Today you’re going to learn a body scan meditation for sleep through a free guided audio. You don’t need any previous experience to do the body scan – just follow the instructions in the audio.
In the body scan, we deliberately place our attention different parts of the body and hold it there for between 30 seconds and one minute, trying to detect as much as possible.
I often start a body scan when I wake up during the night, and several of my meditation students have reported that it works for them too.
There’s more good news – the body scan is a fantastic practice found in many standard meditation courses. It can help you work with physical discomfort and emotional challenges, cultivate presence, and be in the body more during the day.
Let me give you a few tips before we start.
Body Scan Meditation for Sleep: Prep + Best Practice
There’s not much posture preparation required if you’re using the body scan meditation for sleep. Lie down flat on your bed, face up, with a pillow under your head. Lie symmetrically, rather than curled up or on your side. I’ll give you further instructions for posture in the audio.
I also recommend, particularly if you’re new to this, that you remove distractions. Turn off your notifications and make sure you won’t be distracted by others in your house, whether they’re pets or humans.
I also want to give a small warning: meditation is a subtle art. Though this technique can help you to fall sleep, don’t try to fall asleep. Avoid the mistake of doing this with the sole purpose of falling asleep.
Instead, give yourself over to the meditation for its own sake. Really go into each part of the body as I guide you. Your goal should be to cultivate attention, not to fall asleep. Let the sleep come on its own.
Meditation isn’t a sleeping pill, nor is it reducible to sleep. It’s a powerful practice, whether or not it helps you sleep on a given day.
Besides, attention is a key skill for many areas in life, not only for sleeping. Cultivating it is a profound undertaking in its own right and for its own sake.
Body Scan Meditation for Sleep
Let’s get going with this body scan meditation for sleep. Note: you can largely ignore the posture instructions at the beginning, which are for sitting up straight.
And I’ll reiterate: do this to fully experience your body as it is, rather than to fall asleep.
Body Scanning: Why Does it Work?
It’s useful to understand why the body scan can help you fall asleep.
I find the main impediments to falling asleep are overstimulation, overthinking, and strong emotions. This technique helps with all three.
The main reason it does so, in my opinion, is because we’re anchoring our attention outside our mental world, which is by far the most frantic area in our subjective experience.
Often we spend the last 30 minutes of the day watching TV or scrolling through our phone. This is not conducive to sleep.
By lying down and turning off external stimuli for 25 minutes, you’re already moving into a sleep-ready state. You’re working through the human addiction to external, dopamine-inducing input. You can do this without meditating per se, but meditation takes it a step further.
By deliberately inhabiting your own body, you’re tapping into a sense of deep satisfaction. This is available regardless of whether you feel good or whether there’s anything going on around you. You’re learning how to be content without external stimuli.
Overthinking takes volition. Though thinking itself is random and scattered, overthinking is something we feed. It requires that we have an emotional attachment to life events and continually fret about their outcome, searching for control and certainty.
In this meditation, we bring your attention back to the body whenever it wanders into thinking. We can also train ourselves to hold the body in our attention even while thoughts come up. In both cases, we’re working through our tendency to get lost in endless cycles of thought.
We’re slowly training ourselves to see thoughts as thoughts, as waves or transient phenomena, rather than perpetuating them and getting dragged into them.
Besides, the body is automatically and fully present. It’s just there, moment to moment to moment. The mind is what takes us forward and backwards in time. By tuning into the body, we’re training ourselves how to be present. We might say that the body is teaching us how to be present. In any case, we’re working through our addiction to the mental world.
You might also find that strong emotions prevent you from getting to sleep. The body scan is also ideal for working with those.
When you’re working with the stomach, chest, throat and face, it’s likely you’ll detect emotions there. First, we don’t try to get rid of them, because that only strengthens their grip. Instead, we let them in, keeping the body loose. This subtle shift is already powerful: saying YES to our emotions already reduces our discomfort and inner chaos.
Now we bring exquisite attention to them – where is it, what does it feel like, does it move or change?
Pay enough attention, and you’ll notice that emotions are much less solid and formidable than we tend to think. You might even detect lightness, movement and richness, even in a priori unpleasant emotions.
The emotion might remain there, but your perspective on it shifts. It’s much more tolerable. And this reduces their ability to keep you awake at night.
Body Scan Meditation for Sleep
If you like using this body scan meditation for sleep, I suggest you make it a daily habit, and begin using it when you’re not trying to fall asleep. This is a powerful practice with benefits that go far beyond improved sleep.
Here’s your challenge: try the body scan every day for a month. And when you’re done, you might like to try my online beginners meditation course.
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