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I'm trying to practice Satipatthana meditation according to the book Satipatthana Meditation - A Practice Guide. In the book, Bhikkhu Anālayo teaches the contemplation of anatomical parts by body scan (Chapter 3, p. 53).

The mode of practice I recommend to get started takes the form of body scans. One body scan to become aware of the skin, another to become aware of the flesh, and a third to become aware of the bones.

During each body scan, one scans through major body parts (hair, face, neck, shoulders, arms, and so on, to feet) sequentially. And for each body part, one turns attention to the fact that it's "just skin/flesh/bones" and "impure/dirty/not beautiful/not sexually attractive" (p. 58, 59).

If we already tend to feel frustrated or even depressed because our body does not meet current standards of physical beauty and attractiveness, it would be unwise to employ the evaluation. Instead we might turn attention just to the fact that the body is made up of skin, flesh, and bones, which perform their function independent of what society considers to be good looks.

Based on such an assessment, some of us might feel ready to confront a tendency to sensual obsession in relation to the body. In such a case, it would be appropriate to bring in the element of evaluation. We might decide to use the terminology found in the discourse, “impure” or “dirty”, or else “not sexually attractive”.

There's also a guided meditation recording provided by the book publisher that illustrates the process.

I have following questions:

  1. Am I supposed to verbalize the body scan process in my head? During my practice, I would move my attention to the next body part by mentally naming it (e.g., mentally saying "upper arm", "lower arm", etc.), then examine it by mentally saying "just skin/flesh/bones", "not beautiful", and try to contemplate on that at the same time.

  2. Related to the 1st one, am I supposed to visualize each body part in my mind during body scan? Specifically, am I supposed to visualize the skin/flesh/bones of each body part? During my practice, it became quiet natural for me to imagine each body part's skin/flesh/bones since I needed to mentally say its name & focus on "it's just skin/flesh/bones".

  3. Related to the 2nd one, can I really physically feel every major body part? For example, is it possible to feel skull bones, or bowels, spleen (which is even hard to imagine)? So in practice, I guess I had just imagined my skull or some other body part that is not very perceptible and contemplated based on that mental image rather than actual sensation. Is this the right approach?

Thanks in advance.

2 Answers 2

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It's really not a visualize. It's not a imagination. But it must first practice intense meditation. Then it's the power of meditation. look into If you meditate until you have a lot of strength. There will be a light of meditation. And it's that light. Examine the body. To practice scanning the body like this.

How to practice meditation. You have to choose what is visible on the outside first. There are 5 things to choose from: hairs,hairs, nails, teeths, and skin. All 5 of these are choose one. Done and relax because of the strength of meditation . Only need to do one at a time. For example, if you choose hair. I took the feeling on the hair only . Think about your hair, what color it is, and what it looks like. How does it smell Keep doing this until you have a lot of meditation power.

I'm sorry, I'm not good at English, I use Google Translate.

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  • Thanks for your answer. I guess you are trying to say, cultivate mindfulness by focusing on one body part only, or at least one per session. Then do body scan with this cultivated strong mindfulness as if it's a light.
    – Naitree
    Jan 14, 2022 at 16:11
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Mindfulness meditation consists of four phases, proceeding from coarse to fine:

MN10:3.1: What four?
MN10:3.2: It’s when a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.
MN10:3.3: They meditate observing an aspect of feelings—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.
MN10:3.4: They meditate observing an aspect of the mind—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.
MN10:3.5: They meditate observing an aspect of principles—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.

Notice that the Buddha simply says "an aspect". The Buddha does not say "every single dang aspect that you and everybody else can possibly discuss or discern". :D

And that's quite a relief!

Elsewhere the Buddha notes:

DN34:1.4.7: Immersion with placing the mind and keeping it connected. Immersion without placing the mind, but just keeping it connected. Immersion without placing the mind or keeping it connected.

So if we place our minds on, say, the skin and keep it connected, that's great! But note that the Buddha doesn't get stuck there. In one teaching, the Buddha passes on to feelings. In another teaching, the Buddha actually lets go of the placing. In all these teachings we can see transitions. In all these teachings we can see equanimity in the face of change.

Suppose a fly lands on our skin as we are meditating on our breath. Should we fight to keep our attention on the breath while the fly tortures us? Well, the Buddha said this:

DN34:1.6.73: ‘This immersion is peaceful and sublime and tranquil and unified, not held in place by forceful suppression.’

So perhaps if we feel that maddening tickle of a fly on our skin, we can allow that fly to walk on our skin, wishing it well and after a while...the fly departs.

Meditation isn't a rigid thing to be pounded into a perfect form. It's usually better to simply be gently aware and allow meditation to unfold with mindfulness.

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    I guess you mean I might have overthought about this practice. Maybe it's more important to cultivate receptivity to whatever manifest in the mind and at the sense doors, than to fuss about whether I should visualize/verbalize or not, whether I can examine some eccentric body part. It's really no need to be so rigid to cultivate mindfulness.
    – Naitree
    Jan 14, 2022 at 16:32

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