The Short Body Scan works well as a guided mindfulness practice; as an introduction to mindfulness meditation. It gives a 6 minute practice which can be extended by remaining in silence as the scan finishes rather than following the Garden Visualisation.
Relaxation is not meditation, but the ability to relax - even a little - is fundamental to entering the meditative state. The other component of meditation is concentration. Not a sharp, tight, focused concentration but more a soft sense of being present and staying present.
This is like the difference between holding something e.g. a shell, in a tightly closed, gripping fist or holding it in the soft 'bowl' of an upturned palm. The mind is held in the soft stillness of awareness with no judgement, no expectations and nowhere to go; what a relief that can be.
The ability to concentrate in this gentle way means you are aware and awake enough to notice when the mind is drawn from the moment to moment experience which is mindfulness, and is distracted by thoughts. Returning to the habitual practices of reviewing, planning, rehearsing, anticipating, and judging. When you are able to notice this shift in awareness you then have a choice, to run with the stream of thoughts or to return to full awareness of the present moment, to practice mindfulness.
A few practicalities which extend the Short Body Scan into a guided mindfulness meditation practice:
1) Choose a regular time and place each day to practice and commit to this.
2) Sit comfortably on a firm chair with your hands resting in your lap or on your knees. Keep your back comfortably straight as if being lifted up by a thread from the crown of the head. Sitting near the front of the seat helps lift the spine. Have the feet directly below the knees so creating a right angle at the knee joint. Defocus your eyes and gaze softly into the middle distance.
3) Take three deep breaths slowing down the exhalation if comfortable. Sense your weight dropping down through the body with the out-breath and this brings a sense of being grounded, coming out of the head and deeply into the body. Imagine being in a warm bath, taking out the plug and feeling the warm water draining away. Tension starts to drain from the face and down through the body. You feel the weight of your body supported by the chair and the floor.
The body begins to relax around an upright spine, the mind remains completely awake and alert.
4) Notice the information being gathered by your senses, anything you can smell, hear, taste and the light coming in through your eyes. Allow the eyes to close on the third out-breath.
5) Follow the Short Body Scan App.
6) If you choose to sit in stillness beyond the length of the recording then rest your awareness on the flow of the breath and the sensations arising with the inhalation and exhalation. Feel the rise and fall of the abdomen and the sensation in the nostrils as the flow of air becomes the breath. Follow the full duration of the in breath and the out breath.
If you prefer not to focus on breath then rest awareness on the sensations in your hands; warmth, tingling, lightness, heaviness. Be curious, notice the sensations changing.
7) It is difficult to develop the concentration to follow the breath even for a few seconds. Thoughts will arise and there will always be a thought stream flowing, but the volume and insistence of the thoughts can quieten. When you notice you are following the 'stream', gently and with no judgement, escort the awareness back to settle lightly on the breath or hands - to what is real in this moment.
This brief practice is a way to change the way you relate to your inner world; to observe and listen to yourself in a way you are normally far too busy to do.
'Life is only available in this present moment.' Thich Nhat Hanh
8) To end your practice become aware once again of physical feelings ; your feet on the floor, hips on the chair, hands resting in your lap. Take a few slow deeper in-breaths, move gently and stretch to full awareness.
HH Dalai Lama begins each day with 4 hours of meditation practice but he notes that just 5minutes of daily practice can have profound benefits and in this belief he is supported by numerous research studies. Mindfulness practice frequently improves our physical and emotional health. We feel healthier and calmer and this affects those we live with, work with and meet day to day. The positive effect ripples out.
Enjoy your practice.
To take your practice further look for a Mindfulness Meditation class in your area.
There are also many excellent books on the subject e.g. 'Mindfulness for Dummies' By Shamash Alidina
'The Miracle of Mindfulness' By Thich Nhat Hanh
'Mindfulness a practical guide to Finding Peace In A Frantic World' By Mark Williams and Danny Penman