Deep Relaxation Meditation
Deep Relaxation for Transforming Fear and Stress
Fear can accumulate in our body, causing stress and tension. Rest is a precondition for healing. When animals in the forest get wounded, they find a place to lie down, and they rest completely for many days. They don’t think about food or anything else. They just rest, and they are able to heal themselves quite naturally. When we humans become fearful and overwhelmed with stress, we may go to the pharmacy and get drugs, but we rarely have the wisdom to stop our running around. We don’t know how to help ourselves.
Deep relaxation is an opportunity for our body to rest, heal, and restore itself. We relax our body, give our attention to each part in turn, and send our love and care to every cell. Deep relaxation of the body should be done at least once a day. It may last for twenty minutes or longer. You can do it in bed at night or in the morning. You can also do it whenever it’s convenient, in the living room or anywhere you have space where you can lie down and not be disturbed. It’s also possible to practice deep relaxation in a sitting position, for example at your office desk.
If your fear and anxiety keep you up at night, deep relaxation can help. Lying awake, you can enjoy the practice of total relaxation and follow your breathing in and out. Sometimes it can help you get some sleep. But even if you don’t sleep, it will still nourish you and allow you to rest. It’s very important to allow yourself to rest, and this relaxation practice can even be more deeply restful than sleep if our sleep tends to be filled with nightmares or other intense dreams.
When we do deep relaxation in a group, one person guides the exercise using the following cues or some variation of them. When you do deep relaxation on your own, you may like to try doing it as you read, or listen to a recording.
Hanh, T. N. (2012). Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm. HarperOne. (pp. 149-150)
Deep Relaxation Exercise
Lie down on your back with your arms at your sides. Make yourself comfortable. Allow your body to relax. Be aware of the floor beneath you . . .
and of the contact of your body with the floor. (The reader may pause here to breathe.)
Allow your body to sink into the floor. (Breathe.)
Become aware of your breathing, in and out. Be aware of your abdomen rising and falling as you breathe in and out. (Breathe.)
Rising . . . falling . . . rising . . . falling. (Breathe.)
Breathing in, bring your awareness to your eyes. Breathing out, allow your eyes to relax. Allow your eyes to sink back into your head…. Let go of the tension in all the tiny muscles around your eyes…. Our eyes allow
us to see a paradise of shapes and colors…. Allow your eyes now to rest…. Send love and gratitude to your eyes…. (Breathe.)
You may say to yourself, “Breathing in, I am aware of my eyes. Breathing out, I smile to my eyes.”
Breathing in, bring your awareness to your mouth. Breathing out, allow your mouth to relax. Release the tension around your mouth…. Your lips are the petals of a flower…. Let a gentle smile bloom on your lips…. Smiling releases the tension in the dozens of muscles in your face…. Feel the tension release in your cheeks . . . your jaw . . . your throat . . . (Breathe.)
Breathing in, bring your awareness to your shoulders. Breathing out, allow your shoulders to relax. Let them sink into the floor…. Let all the accumulated tension flow into the floor…. You carry so much on your shoulders…. Now let them relax, as you care for your shoulders. (Breathe.)
Breathing in, become aware of your arms. Breathing out, relax your arms. Let your arms sink into the floor . . . your upper arms . . . your elbows . . . your lower arms . . . your wrists . . . hands . . . fingers . . . all the tiny muscles…. Move your fingers a little if you need to, to help the muscles relax. (Breathe.)
Breathing in, bring your awareness to your heart. Breathing out, allow your heart to relax. (Breathe.) . . . You may have neglected your heart for a long time in the way you work, eat, and manage anxiety and stress. (Breathe.) . . .
Your heart beats for you night and day. Embrace your heart with mindfulness and tenderness, reconciling and taking care of your heart. (Breathe.)
Say to yourself as you breathe, “Breathing in, I am aware of my heart. Breathing out, I smile to my heart.”
Breathing in, bring your awareness to your legs. Breathing out, allow your legs to relax. Release all the tension in your legs . . . your thighs . . . your knees . . . your calves . . . your ankles . . . your feet . . . your toes . . . all the tiny muscles in your toes…. You may want to move your toes a little to help them relax…. Send your love and care to your toes. (Breathe.)
Breathing in, breathing out…. Your whole body feels light . . . like duckweed floating on the water…. You have nowhere to go . . . nothing to do…. You are as free as the cloud floating in the sky…. (Breathe.)
Bring your awareness back to your breathing. . .to your abdomen rising and falling. (Breathe.)
Following your breathing, become aware of your arms and legs…. You may want to move them a little and stretch. (Breathe.)
If you are doing the practice before sleep, just continue to follow your breathing, breathing in and breathing out. If you are doing the practice as a break during the day, when you feel ready, slowly sit up. (Breathe.)
When you are ready, slowly stand up. Take a moment and be aware of your breath as you stand there before continuing on to your next activity.
Hanh, T. N. (2012). Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm. HarperOne. (pp. 150-153)