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Tension Release Meditation


Listen to the meditation HERE (may take 10 seconds to begin downloading):

About the Meditation

Pain, illness and stress walk hand in hand together. They feed off each other in a vicious cycle that leads to ever greater suffering and disability.

Nothing creates stress with such brutal efficiency as the feeling of being trapped by illness. Painful questions can begin nagging at your soul: Is it getting worse? Maybe they've missed something? Perhaps it's terminal and they won't tell me...

Such negative thoughts are incredibly powerful and almost impossible to stop. One thought triggers the next, and the next, in a vicious cycle that can leave you burnt-out and broken.

But it's often far worse than this because such thoughts create tension in the body, aggravating illnesses and injuries. Stress also dampens the immune system and shuts down the body's self-repair mechanisms. Stress isn't just a miserable experience, it erodes physical health too.

Although it's impossible to prevent stress from arising, you can change what happens next. You can stop the spiral from feeding off itself and triggering the cycle of negative thoughts that makes suffering far worse.

Mindfulness helps you step outside such vicious cycles by teaching you a different way of dealing with stress. With practice you come to realise that stress (like pain) is a 'message' that tends to melt away of its own accord once it has been 'delivered', or felt with full mindful awareness. When this occurs, an extraordinary thing can happen: a profound sense of happiness and peace fills the void.

Such bone-deep contentment isn't just pleasant, it also boosts the immune system and restarts the body's self-repair mechanisms. Even if you have an incurable condition, it will substantially improve your quality of life.

A very good way to reduce stress is to practice the Tension Release Meditation. Follow the instructions below or download the audio track HERE:

Tension Release Meditation Instructions

The aim of this meditation is to move your awareness around the body, paying special attention to areas of tension and discomfort, and then to gently breathe 'into' them. Often the most discomfort is held in the neck, shoulders, back, or stomach.

To begin this meditation, adopt as comfortable a position as possible. You can do it either sitting or lying down. If you're lying down, let the arms rest at the sides of the body with the hands palms upwards. Alternatively you may prefer to rest the hands on the belly, hips or ribs with the hands palms downwards – whatever is most comfortable. Allow your shoulders to be soft. If you're sitting, place your hands in your lap with as little strain on the arms and shoulders as possible. Allow you face to soften; soft jaw; soft throat; soft belly, soft body.

Allow your body to settle down into gravity – feeling the points of contact between your body and the surface upon which it's resting. Allow your weight to sink down through these points of contact again and again.

Very gently gather your awareness around the sensations and movement of the breath in the body. Can you feel the breath in the chest, the belly and even the back of the body? Can you feel the movement of the ribs in the back of the body as well as the front? Maybe you can even feel the breath in the lower back? Feel the way the whole body expands a little on the in-breath and subsides a little on the outbreath. Be careful not to force or alter the natural breath. Can you let the breath breathe itself?

Now very very gently guide your awareness to the areas of pain and discomfort in your body. Can you let your awareness gently rest there? Can you feel the breath in that part of the body? Let the breath gently soothe and massage these areas of tension. Can you bring a quality of care to the breath? Saturate the breath with kindliness, gentleness and tenderness as it rocks and cradles this part of the body. Treat yourself the way you'd naturally treat somebody that you loved and cared for who was hurting.

If at any time this feels a little intense, broaden your awareness to include the whole body and pay particular attention to the sense of the body settling down into gravity again and again. Each time you catch yourself tensing up, gently settle down onto the floor again. Do this over and over if necessary.

Spend a few moments resting deep in the body, in the breath, and allow your discomfort to be soothed by the rhythm of the breath again and again.

Now bring this short meditation to a close. Broaden your awareness to include sounds around you, open the eyes and begin to gently move your body.

See if you can take this quality of breath-based body awareness with you as you re-engage with the activities of your day.