As mentioned in previous posts, meditation is an incredible personal development tool. While getting ‘into the groove’ of doing it can take some time, patience and knowingly-futile efforts at first, it’s one of those things that aligns with the quote from the Alchemist – When you know what you want, the universe conspires to give it to you.
Nowadays, the form of meditation most referred to is that of ‘no thought’ – in other words, learning to reduce the mental chatter by going beyond the thoughts. While this is a great skill to develop, it can also be limiting to view as the the ‘only’ form of meditation. I for one sometimes get into moods where have no desire to try to stop my thinking; however, still feel compelled to sit in silence.
During these times I’ve explored other useful exercises I can do, and one of my typical go to forms is using the practice to release bodily tension.
It goes without saying, I’m not a doctor nor do I know much about anatomy, so please take anything I write in this post with a grain of salt. Also please bear in mind this post is by no means intended to write-off the chronic pain people may face as ‘just being in the mind’. If you can feel it, it’s real to you and this may not be an idea that is suited for you. It’s simply a experiment conducted by a passionate, obsessed personal development student.
Over the years of study exploring this body of knowledge I’ve been fascinated by the idea of treating everything like energy. Philosopher Alan Watts gives some great lectures on the idea that everything we experience is just a certain frequency of vibration that emerges from nothing/silence – like a drum skin that vibrates to create sound when hit.
If everything were simply energy (i.e. a unique vibration manifesting itself in time and space) then we could view bodily pains and tensions as energy that isn’t flowing properly. Bashar, a popular channeled entity, talks about the idea that our body is naturally designed to be at ease, but based on our experiences our mind can manifest dis-ease. In other words, if we viewed our pains and tensions as our bodies being out of ease, there’s a chance we can use our mind to bring it back into ease again.
Here’s a little sequence to play around with during meditation as a way to release pain and tension (dis-ease) to restore your bodily’s natural state of ease:
- Get comfy – First, get into a position that is comfortable for you to remain there a long time without getting agitated. You can be cross-legged, on your knees (pillow under your butt for support) or lying down (small pillow under your lower back and/or knees if you want). Don’t overthink this step, and at the same time don’t rush through it, it will be important for you to remain consciously in this position without being distracted by the desire to move.
- Follow your breathe – Beginning any meditation can often be a turmoil since your mind is probably on over-drive and wanting to jump to the next ‘to-do’ on your list. Don’t try to stop your mind from doing this, as it will only create frustration, which will push you away from continuing to meditate. Instead, acknowledge when your mind scatters and then gently bring yourself to follow the inhale and exhale of your breathe. When you’ve found your mind has wandered again, repeat the previous sentence. The key here is to not get upset at yourself for drifting in thought. Any anger or expectation that you need to always stay with your breathe will only push you further away from getting a calm state.
- Breathe in and feel the tension, breathe out and feel it relax – Since the mind can only truly know an experience in relative terms, what we’re going to do now is give the mind a relative difference between tension and a relaxed state. After you’re in a fairly calm state, as you breathe in, tense your body up, especially areas that feel stiff or lacking flexibility. Once you’ve taken in as much air as you can, pause and really become aware of where the tension exists in your body. After a couple of seconds, breathe out slowly and while doing so slowly let go/release the tension you created when you breathed in. A great thing to say to yourself when doing this is “There is nothing for my body to hold onto, it’s all just energy that needs to be reminded to keep moving.” The best way to know if you’re doing this right is when you can tangibly feel tense areas no longer being tensed (keeping in mind we ‘forced’ tension when breathing in).
- Get really minute – As you get more skilled at creating tension and letting it go, to challenge yourself further try to become aware of really minute tensions that aren’t intentionally ‘forced’ when breathing in. Basically, when you breathe in, use your awareness to scan your body to sense tension that exists at a really subconscious level (i.e. a level of tension/pain in which you have become accustomed to as just being a ‘normal’ part of you). This step can be really powerful because you will start to become aware of really fine tensions and pain that are often causing your body to create larger pain by overcompensating. This step can also be very difficult since your awareness is diving into sensations in which it decided it no longer needs to feel, so bringing awareness to it might make your mind uncomfortable with the fact that it has to ‘go there’ again. However, remain patient with yourself. If you find yourself getting frustrated, do step 3 a couple of times again, and then come back to this step.
A great add-on to this step is to visualize areas you sense to be tense as having a ball of energy that is just stuck – almost like you would have something blocking a pipe. As you breathe, instead of clenching/unclenching your body like you did in step 3, imagine this ball of energy gathering up tightly on your inhale, and then dispersing quickly on your exhale. You could also imagine it leaving your body through any part of you that is connected to the ground (i.e. grounding the energy)
Feel free to add/edit this sequence as you learn more about what helps you release tension during meditation. If you come up with any cool ideas/techniques/steps, please do share for everyone to see in the comments below.