How to Practice Mindfulness of Body States

This article examines how to practice mindfulness of body states, which covers the body & physical feelings.

The main benefit of this practice is that we all often carry a lot of tension in our bodies, as well as tense up around pain or discomfort that increases the amount of pain one may experience. By practicing mindfulness, you can be aware of when you are tensing up and then relax, as well as understanding how you react to a host of other sensory experiences and then you can act to treat each case as needed more effectively.

The complication is that the body and mind are inter-related, so what affects the body affects the mind and what affects the mind affects the body. While ultimately all events start from the mind, the body plays a key role in our sensory sphere.

Here's how to begin and to develop it further.


  1. Image titled Practice Mindfulness of Body States Step 1
    Find a quiet and peaceful place to meditate and select a posture that suits you best. The styles of posture are examined more in detail on the Do Mindful Meditation page to help you choose the right one for you. Like all mindfulness meditations, it is applicable to all postures and the more you practice the different styles, the more benefits it gives as you can expand your understanding and skills much quicker. Start by spending a few moments relaxing with the eyes open or closed and gradually start being aware of what you are doing. Mindfulness of the body states is probably easier than mental states, since the movements and feelings are so much more easy to see and keep track of.
  2. Image titled Practice Mindfulness of Body States Step 2
    Start to apply awareness on different aspects of the body. There is a host of different ways that this meditation can be applied in different contexts. Here is a basic experiment to start with and practically speaking the mindfulness is not limited, but start with the basics as the wider you can expand your scope, it is easier and quicker to develop the meditation. The aim is to gain a firm familiarity and understanding with the body and its feelings. You can try it here and now in front of the computer, starting with the most obvious feelings, then move onto more subtle feelings.
    • Start by being aware of sitting and any feelings that you might feel, such as feeling comfortable or uncomfortable in the chair. Do you have your feet flat on the floor, tucked underneath the chair or sticking out etc. Are your legs shuffling or still? Does your back or neck ache or is it free from tensions? Take a minute to explore your body in this way.
    • Next, be aware of more environmental aspects and feelings such as the room & body temperature - do parts of you feel hot or cold? Does the chair feel hard or soft?, Do your clothes feel tight or comfortable?, Does the desk and chair affect your posture? etc.
    • When you are looking at the screen, be aware of looking through the eyes and be aware of the amount of light - too high, too low, or OK? Does the amount of light affect you such as making your eyes strain? Look as well at colours and shapes and be aware of how the mind takes up these images and reacts to them.
    • Consider your face - is it a smiling, frowning or puzzled look (etc), is it relaxed or tense?
    • If you move your arm to reach for the mouse, be aware of moving, reaching, touching, gripping, pulling or pushing (etc) of the mouse.
    • Be aware of breathing, as well as how that influences other body feelings and movements as well as how you can use it to calm the body when it is stressed. How you feel and move here and now generally.
  3. Image titled Practice Mindfulness of Body States Step 3
    Apply the same principles into your normal meditation practice. This meditation can be expanded to everything you possibly can including sitting, walking, standing, lying down, turning, twisting, bending, reaching etc. Really as many movements & feelings as you can possibly take note of. Take advantage of the opportunity to relax any tension that you become aware of and see how the mind and body changes when you relax.

    It's always recommended to try to dedicate some time to practice and explore mindfulness. You might spend five minutes or five days and it doesn't really matter in the beginning as something is better than nothing. However the more you are aware and the more practice you give it, the more you can learn and consequently the more insight and understanding can be gained. Long term practice gets the best results as the more subtle insights and realizations are dependent on seeing as many experiences or facets of the body and mind as possible, but also often appear unexpectedly. Set yourself challenges and try to do it for the entire day from getting up, showering, dressing, cooking, eating, using the toilet, doing housework or whatever duties you do during your day, up until the moment you fall asleep. You can spend a few days or weeks even if time permits.
  4. Image titled Practice Mindfulness of Body States Step 4
    Start to look closely to see how feeling and the body interact. You might find most movements are actually in response to feelings of discomfort, such as shuffling a leg if its uncomfortable or if the mind is uneasy or bored, or getting up to get food when hungry etc. Again, take advantage of any chance to relax any tension that arises. Continue to study all the little subtleties such as how you move in a different ways around friends, people you don't like, or people you feel attracted to (etc) and how the environment influences you.
  5. Image titled Practice Mindfulness of Body States Step 5
    Regularly relax and measure against your experiences to see how your progress is coming along. Is the awareness becoming easier? Are you developing any understandings of the mind-body dynamic by observing it? Are you relaxing and letting go of more tension, or letting go more often? It is important to regularly ask yourself what benefits you are finding and how you can improve, otherwise it becomes reduced to a ritualized or dumb-practice which gives minimal benefits.

    As with all meditations, avoid pushing too hard - if you miss something or have to stop, the world is not going to end. The complication about trying too hard is it creates tension, so it actually would inhibit your ease of practice.

    Should you miss something, or get lost in thoughts and feelings, you can always note it after it had happened the moment you are aware that you missed it. The subtle point about this, is it reveals the part of your mind that was aware at the time even when other parts were not and at a later stage it reminded you. This is all part of the complex and divisible nature of the mind.

    If you are becoming attached to the mindfulness, then this too should be noted and examined if attachment can cause you stress. Let go of any mental stress and relax any physical tension during this practice.
  6. Image titled Practice Mindfulness of Body States Step 6
    Expand the scope again when you can do this to a degree that you feel comfortable with it. Start to look at how the mental states come in and influence your actions. For example, you might feel a need to go to get food, but is there a mental prompting? If you looks closely you may see that the body is simply not able to get food on its own without the mind organising the actions.

    The point of this is what seems perfectly logical is not always "known" both deeply or consistently. It might make sense that you will feel a mental urgency to go to (eg) the toilet/bathroom, but do you actually know that's what's driving you when you are rushing towards it or heading towards it in autopilot?

    The "wanting", "cravings" or "intentions" are the things that drive you, because these desires arise dependent on physical and mental feelings. Because part of your mind experiences unpleasant sensations and pain, it prompts you to act to resolve them as it wants these sensations to stop. As no one wants unpleasant feelings, we act, sometimes even against our will. Many practitioners start focus on this part of the mind as a kind of weak link, hoping that if it can be disabled then they wouldn't experience pain. This is the sign that the practice has lost track. The problem is the mind exists as it is for a good reason - to keep us alive. Its hardwired into the package of survival. Try to see how feeling is dependent on contact of mind, the body and the sensation. It looks deceptively simple and it is, until you see it in detail as it happens. It's not that obvious as it first looks. The problem is if you rush into doing or saying something, you don't always know what you are doing and can always do something you regret later. By evaluating the wants behind the actions you can decide if it's worthwhile so you can avoid traps that cause stress. Look for how thoughts and mental feelings influence how you speak, what you say, what you do and how you do it. When you can intervene or prevent actions that you might later regret, you are developing it to a good use and can effectively avoid doing things that cause stress.
  7. Image titled Practice Mindfulness of Body States Step 7
    To develop the practice further, consider or explore some of the following examples.

    1. How each of your actions and speech is conditional on a lot of things, you might think you are doing something, but actions don't do things without an intention, even if you aren't aware of it. You have to know if the intention is going to bring you stress or not.

    2. That one action (eg, walking to the fridge) is actually many thousands of little actions. When you can see that its just many mind and body processes, things like change emptiness and stress (or anicca, meaning impermanence, anatta, meaning non-self and dukkha, meaning stress or dissatisfaction ), dependent origination and the four noble truths start to make sense.

    3. Practiced in conjunction with body mindfulness which is a very similar, but subtly different meditation will give you a far greater familiarity with the body and building acceptance of what it is.

    4. Use the foundation of mindfulness to be aware, or to live in the here and now. Mindfulness helps you pull you back to the present moment, but also to identify you experiences, to observe and to understand, but most importantly, to determine whether the experience is worth holding onto or identifying with. This allows you to be able to start practicing letting go.


  • This practice doesn't actually change anything on its own, its just what it is, being aware. There have been many cases in the past where people have practiced mindfulness in the belief it would change the nature of the body and mind, but ultimately it doesn't change what cannot be changed by us.
  • Take it a step at a time in a dignified and relaxed manner, you aren't going to see anything that hasn't been happening normally for some time anyway.
  • This can be as fun or interesting as you make it - mindfulness is useful everywhere, but its only when you start finding applications for yourself to use does this really become relevant.


  • Logically, the second it might compromise safety (such as in any risky events like a fire, or during driving or walking in dangerous areas etc) it is important to put safety first.
  • When you are very practiced, you can use it when driving only when it won't affect your driving safety. You can actually pick up an enormous amount through driving - such as awareness of judging speed & distance, looking in mirrors, pressing pedals, using the gears, steering etc in relation to other vehicles and the road and knowing when to do it. This may take some months or years before you can do this, but do not allow it to compromise your or other peoples safety and well being.

Article Info

Categories: Buddhist Meditation