Step Three: Move (5 minutes)
Why do it: Body and mind are connected. Modern neuroscience shows that when the body relaxes, the nervous system can regulate itself, and the mind calms.
How to do it: Find a place where you can move (without looking weird). Stand. Begin to shake your body out, let it move. Really let the tension out. Shake your arms and flap your hands strongly. Move your legs, shake, dance, kick, stomp. Shake your head, flop your shoulders, make faces, make noises like you are a kid. Move until you feel some release (two minutes).
Now find a place to sit down. Close your eyes. Start at the top of your head. Slowly tighten and relax your body, one part at a time. Relax your eyes and face. Squint and release your eyes; loosen your jaw. Roll your head in a circle to relax your neck. Raise and lower your shoulders several times and let them relax. Tighten and release your arms and hands. Move on to relax your chest, belly, back, pelvis, genitals, butt, thighs, legs, ankles and feet. Drink in the relaxation (three minutes).
Step Four: Hold Yourself with Kindness (5 minutes)
Why do it: When a baby is distressed, holding her gently, with kindness, settles her down. In the same way, you can calm your own mind and ease your heart by holding yourself with compassion.
What to do: Sit comfortably. Notice whatever stress and problems you still carry, and how they feel in your mind and body. Instead of struggling against the problems, imagine you are holding them with kindness as if they were crying children. Next, put a hand on your heart. Hold yourself with kindness. With each breath, bring in care for yourself in the midst of struggles and difficulties. Note how your heart eases, your mind quiets, grace and calm return.
Jack Kornfield is the author of A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life and Meditation for Beginners.
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