Where do you hold tension?
We all have a place where we feel it most.
It might be in your back; your jaw; your shoulders. It might be in clenched fists or tightness in the chest or throat or perennially clenched buttocks!
Maybe it’s become so habitual you don’t even realize you’re constantly holding a part of you tense.
For me it’s in my shoulders, throat and often my jaw.
Our busy, fretful, planning, judging, rarely-present minds create this chronic tension in our bodies.
So, it’s time to come out of your head and into your body.
Listen to your body and it will show you its wisdom.
And it’s definitely worth listening because often the whispers of tension will become shouts of pain or illness if we ignore them.
But, a word of caution.
Kindness is key.
We can so easily berate ourselves and mentally beat ourselves up because we’re tired of feeling stiff and tense and having a mind which runs away from us at a million miles an hour.
But berating ourselves just adds to the tension.
It doesn’t make us feel any better, does it?
“You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise Hay
So, try some kindness and self-acceptance instead.
Bring your awareness to your heart – the source of compassion within you.
Check in with your body. Scan through your body from the crown of your head; through your face, neck and shoulders and arms. Your back, abdomen and pelvis and through your legs into your feet.
Whenever and wherever you feel tension in your body, gently remind yourself: “I don’t need to hold this tension in my body”.
Just whisper to yourself “I can let this tension go”. Breathe. And allow it to be. Allow it to pass.
Bring awareness and gentle acceptance to whatever tension you’re experiencing in your body here in this moment.
Notice the tension. And let it be. And gently suggest to yourself that perhaps you don’t need it and it’s OK to let it go.
So, this might sound like a contradiction. Accept it AND remind yourself you don’t need it?
Well, this first stage of accepting how we feel brings kindness into the equation – before the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” raise their ugly heads.
“My shoulders feel tense. They shouldn’t feel like this. They should be relaxed. Why do I feel this way? I wish I didn’t!” … is not conducive to relaxation!
Whereas “My shoulders feel tense. This is just how they are. I breathe. I remind myself that I don’t need to hold this tension in my shoulders” … feels so much kinder doesn’t it? It gives us permission to relax rather than instructing ourselves that we must relax.
“Trying to change ourselves is an act of unkindness but being aware of ourselves is an act of compassion” ~ The Happy Buddha from “Mindfulness and Compassion”
So, no pressure. No telling yourself you should be relaxed or you should have everything under control.
Instead hold your awareness within the space of your wise and compassionate heart.
Remind yourself that your natural state is relaxation.
But also remember that you can’t create a relaxed state or force yourself to relax – you can only create the right conditions for the state of relaxation to arise.
You can do the same whenever your mind feels contracted or overwhelmed with thoughts. Gently remind yourself: “I don’t need to hold this tension in my mind”.
Be aware of how you feel.
Let your breath be free.
Remind yourself that you don’t need this tension.
This tension is just a habit.
Maybe it had a purpose in the past. But now you don’t need it.
And it is safe to let it go.