52 Exercises #23: Mindfulness Body Scan for a Whinging Pom

Mindful Body Scan to Cure a Whinging Pom

Call me a whinging Pom. It’s an Aussie expression describing British people who complain all the time.

It’s not a label I like, especially because labels aren’t helpful to anyone, but it’s a description that applies to me too often even though I can’t stand people who complain all the time.

Whingers, moaning minnies, whiners, grumplets, grouches or grumblers. I hate them and I hate myself a lot of the time because, although I try not to bitch and moan out loud, I’m still doing it in my head.

I hate whingers so much I’ve tried to edit my inner whinger out of my personality and reinvent myself as the sunny, positive upbeat person you may have come to love.

But it’s easy to stop whining out loud and impossible to stop complaining thoughts. It seems like the more I try the worse they get and the more I can’t bear it.

It’s hard to live with and why I’ve been fantasizing about getting a lobotomy recently. I just want this whining to stop voice in my head.

I’m so desperate I’ve taken up meditation even though I think it’s a bit weird, the preserve of hippies, navel gazers and self-styled happiness gurus.

Now my experiments with meditation and doing a different exercise every week for a year as a cure for my depression and have given me something new to complain about.

I’ve started an eight week mindfulness program recommended in The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. It’s a brilliant book  that’s helping me understand the cause of my depression, why it’s been getting worse rather than better the more I try to fix it and how I can change my brain to control or beat depression.

Co-authored by four global mediation experts the book comes with a CD of eight guided mindfulness meditations narrated by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD who’s the Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

I’ve just finished the first two weeks of the mindfulness program during which I had to practice the body scan every day. All that’s involved is lying down for half an hour and trying to focus your attention only on your body but the idea bores the pants of me. Still I’m a desperate woman so I submit to the torture of doing nothing and commit to doing it every day for two weeks.

Logically I know Jon Kabat-Zinn is a nice man who wants to help people overcome anxiety, depression and other mental health issues but after listening to the first few seconds of the body scan exercise I develop an instant and strong loathing for his voice, his accent, his tone, the way he emphasizes certain words, the phrases he uses and his calm loving attitude. I hate it all.

“The body scan is an invitations to fall awake rather than fall asleep to that end…” he says.

I roll my eyes mentally but persevere.

He carries on with phrases like:

“Put out the welcome mat for those experiences… it is the heart if the being mode that we are cultivating here,” and I start to feel annoyed.

By the time he gets to the three minute mark and instructs me to “rest in an awareness of the body as a whole moment by moment breath by breath,” I hate him.

I’m angry that women are more affected by depression than men. I’m angry that most of the leading experts on meditation and mindfulness seem to be men. I’m angry that I have to lie here listening to this when I’d rather be doing  just about anything else. I’m angry that I couldn’t fix my depression and angry that I seem to be constantly complaining, in a bad mood and angry.

But the body scan hasn’t even started yet so I try to redirect my mind to his voice and follow the instructions. But my inner whinger despairs when he tells me to:

“Shift the focus of our attention to the toes of the left foot featuring them center stage in the field of our awareness. Taking a moment to really tune into them, perhaps distinguishing each toe from all the others, bringing a gentle, interested, affectionate attention to the various sensations we find here, perhaps a sense if contact between the toes where they are touching, perhaps a sense of coolness or warmth or moisture.”

I feel nothing in my toes and although this is apparently okay (of course it is, he’s so nice he says you can’t do this stuff wrong!)  I’m overwhelmed by feelings of disdain, ridicule and the deepest ugliest skepticism which peaks when, after three minutes of focusing on the toes of my left foot he tells me to:

“Cradle the breath in the toes then let go of the toes, watching them dissolve in our mind’s eye so to speak.”

Focusing on the toes of my left foot lasts an excruciating three minutes but he speeds up with the rest of the body so the next twenty five minutes aren’t so bad.

Despite my negativity I persevere and do the body scan every day for 14 days.

As time goes by my inner complaints and resistance start to fade away. In fact after only a few days I’m looking forward to doing the body scan although some of the expressions used still annoy me and by week two I love everything about it including Jon Kabat-Zinn himself.

As I lie with my eyes closed listening to him for the 14th time I am still far from mindful and probably focused on the body scan for less than five out of the 30 minutes but I have embraced his message:

“What is most important is not what I am saying but your awareness of what you are experiencing in any and every moment, even in those moments when difficult or unpleasant sensations, thoughts or emotions arise. In fact, it is important especially in such moments to put out the welcome mat for such experiences and rest in open-hearted, non-reactive attending as best you can. No one is saying that this is easy but it is the heart if the being mode that we are cultivating here. As best you can letting go of the tendency we all have to want things to be different from how they are right now and allow things to  be exactly as you find them, allow yourself to be exactly as you are.”

I’m allowing myself to be exactly who I am right now and if that’s a whinging Pom I’m okay with that.

Although funnily enough I’m not whining so much these days. There’s no cure for being British but the body scan seems to be stopping me from whinging so much.


Mindfulness Body Scan Exercise Review

Cost: Free. I borrowed The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness from my local library but it’s so good I’ve bought a copy from Amazon. You can hear the meditation on YouTube here but if you’re depressed or have a tendency to depression the book is well worth the small investment and the CD includes other guided meditations.

Time Exercising: 30 minutes. It seems like a lot longer at first though.

Average Heart Rate: No aerobic exercise here, it’s all about feeling calm and mellow. You’re not supposed to fall asleep but I did the first few times I did it.

Fun Factor: 3/10 – It’s not fun.

Fear Factor: 8/10 – It’s not really fear though, it’s my inner resistance to doing nothing.

Post-exercise Glow: 5/10. I usually feel tired after the body scan but that’s because I’m far from mindful, I don’t  have much feeling in my body and I’m dealing with some painful emotions so this is hard work for me.


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  1. Sandra Pawula June 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    Sorry to be so positive, Annabel, but I love the body scan exercise. It’s such a great way to get out of your head, where all the negative thoughts originate, and into your body and the present moment. Understandably, that might be a little challenging at first. I’m glad it didn’t remain torturous indefinitely! There are so many studies that have shown that these mindfulness exercises have helped people cope with everything from pain to anxiety to depression and chronic illness. It doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but thank goodness these tools are available and aiding so many people today. Yeah Jon Kabat-Zinn!

    • Annabel Candy June 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm - Reply

      Hi Sandra,

      I am blown away by all the research and scientific proof I’m finding. The more I read the more determined I am to stick with it and I am seeing benefits already.

      I am glad you are positive! But I love hearing that it’s okay not to be feeling positive too – it’s freed me up a lot :)

  2. Barbara June 18, 2013 at 1:56 am - Reply

    I’m usually positive by nature, but when I’m not…it’s miserable. This year has been difficult, and June has been the cruelest. I’ve lost two people very dear to me, and we also had a funeral at our church for a very nice man I liked very much. It’s so hard to justify the good ones going when there are so many not so good ones still breathing.
    This is not my usual mode of thinking, but I know I will have to be mindful to pull myself out of this painful mood I’m currently in.
    I’m glad the meditation is working for you, Annabel. I may have to try it soon.

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