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Healthy Minds in Practice: Mindful Sensations Audio Practice

Photo courtesy of SIphotography via iStock

Sometimes when life gets busy we can get stuck in our heads. Our attention gets pulled into many directions and it can be difficult to stay focused. The great news is that you can use mindfulness training to bring you back into the moment so you can approach whatever you are doing with more clarity. In this body scan practice, you will shift your focus to your body's sensations to help bring you out of your head and back into the present moment. Try this five minute seated practice with Cortland Dahl.

Listen to the Practice:


Guided Practice: Mindfulness of Sensations

Led by Cortland Dahl

In this practice you’ll bring awareness to the sensations of the body to strengthen mindfulness. You can begin by gently closing your eyes if that’s comfortable for you. Or you can simply let your eyes rest, a soft gaze in front of you. Take a few deep breaths and let your body and mind relax each time you breathe out.

Now let your breathing return to normal and notice your posture. Find a balanced position, you want to be upright, yet relaxed. Not tense or rigid. Take a few moments to check in with your posture and how it feels. 

Set a clear intention for your practice. Think to yourself, “For the duration of this practice, I will be mindful and aware of the sensations in my body. When my mind wanders, I’ll bring it back to these sensations.”

Ok. Let’s begin the practice. 

Bring a gentle awareness to the head and to the face, you might find that the muscles around the eyes, and in the jaw, naturally relax.

Be aware of the sensations in your neck and throat.

Notice the feelings in the upper arms, lower arms, hands and fingers.

Feel your chest and upper back, expanding and contracting with the breath.

Notice the sensations in your abdomen and lower back, again, moving with the breath.

If you don’t notice any sensations, that’s fine too. Just rest your awareness in each part of your body, allowing your experience to unfold naturally, without effort.

And now moving into the lower body, notice the sensations in your hips.

The feeling of resting on the chair on a cushion.

Now moving down, feeling the sensations in the left leg, starting with the upper leg.

The knee.

The lower leg.

And the ankle, the left foot and the toes.

And now bringing awareness to the right leg, again starting with the upper leg.

Noting sensations in the knee and lower leg.

And the ankle, the right foot and the toes.

OK. That’s it. Bringing awareness to the body is one of the most helpful ways to train the mind to be more present and aware. It’s especially helpful when we find ourselves distracted or emotionally reactive. See if you can carry the practice into your next activity. Then, come back to your intention as many times as you can throughout the day and see how this changes your experience in different situations.

Awareness. Connection. Insight. Purpose. We consider these to be four ingredients of a healthy mind. You can train yourself to improve these skills, just like you can develop any habit. This audio practice is provided by Healthy Minds Innovations (HMI), an external, affiliated nonprofit dedicated to supporting the mission of the Center for Healthy Minds. Learn more about how HMI is bringing our research to life with new and innovative programs.

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