sensations of the body, thereby aiding the development of somatic literacy in a way that is clear, cognizant, and accepting of whatever arises in experience.
Mindful Walking Meditation (10:41)
While stillness is often associated with mindfulness, the larger goal is to bring awareness to every moment of our lives, much of which is spent in motion. This guided contemplation introduces the practice of walking mindfully, beginning by establishing the standing posture and proceeding through the process of initiating motion in a very slow, deliberate manner, back and forth in a line, ideally in a relatively private place. This instruction is best engaged first without any specific destination and without any other objective but to practice mindful walking. Subsequently it can be applied whenever and wherever you are walking: begin slowly with the instructions, and then apply mindfulness to experience as you accelerate to a more natural pace.
Like the body scan, this is another contemplation to be done lying down. It offers an effective method to de-stress generally but proceeds to focus most intently on the tension held in the face, neck and shoulders. Taking listeners through a series of slow, gentle movements, this practice makes use of tactile sensation and is fully embodied, thereby helping listeners get out of their heads and into the natural support and ease provided by the connection between their bodies and the earth.