Learn how to live more peacefully



Do your shoulders ever feel like they’re literally carrying the weight of the world? Can you feel your jaw clenching as you listen to someone’s ill-informed views and you decide it’s better to swallow your words rather than get into an argument? Are butterflies in your stomach letting you know that you really are feeling quite nervous about this upcoming engagement?

Over the years, our bodies experience tension, injury and illness, as well as hopefully plenty of pleasure and delight. We’re often taught to push through those ‘little niggles’, to not let our bodies hold us back. And while we don’t want to turn into hypochondriacs, those long-standing patterns of ‘pushing through’ can lead to parts of our bodies which feel quite rigid and uncomfortable.

It’s also normal to tense around parts of our bodies which are in pain. Again, if this tightness persists over an extended period of time, it can block the flow of energy through that area and potentially slow down the healing process. We can counteract this by learning to soften into different parts of our bodies, both during meditation, and also by pausing and softening throughout the day. Here are four different practices which might help:

  1. Bring your mind to the part of your body you would like to soften, and, as you breathe out, quietly say to your body something like ‘relax’, ‘letting go’, ‘softening and ease’. Sighing the breath out as you do this can be extra relaxing
  2. Bring a colour to mind which is healing and nourishing for you, and imagine breathing this colour into the area which is tense. You can also imagine bringing in some warmth or light along with the colour
  3. Imagine the area is like ice, and as you breathe into it, it starts to melt like water, and then evaporates like gas
  4. Imagine a kind person or healing presence placing their hands on your body. This can be particularly nice on your shoulders. I sometimes imagine a kind person standing behind me and placing their hands on my shoulders, and I can feel my shoulders drop by what feels like at least 5 cm! 🙂

Of course there are many physical practices which also allow us to soften into our bodies, such as yoga or Tai Chi. Getting a massage or acupuncture treatment works directly with those tight areas as well. Ideally, we might have a regular mindful movement practice, physical therapy as needed, and also develop our mindfulness of the body, including consciously softening into areas which are tight.

Mindfulness practice:

Just where you are, pause for a moment, close your eyes, take a few slow breaths, and feel into your body. Choose an area which may feel a little tight, and use one of the practices above to soften into it for a minute or two. How does this feel? Is this something you can imagine yourself doing a few times during each day?   

Anja Tanhane