PROGRESSIVE RELAXATION

Sit or lie in a comfortable position, preferably so that your body is symmetrically placed. You might be sitting square on a chair, or lying flat on your back, or comfortably balanced on a prayer stool. Make sure your back is a straight as is comfortable, and be prepared for your spine to straighten even more during meditation.

Firstly, be aware of your breath as it goes in and out. Put your mind on your breath, as it were, and follow it silently as it goes in through the nose, down to your solar plexus (down deep to your stomach), and then up and out again through the mouth and nose.

You might like to gently count as you breathe in and as you breathe it. 1 -2 – 3 on the in breath; 1 -2 -3 -4 on the out breath. 1 -2 -3 in; 1 -2 -3 -4 out. Breathe away any tension in your body. When you are ready, you might like to increase the count: 1 -2 -3 -4 on the in breath; 1 -2 -3 -4 -5 on the out breath.

An amazing thing about our mind is that it is not limited by time and space. We can put our mind anywhere and any time. You can use your mind now to put your mind on the muscles of your body and be aware of them relaxing.

Put your mind on your feet and legs. Be aware of the small muscles of the feet, and the larger muscles of the calves and the thighs. Allow them to become as relaxed as they can be. Let the floor or the chair or gravity do all the work. You don’t have to hold them up. Just let them become more and more relaxed.

Now put your mind on the muscles of your lower back. Allow them to become as relaxed as they can be. As you breathe out, imagine you are breathing out through your lower back. Breathe away any tension that is there. Let your lower back become more and more relaxed.

Now put your mind onto your hands and arms. Be aware of any tension that is in the small muscles of the hands, and the muscles of the forearms and the biceps. Let them become as relaxed as they can be.

As your hands become more relaxed, like your feet, they many tingle from time to time. This is just a normal part of the workings of the nerve ends. Just let them become relaxed. If you find that your hand has quite a lot of tension, you may need to put your mind on each of your fingers one by one; be aware of them and any tension in them, and then let them go, so that they can be more and more relaxed.

Now put your mind on your shoulders. Be aware of any tension that is there. Often when we are angry or frustrated, we tense the muscles in our shoulders, and the tension stays there. Breathe away any tension that is there. Just let your shoulders become heavier and heavier. You don’t have to hold them up. They can become more and more relaxed.

Our stomach collects all the tensions we have from fear or guilt, and is often more tense than we know. Be aware of it now. Put your mind on it. Notice any tension that is there, and let it go. Breathe out through your stomach and breathe away the tension.

Now be aware of all your body below your head. Put your mind on the different muscles and see how your whole body is become heavier, is more relaxed. If you can, breathe out through your whole body. Breathe away the tension.

Become aware now of your face. Put your mind on your forehead. Let it become more relaxed. Use your imagination to smooth away any tension, any frown. Now put your mind on the muscles around your mouth and nose. Let them become more and more relaxed.

Be open to the healing breath that surrounds us: the air with its load of oxygen. The breath is the Spirit, and we breathe it in to help our healing. Breathe it in knowing you are breathing in the gift of life. Breathe it out through the whole body, allowing every part of you to become heavier and heavier, more and more relaxed.

Be aware of your breathing. Let your breath going in and out be your only reality. There is nothing in the Universe except your breath breathing in and breathing out. If there are any thoughts that come into your mind, just put your mind on them lightly, and let them go. Don’t think about them or try to finish them, but just acknowledge that they are there, and you don’t have to deal with them right now.

MEDITATION

You will find it helpful in keeping your mind clear and focus, if you choose a word that makes you feel unreservedly good. This word might be “God”, or “Spirit”, or “Love”. It might be a natural phenomenon like “Sky”, or “Wind” or “Blue”. It might be a word from your religious tradition like “Jesus”, or “Rama”, or “Prophet”.

I want you to choose one word and put it on your breath. In other words, you say your word silently in your mind as you breathe in and as you breathe out. If your word has two syllables like “Spirit”, you might like to break it into two parts, “Spi-” on the in breath, and “-rit” on the out breath.

Just keep that one word on your breath going in and out. Allow it to become larger and larger, until it is the only thing in the Universe. Just your breath in and out with the one word on it.

Now scan your body slowly to find the place of greatest pain. Gently place your mind on that place. Acknowledge your pain. Be aware of it as “pain” – part of you, but not all you, here in this moment. If you feel you can, just allow the pain to be there, with your breath going in and out, the only thing in the Universe. Just allow it to be.

Then imagine the area of pain as a colour. It could be an intense colour: an angry red, or a pitch black hole. Put your mind on the colour. Experience the colour as fully as you can. Then I want you to imagine the colour slowly draining away, becoming less and less intense, paler and paler, until it is nothing but a smudge of gray, or brown, or pink.

It may be that your pain is less; it may be that it is the same. Gently touch your pain again with your mind. Stroke it lightly. It is there and you are there.

And then come back to your breath going in and out, with that one word on it.

CONTEMPLATION

Be aware now of your breath going in and out, with your one mantra word on it.

Your mind can go anywhere, any time. I want you to use your mind to travel to the most beautiful place that you know. I want you to really be there; be present to that place. Imagine what it looks like. Paint the sky, the trees, the clouds, the horizon. Really experience it. Imagine the sounds of your beautiful place: the bird songs, the breeze, people talking, music. Really go there and be surrounded by the beautiful sounds. Remember the smells of this beautiful place. The scent on the breeze, the salt tang of the sea, or the blossoms of the bush. Let you mind savour the perfumed beauty of the place.

You are alone in this beautiful place. You are simply enjoying being there and being part of all this beauty. You can stay some time in this setting. Just you, your breath with the one word breathing in and out, surrounded by beauty.

I want you to imagine the Spirit coming to meet you in this place. The Spirit is as real as you, and is coming towards you. The Spirit is close to you now, and embraces you, enfolds you completely. You feel as though you are in the safest spot in all the world, encircled by the Spirit in this beautiful place. You want to stay, and stay as long as you can.

You know that you cannot stay forever held in this way by the Spirit. You bid farewell to the Spirit, and watch as the Spirit leaves your beautiful place. This encounter may have changed you deeply, or it may not have, but it assures you that you are surrounded by loving and good forces.

You come back to being aware of your breath going in and out with your one word on it.