Sometimes we’re just working too hard, especially at spiritual practices — specifically meditation. There’s room for effort, however effort doesn’t equal strain. Strain is entirely counterproductive to entering the freedom of meditation.
What if for the next thirty days, your only task was to practice relaxing ever more deeply in and out of meditation? What if this simple practice could bring more ease, energy, and joy to every area of your life? Would you be willing to give it a go? Would you be willing to set up simple reminders to help you remember and stay with the practice?
Here’s the practice: I call it the 5 Points of Softening. With each point, your task is to bring your attention to that region and consciously use your imagination to allow it to soften.
- The soles of your feet – allow them to soften and spread.
- The palms of your hands – feel them gently widening and all the cells expanding.
- The corners of your eyes – imagine them melting…as you go deeper in this region, you are likely to notice your forehead tuning in and softening as well.
- The skin in and around your ears – (This one may really feel like you’re making it up in the beginning. Trust me, the more you work with it, you’ll actually feel sensations there.) Feel the skin in and around your ears softening and expanding. You’re likely to feel your jaw relaxing and the back of your neck softening as you go deeper with this area.
- The whole groin region; pelvic floor, sphincter, insertions of the leg muscles – feel this entire region softening and melting into your seat. It’s amazing, when you pay attention, to see how often most of us are gripping in this area for no good reason whatsoever. Over time, the practice of letting go of the obvious and subtle tension in this area will help you feel more grounded, confident, and present.
As you sit for meditation each day, take time to go through each of these areas. Give yourself as much time as you need for bringing relaxation to each region. The more practice you get with this exercise, the easier it will become to live from a deeply relaxed place, using only the muscles and degree of effort required for any given task, returning to rest when the task is complete.
Also work with this exercise for a few moments at a time throughout the rest of each day, when you’re driving, sitting at the computer, on the phone, in a meeting, etc. This is also a fantastic way to meet any form of internal or external conflict. When you soften, you are less of an obstacle to be resisted. You may be surprised to see that when you soften, and your breath deepens, those around you are put at ease as well.
Scott Schwenk, a Los Angeles based spiritual teacher, healer, writer and business consultant, is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and a featured teacher at We Care Spa in Desert Hot Springs, CA. For more information, visit www.scottschwenk.com.