2021-10-18-Body (1 of 5) Relaxing the Body
3:08PM Oct 18, 2021
So this day this week that focuses on that part of the mindfulness instruction that has to do with mindfulness of the body. Of course, the mindfulness of the body practice begins, is, with mindfulness of breathing, the focus for last week, the breathing is, is a completely embodied part of our experience. And it's, it kind of begins opening and helping of openness to the rest of the body. The simplest instructions from mindfulness that we teach here at IMC is that when you know to use the breathing as the basis, that's the home base for meditation, as a default, just if you are wondering where to have your attention, have your attention with your breathing. So just just a default to start a Mac, you don't think about it. But if something else becomes more compelling, there used to be the teaching when something else became becomes predominant. Then the idea is to you can do two things, you can either let go of the breathing entirely focusing on it, and bring your full attention to this project. If the if it's in your this other thing that's predominant. So for now, it's going to be the body serve, something becomes more predominant in the body, then we practice mindfulness of the body mindfulness of that place. If someone the other option is to stay with the breathing, but in a sense, maybe through the imaginations slightly, is to imagine you're breathing through or with the strong sensations in your body. Sooner and later, the body will speak up with strong sensations for beginners and meditation. Taking a meditation posture is quickly uncomfortable. And slowly over time, the body adjusts and stretches and opens and gets stronger, so that there's some ease in this yogic posture of meditation. And it's really a well worth to work through that time. But you don't, don't need to strain yourself meditating not to force yourself to stay with discomfort. If some discomfort becomes too strong, then change your posture, you know, you don't have to, if it feels like you're getting stressed by the meditation itself, then don't stay with the uncomfortable things. But there's also this turning towards What's there in the body. And today's kind of topic is relaxation, to relax the body in a deep way. So one, one, early time where I started learning the value of relaxation was when I was a Zen student. And there were times that my knees hurt a lot from sitting, we settled, we meditated a lot, and we weren't in zen, you weren't really supposed to move while you're meditating during meditation. So if you're uncomfortable, you have to kind of bear it. And so I noticed some point that around the knee pain, there would be subtle micro tensions of the muscles around it like resistance of maybe kind of expose an expression of resistance to the pain and that contract around it. But that tightness actually made the pain worse. And if I relaxed those micro attentions, that pain got better, got less. And it was just enough, there was a difference from being overwhelmed, to managing fine with it. But I had to be very attentive, because if I didn't pay attention, then the reactivity I had would creep in kind of, kind of unknowingly and, and then the muscles would be tight again. So I learned to kind of stay there and feel feel that sense the the, the sensations there, that tightness, and relax them relax them.
I learned also that I had sometimes subtle tension in my fingers, and they ever so slightly pulled in. And it was an expression of some kind of feeling of like I have to work hard here I gauge now and doing this meditation thing. And so I learned to recognize that subtle tension in the fingers and relax it and keep it relaxed. And that had a reciprocal relationship or relationship to that attitude either work hard here, and as I relaxed the fingers, that attitude would soften or knowingly, the attitude record returned, and the fingers would get tense again. And and so I learned Do a regular part of the check in as I meditated was to make sure my fingers were relaxed. And it was something was relatively easy to do. For me, you know, as a micro relaxation, it wasn't a big deal. So micro attention. Same thing with a belly. And the early years of meditation practice I had a lot of tension in my belly in my belly was always tightened up and held in. And I didn't make it a big project, but probably two or three times in the course of meditation beginning in the middle and near the end or something, I would relax the belly. And from it, oftentimes, the beginning would just tightened right up again. And I didn't make much to do, but with it, I just kind of periodically relaxed. But over time, over the months of doing this, the belly learned what it was like to be relaxed. And as the belly became more familiar with it, and more at home in it, I could feel you know, it would became more of a regular place easier to be there and relaxed belly. But also, the the anxiety, that seemed to be the genesis of that stomach tension began to loosen again, to recognize it, I hadn't recognized it until I started kind of hanging out with a belly and feeling the tension there. So as you do mindfulness of the body, it's helpful to keep an eye out for where the tension is, where the holding patterns are the tightness. And, and not to make it a big project or very be very ambitious about the relaxation. But it's is helpful to relax. So as many of you know, you know, we I teach here and this, these 7am meditations, to relax at the beginning, always to relax at the beginning. But as the meditation goes along, it's useful to kind of check in, is there some tension there, any current tension crept in, in some of my longest retreats that I met it set, where I sat in very deep states of meditation, I developed a practice of I would sit for sometimes for a few hours at a time, and I would pull myself out of the meditation, you know, with my mind, I would still look like I was meditating. But I would kind of pull out of the concentrated state and, and look around for a few seconds to see any tension crept in. And if there was, then I would relax, that tension. And often the relaxation had to do with something in the upper head, that was connected to trying a little bit too hard to be focused a little too hard to concentrate, and it'd be a little contraction there. So I'd relax with the relaxation, the consciousness softened. And then I would dip back into medicine into the deep place of meditation, I found it so useful to always kind of come out and check in some people as they get concentrated to get tension in their face, and, and come out of the concentrated state, relax, relax the tension. And then, and then see if you can get concentrated without that tension building up. Some people find that in meditation, even if they don't try to do a lot of relaxation, actively, that just meditation is relaxing, is the genesis of a lot of tension has to do with the tense away we think and the tense things we think about. And as in meditation, that the thinking quiets down, that source of tension begins to lessen and become weaker and weaker. And so some people find you're simply staying with the breath, focusing on the breath, letting their attention, kind of ride the breath, be with a breath, then there's not so much attention available to all these thinking that are stress producing. And so just that then the people find themselves relaxing, sometimes progressively and sometimes they realize after the fact boy am I relaxed without trying.
So it's important also not to try too much to relax. There are times when I've tried to relax my body and I made it a project and you know, I could couldn't quite do it, I do a little bit that I try some more do a little bit and just kept me busy and meditation. And then then I wouldn't try to relax. And I would just stay focused as be with my breathing and get cost for breathing. And lo and behold that part of my body relaxed. So we don't always want to do kind of frontal assault to in our tension. Sometimes we have to just accept it and and allow it to be there and just do the practice and trust that it'll relax on its own. And then finally, an interesting thing to do with a relaxation of the body. If you feel there's tension somewhere In the body, that doesn't want to relax, don't worry about it. But sometimes it's very interesting to relax around it, relax the attitude towards it, relax the, and this outer layer of reactivity, perhaps around like my knee pain, I tighten up around it. So, you know, if the shoulders are very tense or the belly is tense, they can't relax, don't worry about it. But maybe it's possible to relax something a little bit, a wider circle in the body, just around that there might be a softening that can happen. So today's theme is relaxation. And relaxation is just, I think of it as kind of like the entry level variation, entry level kind of taste of, oh have the deep letting go that then Buddhism is called liberation. And it had appropriate partakes that relaxation shares, some of the goodness and some of the qualities of deep, deep relaxation, that a freedom liberation that comes. And so we're kind of getting a hang of it and feel for it, the body gets a sense, and it helps prepare the ground for deeper and deeper, letting go and relaxation as meditation proceeds. So thank you for today. And you might spend the next 24 hours familiarizing yourself with attentions in your body, the times and places and ways in which you tighten up. And might be just a fascinating to see how much it goes on. And then, but also, are there simple ways you can relax that? What happens if you stay and don't allow relaxed or don't allow the tensions to build? How does your how does that affect your day so thank you very much.