Deep Relaxation

Soften the shoulders, rest the eyes, feel the breath — Sister Chan Khong on how to release the stress in our bodies.

Sister Chan Khong
27 June 2012

Body and spirit support each other; we cannot be relaxed and happy when our bodies are tense. Mindful awareness is like a ray of light that scans our body and brings relaxation to each part. If you have thirty minutes, you can use it to scan your whole body in deep relaxation. But if you only have five or ten minutes, you can still experience release.

In the sutra called Mindfulness Immersed in the Body, the Buddha advises us to visit every part of our body, bringing mindful awareness to it. To begin, find a place to lie down. If you don’t have room to lie down, sit and lean against the wall, stretching out your legs. It’s fine if you fall asleep. When you resume your daily activities, you will do so with more energy and freshness.

With your arms alongside your body, close your eyes. Be aware of the air as it goes in and out of your lungs. Dwell peacefully in your in-breath and out-breath. Bring your attention to your abdomen, about two inches below your navel. As you breathe in gently, your abdomen rises. As you breathe out gently, your abdomen falls. Put your hand on your belly and feel it rise and fall.

Breathing in, send love and care to your head and brain. Breathing out, release the tension in your head and brain. Breathing in, calm the tension in your neck and shoulders. Breathing out, release the tension in your neck and shoulders. Shoulders carry so many responsibilities. Let the tension in them flow into the earth, leaving your shoulders light. Breathing in, calm your legs from your hips to the tips of your toes. Breathing out, release the tension in your legs. Your legs and feet carry you around the planet. Thank them for being there. Breathing in, calm every cell in your heart. Breathing out, smile to your heart. Your heart works day and night. When we are stressed, our heart suffers. Support your heart by letting go of strong emotions.

Send love to your liver. Breathing in, calm every cell of your liver. Breathing out, smile to your liver. Our liver works silently day and night, but we rarely pay attention to it. To better support your liver, commit to being aware of what you eat and drink. Send love to your lungs. Smile to your lungs. It’s so wonderful to be able to breathe in fully. Send love to your kidneys. They work so hard and silently for your well-being. Send love to your eyes. How wonderful that they allow you to see forms and colors, your loved ones, and the beauty of the seasons!

Send love and thanks to any other part of your body that feels achy, tight, tired, or neglected. Then take a moment with your hands on your abdomen. Breathe in, feeling your breath through your whole body. Breathe out, feeling your whole body relax. Body and mind are completely at ease. Slowly, open your eyes and sit up gently.

Sister Chan Khong

Sister Chan Khong

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).