Read an Excerpt
By Shakti Gawain
Nataraj PublishingCopyright © 2002 Shakti Gawain
All rights reserved.
This exercise is designed for very deep relaxation. Just as with learning any kind of new activity, such as riding a bicycle or running, it takes a while to train your body and mind to respond in a new way. The instructions given here will help you achieve a balanced and effective relaxation response in a minimum amount of time. Once you have done this version a few times, you'll discover that you can enter a deeply relaxed state within just a few seconds by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths.
Some people find that conscious relaxation of this kind is enhanced by playing very soft, relaxing music in the background. Make sure it remains very peaceful throughout.
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First give yourself permission to take five to ten minutes to relax deeply, without having to think about other things you should be doing. Choose a quiet place and time of day when this will be possible.
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Loosen any tight clothing.
Sit with your back well supported in a comfortable position, hands gently resting in your lap with your palms open, or lie down on your back with a pillow under your knees if needed.
Take a deep breath and exhale slowly, allowing your shoulders to be loose and relaxed.
Open your mouth wide. Yawn, or pretend you are yawning. Let the areas around your eyes and forehead be relaxed and loose. Let the areas around your nose, mouth, and jaw be relaxed.
Breathe slowly and easily.
If ideas or feelings come into your mind at this time, pretend they are a telephone ringing in the distance, perhaps in a neighbor's house. Acknowledge that "someone is calling," but you do not have to answer.
Take a deep breath, inhaling gently and slowly, imagining the breath entering your right nostril. Hold the breath for a moment, then exhale slowly and comfortably, imagining that you are exhaling through your left nostril.
Take another deep breath, this time imagining your breath entering your left nostril and exiting your right.
Focus your attention on how your breath feels: cooling, as it enters your nostrils, perhaps gently expanding your chest as it fills your lungs, then slightly warming your nostrils as you exhale. You may wish to visualize the air as having a beautiful, vibrant color as it enters and exits your body.
Repeat this breathing pattern until you have done at least four full cycles. A full cycle is one inhalation and one exhalation.
Now with each cycle, focus your attention on one area of your body:
Be aware of your scalp relaxing.
Be aware of your eyes, ears, and jaw relaxing.
Be aware of your neck relaxing.
Be aware of your shoulders relaxing.
Be aware of your chest relaxing.
Be aware of your upper back relaxing.
Be aware of your arms and hands relaxing.
Be aware of your abdomen relaxing.
Be aware of your buttocks relaxing.
Be aware of your legs relaxing.
Be aware of your feet relaxing.
Now let your breathing pattern return to normal as you enjoy the relaxed state you have created.
For several weeks, practice this relaxation exercise whenever the opportunity arises or whenever you feel a need to unwind and rest at work, at home, or in your recreational life.CHAPTER 2
Contacting Your Inner Guide
Most of us in this day and age and in our Western society lead very hectic lives. We have many responsibilities: our work, our families, our friendships, our social, community, and political responsibilities. Even our recreational activities often take a lot of our attention and energy. We are very involved in what's outside us.
At the same time, I believe that each of us has a deep sense of truth within us, the guiding force that can lead us successfully through our lives. Most of us are greatly in need of balancing our outward focus by taking some time to go within ourselves. We need to get back in contact with our spirit, with our inner creative source.
In addition, most of us have not been educated to believe in that inner intuitive knowingness. We've been taught to follow outside rules, other people's ideas of what's right and wrong for us or what we need to be doing. As a result, we lose touch with the very core of our being.
We need to take some time to cultivate contact with our inner guidance. We need to reeducate ourselves to pay attention to that part of us that really knows. It helps if we can begin to take some regular time for this — even if it's just a few minutes each day or even a few minutes once a week. We need this time to learn to relax our bodies and our minds, to move into the deeper awareness that exists within us.
This takes practice, patience, and support. But it's something that's very natural for us, so as we begin to cultivate this habit we will find it easier and easier to go within. After a while we will begin to find that we crave this inner contact. When we spend too much time looking outward there will be a part of us that will start to pull us inside and demand that we get in contact with our deeper self.
Discovering Your Inner Sanctuary
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This visualization meditation will help you begin to establish the practice of moving your attention within, finding a place of relaxation and peace and contacting your inner wisdom. Before we begin, I'd like to remind you that any time you are doing a visualization meditation, do it in a way that comes easily and naturally for you. Don't worry if you don't see a visual image when you meditate. Some people are visually oriented; others are more audio or feeling oriented. So if you get just a feeling about it or even if you are only thinking about it, do whatever comes naturally and easily for you. Accept this, and relax and enjoy it. Also, if I give you certain suggestions but what comes to you is something different from what I suggest, trust your own experience. Always go with what feels right for you.
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To begin the meditation, get into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. If you're sitting, it's good to be sitting with your back straight and well supported in a comfortable chair, with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in a relaxed position. If you prefer to lie down, lie flat on your back in a very comfortable, relaxed position.
When you are comfortable, close your eyes and become aware of your body; just notice how your body is feeling right now.... If you notice any tense places in your body, gently breathe into those places. Imagine them relaxing and all unnecessary tension releasing and dissolving.
First, put your attention on your feet and imagine relaxing them....
Next, put your attention on your ankles and the calves of your legs and gently relax them....
Now put your awareness in your thighs and your hips. Relax the upper part of your legs and your whole pelvic area....
Gently breathe into the lower part of your body and feel it become very relaxed.... Now put your awareness in your abdomen and your stomach, the area of your internal organs, and imagine all your organs relaxing, functioning easily, comfortably, healthfully, and smoothly....
Relax your chest and relax your shoulders, your arms, your hands, and your fingers....
Put your awareness in your neck and throat, and imagine this part of your body relaxing completely. If there's any tension in this area, imagine it flowing down through your arms and out your fingers, out onto the floor and down into the earth....
And now relax your head, your face ... relax your scalp ... relax your ears and relax your eyelids. Relax your jaw....
Let your awareness scan through your entire body, from head to toe, from toe to head, and feel your entire body deeply relaxed.... Imagine that you can feel life energy flowing smoothly and freely through your entire body. If any area feels tight or tense, gently release it and feel that energy flowing through it....
Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, release any last holding that you're doing in your body. Feel your body totally relax.... Take another deep breath, and as you exhale, relax your mind. Pretend that your mind is just another muscle in your body that you can now relax. You don't have to hold on to any thoughts. You can let everything go for right now and let your mind become very quiet and slow, even a little bit out of focus....
Take another deep breath, and as you exhale, move your awareness into a very deep place inside of you....
Now imagine that you are walking down a path in some very beautiful, natural environment. You may either see the environment visually, or you may feel or sense or pretend that it's there. As you walk down the path you feel the beauty of nature around you ... and you feel yourself in an increasingly relaxed state of mind....
Imagine that you come to a clearing or some very beautiful spot, and begin to look around or sense or feel what this place is like. It's a very special, magical place. Notice what's there. Are there trees? Are there plants? Is there an ocean or a river? Are you on a mountain or in a field or in a garden? Let your imagination tell you what this place is.... It's very peaceful and beautiful and it's also very private and safe. This is your own personal, inner sanctuary that you are creating for yourself, inside of you. No one can come here unless invited. This is your own private place.
Feel how warm or how cool it is.... Is it sunny or shady or a combination of both? How does the air feel and how does it smell? What kind of sounds are there in your inner sanctuary? Do you hear birds or insects or the breeze blowing through the trees, or the sound of the ocean? Or is it just very quiet? Are there any flowers or animals near you? Take whatever comes to you that feels right and feels good....
Imagine that you are wandering around your inner sanctuary, getting to know it, getting comfortable in it and familiar with it.... Find a place in your sanctuary that feels like a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and make yourself totally at home there.... Feel the beauty and the nurturing quality of nature all around you, and allow yourself to open up and receive that beauty and that nurturing. Imagine that you're like a sponge, simply absorbing and receiving the love and the beauty of Mother Nature....
And now move your awareness into a deep, quiet place inside of you ... keep imagining going deeper and deeper inside yourself until you come to a place of rest and peace within, where all the cares of the world seem far away. Take a moment to simply let yourself be in that peaceful place within, where there's absolutely nothing you have to do or even think about or figure out, a state of quiet beingness....
In this deep, quiet, restful place within yourself you are in contact with your own deepest wisdom, your own natural inner knowingness, the part of you that's very wise and knows everything that you need and is able to give you guidance in your life, moment by moment. Even if you don't feel it or don't quite believe it, just allow yourself to pretend or imagine that it is there. Whether or not you feel it or believe it, it is always there within you....
If you have questions you want to ask your inner guide, go ahead and ask.... Quietly be open to receiving, sensing, or feeling what that wisest part of you may have to say in answer to your question. It may come to you in words. It may come to you in an image. Or it may be just a feeling. Take whatever comes, and allow it to enter your awareness.... It's all right if you feel that nothing is coming; it may come to you at a later time; it doesn't always come the moment you ask. So accept whatever your experience is right now....
If you have more questions you want to ask your inner wisdom, do so. You can ask for help, for support, for direction, for love, for clarity — go ahead and ask for whatever you desire or need.... Whenever you ask, as soon as you ask, the door will open for you to begin to receive whatever your heart truly desires. So simply assume now that whatever you are asking for is beginning to come to you. It may come in a different way than you expect, but it will come....
When you feel ready, become aware once again of your sanctuary and know that this is a beautiful place you can come to any time you desire. It is within you always. All you have to do is relax, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and desire to be there. You can go there any time you want. It will be a place where you can relax and get in touch with that deep, inner wisdom....
For now, say good-bye to your sanctuary and begin to walk up the path.... As you walk up the path, become aware of your body in the room. Feel the room around you.... When you feel ready, very gently open your eyes and come back feeling relaxed, energized, and deeply connected with yourself.
Contacting Your Wise Being
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There are many ways we can learn to tap into the wisdom within us. The previous meditation is one of the simplest and easiest ways to go inside and find that wisdom, that knowingness within.
Another way to tap into your inner wisdom is to allow yourself to make contact with an image of a very wise being who is your adviser, your spirit guide, your helper, your counselor, your guardian angel, whatever you want it to be. For some people it's easiest to do it this way. For many, it's wonderful to have the option of using both meditations, on different days.
This is a meditation to get in contact with the wise being that is a part of you. To do this, go back into your inner sanctuary. And once again remember, whatever you experience is your own way of doing this, whether you visualize, whether you feel, sense, or just think about it. Take what comes to you easily and trust your own experience as long as it feels right to you.
* * *
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Be sure your spine is straight. Get in a position so your body can deeply relax....
Take a deep breath. As you exhale, begin to relax your body. Close your eyes.... Take another deep breath, and as you exhale, relax your body a little more.... Take another deep breath. As you exhale, imagine relaxing your body as completely as you can.... If there are any places in your body that still feel tight or tense — where you're holding energy you don't need — put your awareness into those places, breathe into them, and, as you exhale, imagine the tension or the excess energy releasing and draining away so that your entire body feels deeply relaxed....
Imagine feeling the life force, life energy, flowing freely and easily through your entire body, nourishing every cell of your body, releasing the old that you no longer need and replacing it with new, vital energy and aliveness....
Now take another deep breath, and as you exhale, relax your mind.... Let go of any problems, preoccupations, cares, or responsibilities that you have on your mind right now — just for a little while. You can always bring these things back when it's appropriate. But for the next few minutes, let them all go.... Let your mind grow quiet and move slowly.... As thoughts come up in your mind, as they inevitably do, just notice them and then release them. Don't stay focused on the thoughts. Release each thought as soon as you notice it....
Imagine that your mind is becoming very peaceful and quiet, like a still lake or pond, so peaceful there's not even a ripple on the surface....
Take another deep breath, and as you exhale, imagine moving your awareness into a very deep place inside of you.... Then imagine you are walking down that beautiful path in nature, feeling the peace and beauty of nature around you. ... As you walk, you gradually feel more and more relaxed and open ... and you come, once again, into your inner sanctuary, which may be a meadow, a mountaintop, a spot in the woods, a cave, or a beach — anywhere you desire it to be....
You may find yourself in the same place as before, or it could be a different place. Let it be however you want it to be. But know that this is a very peaceful, beautiful, and safe place for you to be. It's a very private place. It's yours. No one else can come here unless invited.
Take a few moments just to be and feel and see, to be aware of your sanctuary and how it feels to be there.... Walk around, feel the air, notice the other living beings, the plants or animals or birds....
And then, find a place in your sanctuary to make yourself very comfortable and at home. You can sit down if you wish....
Now look back toward the entrance to your sanctuary, and imagine that you begin to see or sense or feel the presence of a very wise being who is about to enter. This wise being could be a man or a woman, a child or an animal. Or it might be a color or an ethereal presence....
Excerpted from Meditations by Shakti Gawain. Copyright © 2002 Shakti Gawain. Excerpted by permission of Nataraj Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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