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Lions Roar : January 2019
ILLUSTRATIONSBYCAROLEHÉNAFF HAVING A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE doesn’t mean we only take care of our mind. Body and mind are two faces of one reality and they support each other. Because of the way we live and consume, stress accumulates in our body and erodes our sense of well-being. By tak- ing care of our body and incorporating moments of deep relaxation into daily life, we reduce stress, anxiety, and irrita- tion, and help balance body and mind. Sometimes our body needs to rest, but our mind still wants to do many things. Though we think we can overcome the needs of the body with our mind, this is not something we can continue doing forever. From time to time we need to stop, bring our awareness back to our body, and relax. SISTER CHAN KHONG has been Thich Nhat Hanh’s closest collaborator for more than fifty years. She’s the author of Deep Relaxation (Parallax Press). HOW TO PRACTICE Deep Relaxation Relaxing the mind is a big goal of Buddhist practice, but to do that you need to relax your body as well. SISTER CHAN KHONG teaches us a three-step practice to access a deep restfulness that rivals sleep. Otherwise, tension builds up and we can lose our temper very easily and be unkind. When we’re disturbed by a strong emotion or we feel we’re burning out—that it’s all too much and we’re going to crack—that’s the perfect moment for deep relaxation. The practice of deep relaxation is based on a teaching called Mindfulness of the Body in the Body (Kayagata-sati Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 119), in which the Bud- dha advises us to visit every part of our body so we know what is going on in our body. In the same way that we practice being aware of every state of our mind—accept- ing, understanding, then releasing each state that arises—we practice this way with our body, visiting every part with awareness, acceptance, care, and without judgment. A full session of deep relaxation can last from twenty minutes to an hour. We use our mindfulness like a ray of light to scan our body, bringing awareness and relaxation to each part. 1. Awareness of Breath and Earth Lie down on your back with your arms at your sides. If you prefer, you can sit in a chair. Make yourself comfortable, close your eyes, and relax. Begin to follow your breathing and just be with your in-breath and out-breath. Feel the earth beneath you, supporting you. Bring your aware- ness to your abdomen rising and falling. If you feel agitated or dispersed, put your hand on your abdomen and feel it rise and fall as the air goes in and out. Say quietly to yourself, “Breathing in, I am with my in-breath. Breathing out, I am with my out-breath.” 2. Body Scan and Gratitude Continue to follow your breathing as you bring awareness and relaxation to each part of your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. You can begin with the hair on your head, your scalp, brain, forehead, and so on. For LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2019 25