Body Map When
you look at ancient maps of the world, they often look quite different
from the ones you will find in a modern atlas. The mapmakers tried to
piece together a global image from scraps of information brought back
by sailors in small ships and travelers on foot. Consequently, the maps
were oddly distorted.
our minds, we have a map of our body. If we have not put much attention
to it, it may also be quite distorted. It might, for some of us,
consist largely of a pair of eyeballs, a stomach, and an aching back.
Or perhaps we have a body image that mainly represents the surface area
of our body, but we can’t imagine what’s going on
surface. The inner workings of our body may be terra incognita.
areas of our body may be quite familiar to us, because we use them
often or they give us sensation frequently. Others may not register in
consciousness much because they are on our non-dominant side, for
instance, or they just aren’t that interesting to us.
have systems in us, like the brain’s limbic system and the
autonomic nervous system that govern our moods. They determine whether
we enjoy peace of mind or panic, and yet most of us know little of
them. Our maps of our body’s emotional systems may be like a
without roads, rivers or boundaries.
gain good health and self-mastery, it may be beneficial to update our
body maps. One way would be to study the body intellectually. Learn
more about anatomy and physiology. We don’t have to go to
school. We just need to generate some interest in these things and do
some exploring. Having a better understanding of the respiratory,
circulatory and digestive systems might lead to motivation to manage
them more wisely, which could improve health and longevity.
Understanding how the nervous system works can aid in managing
way to refine one’s body map is through observation, by being
more mindful of the body. One might choose a particular
area on the surface or the interior of the body as a point of
meditative focus. Placing attention, for instance on the area between
the shoulder blades or at the solar plexus and quietly observing, we
might gain in self-awareness and fill in a piece of the body map.
meditative exercise is to scan your body with your awareness. Many
guided meditations include some form of this. Typically, the scan
involves placing attention on one part of the body at a time. You might
start with the toes of your left foot paying attention to any
sensations you can detect there and moving on to the left foot and
ankle, the shin, the knee and so on. After doing one leg, one usually
starts with the other leg and then continues working up or down the
body in this fashion while breathing calmly and intending to relax each
part of the body in turn.
approach to body map making is a body scan that resembles what happens
when you have an MRI or CT scan. But this experience involves no
annoying machinery. Here’s what you can do:
in an appropriate meditation posture with your spine upright, or lie on
your back with your arms and legs uncrossed. Inhale deeply several
times, and each time, let the breath out slowly. Scan your
briefly to locate any areas of tension and invite those areas to
release that tension. Notice the sensation in those areas and observe
how much you have been holding the tension there. Invite it to release
with the word relax, as you form the intention to relax your muscles.
bring your attention to the top of your head. You are going to scan
your body from the top of your head to your toes. As a CT scan or MRI
scans your body slice by slice, you may see and feel your body in your
mind, one cross-section slice at a time.
the sensations of your scalp. Do you feel any coolness or
Can you feel hair there? Notice if you are creating judgments as you
observe the sensations of your scalp. If you notice any self critical
thoughts, let them go. Our interest is not in judging, but in observing
your awareness just a bit to the area of your skull below your scalp.
Spend a little time just sensing. Do you have any sensation in the area
of this bony covering for your brain? Perhaps not. If not, just
visualize what it must be like there. Create a picture in your mind of
this hard interlaced collection of boney plates sandwiched between your
scalp and brain. You may have a thought of gratitude for the good job
it does of protecting your precious brain.
down another layer or series of layers so that you can gain a sense of
that most complex and amazing object that is your brain. At first, just
passively observe whether you have any sense of your brain.
job is to process sensations from outside itself, not to generate them,
so it is likely you won’t have any clear sensory stimulation
the brain itself. But you may nevertheless have some subtler sensation
or image that comes to you. To the extent that you understand the
anatomy of the human brain, visualize what is there and acknowledge the
good work it is doing to keep you alive and aware.
down a little farther, observe the area of your sinuses and nasal
passages. Here you may well have physical sensations. You could observe
pressure, congestion, openness, air flow, moisture or dryness. Now we
are in an area that interacts with the autonomic nervous system, so
emotions may come into play. Notice for instance whether there are any
fear thoughts connected with this nasal area. Fear of illness or
allergies or not being able to breathe, for instance. If you identify
such associations, you may want to form the intention to neutralize
them. Invite them to dissolve if they serve no good purpose. Imagine
what it would be like to breathe freely. If you have difficulties with
congestion, consider visualizing your sinuses and nasal passages wide
open, arid, and free flowing. Imagine the breath flows through like the
wind in a big cavern. You might find that your sinuses respond to such
mental imagery by becoming more open.
you are ready to move on, keep scanning. Bring your attention down to
the level of your mouth and jaw. Focusing on your jaw, do you notice
any muscle tension? If you do, observe that this is part of your
body’s system of activation against danger. Right now there
danger. You aren’t going to have to bite anyone, so you can
let that tension go. Invite your jaw muscles to relax. Speak the word
relax silently and let your jaw loosen so that your teeth are not
clenched. You may want to place your tongue just above your front teeth
while you do this, as that tends to loosen the jaw.
your mouth and lips. Again notice any tension and let it go. Notice any
emotions that might be associated with your mouth and consider whether
you need to hold on to them. Let them go. Invite them to clear.
down to your neck. Observe the sensations that present themselves to
your attention. Check for tension and let go of any that is
unnecessary. Consider that your neck is not just a stalk upon which
your head rests, but it is a complex articulating apparatus of muscles,
spinal bones, arteries, veins, nerves, and tubes that allow
exchange between what is inside you and what is outside you. Here you
generate sound. Do that. Make the sound AHHH. And feel the vibration.
In fact, try out each of the vowels like this and observe the
sensation. EEEEEE. I I I I I I I I. OHHHHHH. YOUUUUU.
going. Slice by slice, direct your awareness to each area of your body.
Observe the sensations. Take your time with that. Assess whether you
have emotional associations with the body part. If those emotions serve
you poorly, form the intention to let them go, neutralize them, or
correct them. Consider the function of each body part as you get to it.
Be grateful for what it does. If it is not doing what you would like it
to, form an image in your mind of what it would be like if it were
functioning optimally. Release any subconscious objections you may have
to perfect functioning and invite that perfection in. Then move on to
the next body area.
What we are describing
here is a big project, so take some time with it, or do it in
successive meditation sessions.
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