If our body isn't peaceful, if we have too many strong emotions, then our breathing can't be peaceful. When we practice the exercise of mindful breathing, we notice our breathing becomes calmer, more profound, more harmonious and the tension in our breathing is released. Breathing mindfully takes our mind back to our breath and, if we continue, to our whole body. We go back to our body and reconcile with it. We get to know what's going on in our body, the wrongs we have done, the conflicts we're having, and we'll know what to do and what not to do in order to be on good terms with our body. With mindful breathing we come to recognize our body as our home.
We might say:
Breathing in, I am aware of my body.
Breathing out, I smile to my whole body.
It's very nice to recognize our own body and smile to it. If we have 10 or 15 minutes, we can try the healing practice of Deep Relaxation. To do this, we find a comfortable position, ideally laying down and come home to our breath:
Breathing in, I am aware of my in-breath.
Breathing out, I am aware of my out-breath.
We can lie down and just breathe in and out, and enjoy the presence of our body We give our body a chance to be there without doing anything. This is Total Relaxation, the practice of love directed to our body. We begin to pay attention to the whole body and then to different parts of the body:
Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body.
Breathing out, I release all tension in my body.
We can start with the head and finish with the toes or we can begin with the toes and work upward. We use the fully conscious mind to recognize and embrace it, with the energy of mindfulness, and allow that part of the body to relax and release tension. Then we begin to practice being mindful of each part of our body.
Breathing in, I am aware of my brain.
Breathing out, I smile to my brain.
We might take one in-breath and one out-breath for each part of the body, or we might give each part ten in-breaths and out-breaths. We go through all parts of our body. We practice scanning our body with a kind of beam of mindfulness.
Breathing in, I am aware of my eyes.
Breathing out, I smile to my eyes.
We allow the eyes to release tension because there is often tension in the eyes. That's why smiling is very good, because it relaxes our face, and we can send that smile to different parts of our body. In our face, there are hundreds of muscles, and when we're angry or afraid, these muscles hold a lot of tension. But if we know to breathe in and be aware of them, and breathe out and smile to them, we can help them release the tension. Our face can be completely different after one in-breath and out-breath. A smile can bring a miracle. We allow our eyes to release the tension and send a smile to our eyes. Become aware of your eyes and smile lovingly to them.
Then we come to our ears:
Breathing in, I am aware of my ears.
Breathing out, I smile to my ears.
Then we come to our shoulders, we practice:
Breathing in, I am aware of my shoulders.
Breathing out, I smile to my shoulders.
We help our shoulders to relax and not to be stiff. When we come to our lungs, we embrace our lungs.
Breathing in, I am aware of my lungs.
Breathing out, I smile to my lungs.
They work so hard, and I don't give them enough clean air.
Breathing in, I am aware of my heart.
Breathing out, I smile to my heart.
We go through our body, we scan our body with the light of mindfulness, recognizing, embracing, and smiling to it. We take time, perhaps 10, 15 or 20 minutes to scan our body slowly with the energy of mindfulness. Smiling to each part, we help that part release the tension. When we come to a part of the body that is ailing, we can stay longer and spend time recognizing and embracing it. We use the energy of mindfulness to embrace it, to smile to it, and to help it release its tension. When there is a physical pain, our mindfulness will let us know it is only a physical pain. And with that kind of awareness, we are more relaxed and can heal more quickly.
From: Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child by Thich Nhat Hanh (pg. 37 - 41)