Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of January 19, 2009

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Relaxing Our Body

(Part 1 of 9 in the Inner Work Series: Stages of Body Presence)

The practice of body presence begins with relaxation. We carry unnecessary tensions in many of our muscles, from the small muscles of our face to the large muscles of our arms, legs, and abdomen. Relaxing those many tensions offers at least seven benefits. First, it trains us to be aware of our body, to be in contact through attention with our body and its state. Second, it trains us in developing the receptive mode of our will by requiring us to allow the tensions to drain out of our muscles. Third, the relaxed body does not waste either physical or inner energies on unnecessary tensions. Fourth, the relaxed body allows our inner energies to move more easily within our being, by reducing or removing the blockages to those movements. Fifth, the relaxed body offers a ready and effective container for the sensitive energy. Sixth, the relaxed body allows the sensitive energy, which it naturally produces, to collect and rise into our awareness. And seventh, the relaxed body tends to be physically and emotionally healthier.

To practice relaxation, sit quietly and let your body and mind begin to settle down for a few minutes. Then with your attention start scanning your body for tensions. Begin at the top of your head and systematically work your way down through your whole body to your toes. Allow the tensions to drain away, to evaporate as you find them. For your torso, do not focus on particular internal organs so as not to interfere with their functioning. Instead just relax the surface and larger muscles. Relax the upper torso, the chest and upper back. Then relax the lower torso. As you scan and relax your way through your body, pay particular attention to those perennial zones of accumulated tensions: the face and the jaw, the muscles between your neck and shoulders, the abdomen, and the lower back.

Repeat the whole process as necessary to become thoroughly and utterly relaxed, reserving only the minimal muscular tension needed to hold your body upright in the sitting position. Sitting upright while relaxing helps prevent the process from falling over into ordinary sleep and helps keep your attention engaged.

Your breath can also help, especially the exhale, because each release of breath can carry over into releasing the tensions you find in your body. You simply expand the will act of letting go of the exhaling breath into simultaneously letting go of muscular tensions. So with each exhalation, you relax a little further. This offers the added benefit of training us to be in contact with our breath, which helps when we work at the body presence stage of energy breathing. Once you are fully relaxed, just sit quietly and be in your unfettered, open, and happier body.

Sometimes relaxation practice reveals a profound fatigue. If that happens, allow the fatigue to be there, to come fully to the fore. Do not resist it. Continue relaxing in an undemanding way, to allow your body the deep, healing, and conscious rest it needs. After a time you may find the fatigue begins to lift, leaving you refreshed and ready. Your body is thoroughly relaxed while, inside, you are thoroughly awake and alert.

For this week, practice relaxation during periods you set aside exclusively for that. Also during your daily activities, notice your physical tensions and let them go.


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