Settle yourself into a comfortable position. It may be useful when lying flat on your back to use a thin pillow to support your head if that brings more ease to your neck and/or a bolster under your knees for extra comfort in your lower back. Reclining on a warm floor helps us to feel supported by the earth beneath our body and we may be able to relax more readily because of this. The support of the floor under our backs means that no muscle has to strain, we feel secure, and we can trust the foundations beneath us knowing that we are held by the earth.
As we practice stillness in the body, the mind can follow suit and it may become calm.
We’ll start the contemplation with a purposeful resolve, this is known as a sankalpa or positive affirmation; choose a short simple phrase that relates to something that you would like to establish and grow in your life such as “I am a strong, flexible person in mind, body and spirit.” Repeat your affirmation approximately three times. It’s like planting a seed. Now we will relax and make the ground ready for the affirmation to bear fruit.
Draw your awareness to your physical body. Rest your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your left shoulder, let your head move to the left so that your eyes are looking at your shoulder, stay here. Close your eyes and connect with the comforting, nurturing, healing sensation in the palms of your hands. The hands communicate as much as our voice does, so allow your hands to transmit love as they rest on your shoulder and belly. Feel nourished as you fold your arms across the front of your body in a tender, compassionate gesture; rest here for five smooth steady breaths……..repeat the warm embrace on the opposite side, with your eyes relaxed under gently closed eyelids. Bring a gentle, warm expression of kind regard to your face, like a subtle smile to acknowledge friendship. Stay here for another five breaths……..
Now place your arms by the sides of your body and let your head relax into a comfortable position, carefully rock or nod your head a little if it helps you to settle it into a cosy place. In your mind’s eye, scan your body to see if you can find any areas of tension or holding patterns. Scan from toe to head whilst freely and deeply inhaling, then scan from head to toe whilst slowly, smoothly exhaling……................. You may find several tight spots or very few. If you do feel awkward, or perhaps painful, in any areas then rest your attentiveness on each place that you find individually for a moment, encouraging each area to trust the earth. Reassure your body that it’s safe, it has nothing to do but relax and be held by the supportive foundations beneath it………Take your time, give each area some care……..
As the body begins to let go of tension you may feel your breath gradually getting smoother and slower. The body, in turn, responds to the smooth rhythmic pattern of the breath…..The inhale is moving freely and deeply into your body and the slow, smooth exhale calmly leaves your physical system. As you breathe in you might mentally, in your mind’s eye, say this affirmation to yourself; “may I receive what supports me” and as you exhale, “may I release what holds me back.”……….If you can comfortably lengthen the exhale further or hold it out a little, you may add, “may I support that which supports me.” Let the inhale feel welcomed into your system so that it can shine its’ vibrant energy into every area of your being, the exhale lengthens without strain but it takes it’s time to filter away any spent energy. When the exhale is smooth and slow it clears the way for the inhale to replenish you. Repeat the affirmation a few times or simply rest your thoughts in the breath and appreciate this moment of calm where your mind and body can lay quietly together and appreciate one another**
Let the affirmation drift away from your consciousness now and bring your awareness to your belly button area, you might feel it gently rising and softly falling as it responds to the breath, let this rise and fall be natural. It is perfectly normal not to sense any movement there sometimes, so there’s no need to make anything happen in your body. Let the body be settled in these quiet moments……………from this umbilical area try to imagine, sense or feel that you are linked to the power of the sun. On the exhale feel a soothing warmth emanating from your belly button area that allows your whole body to bask in a calming glow. On the inhale feel a brightness at your chest that shines brilliantly around your whole body……………………………………..
The sun shines constantly, mostly unchanging over the millennia. Whether it be midday on a hot midsummer’s day or midnight on a freezing midwinter’s night the sun always shines. As we draw closer to our breath we can sometimes begin to sense an aspect of ourselves that is similar to the sun, but even more constant and unchanging than that magnificent star. If we practice breathing consciously as we are now, we begin to catch glimpses of this sacred aspect of ourselves, we feel moments when it shimmers into our mind's eye.
The sun always shines no matter where we are on the globe or what time of day it is, and likewise this radiant aspect of ourselves is always brilliant, no matter what circumstances we are in, what our emotions are doing, or what we are thinking; however, day to day life casts a “cloak of invisibility” over this aspect of ourselves and our mind is ignorant of its’ brilliant companion……………..
Lie in stillness for a short while longer with your mind looking towards the breath. Notice when the mind wavers towards distracting thoughts and gently but firmly tune the mind into the breath…………………
Lying still is an antidote to the often erratic or slouching movements and thoughts we make and have throughout the day, it relaxes the body and lets the mind become calm, calm enough to see a glint of eternity………..
Bring your thoughts right back to the start of the practice when you made your resolve. Remember your sankalpa and repeat it back to yourself now about three times, with full confidence that your seed is ready to bear fruit because of the groundwork you have put in…………..
Let your hands rest across your body again, one hand on your shoulder and the other on your belly, feel the touch of kindness flowing through your hands. After a couple of breaths change your arms the other away and know that the care you offer yourself is an expression of generosity. If you feel nurtured you will have more energy to offer compassion to those around you. Stretch if you need to and then bring yourself slowly and carefully up to sitting in a way that suits you. Rest your hands in prayer position at your heart and mentally repeat these words to yourself, “may we look upon all beings with kindness and may all beings look upon us as a friend.”
** If the inhale feels like it’s having to force its way in then we are no longer freeing ourselves of tension, and we are creating barriers to a peaceful mind and body. Don't hold the breath if you are pregnant.