Progressive Relaxation Body Scan

sitting meditationHere is one of our scripts for a guided body scan with the goal of muscle relaxation and stress relief. Please feel free to use it (proper attribution is always appreciated) or record your own voice reading it to have a personal guided relaxation session.

Progressive Relaxation Body Scan

Shift into a comfortable position- one that allows your back to be straight and supports all of your limbs. Move around until you settle into the right spot, perhaps finding something to lean against to support your back. Feel free to lie down if that is most comfortable, or if your objective is to prepare for sleep. If you would like to set an intention, go ahead and do so now. You are free to adjust your position at any time during the body scan to become more comfortable and relaxed.

Become present and aware of your body and your surroundings. Let your eyes close gently if they are not already closed. Take in a deep breath through your nose, noticing how your chest and belly feel as they fill up. Let your breath out through your nose, and at the bottom of your exhale, gently push just a little more air out. Welcome your breath back in through your nose, and again, out through your nose. Let your breath become smooth, even, and equal. Take a few more breaths this way. Allow your pattern of breathing to follow its natural pattern, in and out. Any way this occurs is fine.

Create with your mind a beautiful, bright ball of light floating in the air above your head. See it in your mind or just sense that it is there. Notice what color it is. Feel a gentle warmth emanating from it and know that the light has special properties of comfort, healing, relaxation, and cleansing. Allow this ball of light to slowly move downward through your body and permeate each part of your body.

As the light moves down through the crown of your head, allow your scalp to relax, the muscles in your forehead, eyes, cheeks, jaw, and neck relax and become still. Let all tension release and melt away as the beautiful white light seeps into each body part.

Allow the light to move downward, radiating warm, healing light into your shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers. Notice how soft and relaxed all of your muscles here feel. If any tension lingers, feel free to keep the ball of light hovering over that area until it loosens.

Imagine the light continuing to drift slowly down, through your chest, back, stomach, and hips, and pelvic bowl until they are saturated with beautiful, bright, healing light and there is no longer any tension or residual stress. Allow the light to continue down through your thighs, calves, ankles, feet, and toes, warming, softening, and relaxing them from the inside, all the way out.

If any tension returns, take a slow breath in through your nose, imagining your ball of beautiful healing light coming in with your breath and smoothing and soothing any stress you are still holding. Now release that tension from your body with your breath as it passes back out through your nose. Notice your body feeling warm, relaxed, and light. You are now ready to {meditate, sleep, re-engage with your day, etc}.

Come back to an awareness of your breath, and of the feeling of your eyelids if they become lighter, and slowly blink them open. Stretch and move your body around. Any time you feel tension returning, you can take a few deep breaths and mentally pass your healing light through your body to return to this relaxed state.

How did you respond to the body scan? Were you able to detect tension lingering in your muscles? Were you able to release it and return to a state of calm awareness? We’d love to hear from you.

Photo- Meredith Carlson Photography

Setting an intention for meditation and yoga

Do you set an intention for your personal meditation and/or yoga practice? Or, do you wonder if there’s a point? Is it just a new age-y way to say you’re setting a goal? And what should your intention be, anyway???!!! If you’ve ever been stressed during yoga or meditation class about what this whole intention thing is, keep reading!

Setting an intention is a powerful way to align your head, your heart, and your body and attract positive energy into your life. It is a bit like making a goal, but there are some important differences. Understanding these differences between a goal and an intention might point you in the right direction.

Imagine that you’re planning a hike up to a beautiful vista- you’re not there yet, but you can clearly see where you want to end up when all is said and done. A goal has to do with reaching this *future* destination. An intention has to do with the journey you are currently on toward that destination, whether you arrive at the top or not. It has to do with being immersed in the *present* moment.

If you just love making goals, there’s nothing wrong with that! So go ahead and picture where you’d like to see yourself at a specific, later date- this is your destination, your goal for the future.

Now let’s focus on the journey- this is how you’re going to get there, starting right this minute. What do you want the journey to be like? Is there a feeling or quality that you would like to cultivate- in life in general, the next month, the next minute? Keep in mind that your intention is something you can attain, moment by moment, regardless of whether you reach a future goal- or not.

For clarity, you might want to ask yourself:

  • Who/ what matters most to me?
  • What am I most thankful for?
  • How do I feel when I am my happiest self?
  • What words resonate with me?

Examples of possible intentions include: peace, unconditional love (giving or receiving), balance, equanimity, optimism, forgiving self or others, courage, focus, patience, flexibility, faith, connection, embracing change, soft/open heart, resilience, etc.)

Once you have an impression of what your intention should be, try to distill it down to as few words as possible- focusing on what you want, rather than what you want to avoid. This is the feeling you want to come away with, after your practice. It is the quality you would like to color your life, your goals, your successes and your struggles with.​

You might find it helpful to write this word or phrase somewhere you’ll see it often, or create a “trigger” by associating your intention with an object you see or handle fairly often, like a piece of jewelry or a pocket stone, etc. For me, the wrist mala (meditation bracelet) I wear daily reminds me of my personal intention. Do whatever works for you!

These instructions can help you identify your intention for your life right now. However, you can always set a time- specific intention that is just for the duration of a yoga class, a difficult conversation, or some other short- term activity.

Now that you have identified your intention, you have a couple of options. First, you can just mentally set it aside. Yep! Your subconscious mind will remember it and help you create the connections you need. Second, you could use that word or short phrase of your intention as a personal mantra to repeat with each breath you take while you sit in meditation or do your yoga set. It’s totally up to you and what feels natural in the moment.

Got a question about setting an intention that we didn’t cover? Feel free to leave a comment, or send us a DM on Instagram. <3

No Mud, No Lotus -Thich Nhat Hanh

Book Info:

No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, by Thich Nhat Hanh. Available as eBook or paperback (128 pages).

“The main affliction of our modern civilization is that we don’t know how to handle the suffering inside us and we try to cover it up with all kinds of consumption.”

Summary:

Most people don’t like to be with pain or suffering – especially not their own. We may talk about topics such as grief, sorrow, and pain, but it is rare that a book will help us learn to first sit with the suffering and understand it – and then even transform it. Often meditation books address the positive feelings and benefits that come from a meditative practice. These books may also address philosophy. But few books so specifically guide the reader to find the peace, beauty, and transformation through sitting with our pain, sorrow, and fear. A wonderful introduction to understanding our difficult emotions, it also helps us understand our selves better in the process.

Things to Know:

  • Written in Thich Nhat Hanh’s signature gentle style, this book has many deep concepts that are written in an understandable way.
  • This books explores difficult human emotions and experiences. While it is powerful, at its core, this book is an introduction. If implemented, this book will guide the reader to sit with, understand, and transform emotions and feelings the reader may not have known how to explore in the past.
  • If you are looking for a deep exploration of sorrow, transformation, and meditation, this is a good starting point. Other books you may be interested in are: Radical Acceptance, and Solve for Happy.

The Bottom Line:

This book will help the reader release past grievances and work through sorrow. Self discovery and healing await those who practice the exercises and teachings in this book.

The Verdict:

Check out more of our “short and sweet” book reviews HERE.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you if you purchase using our link.

The End of Your World – Adyashanti

Book Info:

The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment, by Adyashanti. Available as eBook, paperback (240 pages), or audiobook (7 hours, 33 minutes).

“When you get out of the driver’s seat, you find that life can drive itself, that actually life has always been driving itself. When you get out of the driver’s seat, it can drive itself so much easier—it can flow in ways you never imagined. Life becomes almost magical. The illusion of the “me” is no longer in the way. Life begins to flow, and you never know where it will take you.”

Summary:

This book is a breath of fresh air and came at the right time for me. Written in both a gentle and bold tone, it embodies wisdom and compassion at the same time. For those meditators who have felt a level of transformation and are wondering “…What now?”, this book refreshingly comes with clear insights and answers. The writing is clear about finding enlightenment, the nature of enlightenment, and losing enlightenment. It defines aspects of compassion, growth and change, and the human condition that are often over-looked, and is delivered in Adyashanti’s signature understanding and clear style.

Things to Know:

  • This book assumes a familiarity and/or experience with meditative terms.
  • This book has many life-changing and profound concepts, however, it will not probably not appeal to those interested in meditation as a means to an end. If you are seeking out meditation for insomnia or reduced stress this book may not interest you.

The Bottom Line:

This book is aimed at the meditator interested in the topic of enlightenment. Learning to find greater clarity and peace in one’s own life is the journey of a lifetime, and this book addresses all of these topics and more like few books before it have.

The Verdict:

Check out more of our “short and sweet” book reviews HERE.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you if you purchase using our link.

Meditation in Action – Chogyam Trungpa

Book Info:

Meditation in Action, by Chogyam Trungpa (Afterward by Sam Bercholz). Available as eBook, paperback (112 pages), or audiobook (3 hours, 18 minutes).

So in order to achieve silence, you would not chase the birds away because they make noise; in order to be still, you would not stop the movement of air or the rushing river, but accept them.

Summary:

So you have a meditation practice and have enjoyed the good vibes during that practice. Now what? How do you take that meditative acceptance and peace with you into your relationships? During road rage? In your life? How do you carry the calm of meditation throughout life when life is anything but calm? Meditation In Action has insights into both carrying that meditative transformation with you throughout your day as well as gaining greater peace and clarity in life. While being altogether very insightful and profound, occasionally an analogy will become so complex that it becomes confusing to the reader.

Things to Know:

  • This book is not an introduction to meditation, the author assumes a basic understanding of mindfulness and meditative principles when beginning this book.
  • While interesting, at times the analogies or symbols become complex and can be confusing to the reader.

The Bottom Line:

If you are looking for a meditative book with new insights and information as to how to bring bridge the gap between your meditation practice and your life, Meditation in Action is a great book to read. Be prepared to pause and digest certain parts of the book that may be confusing, but regardless of those passages, there is much to be learned from this book.

The Verdict:

Check out more of our “short and sweet” book reviews HERE.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you if you purchase using our link.