Stress Relief Exercise:
Cultivating a Balanced Mind
Relief from stress does not happen by trying to make it happen. Trying just creates more tension, noise, or turbulence in the mind/brain. The shift toward balance takes place by simply relaxing and allowing the quality of mind and attention to rest naturally in its lucid, receptive, and alert state. This stress relief exercise can help you discover this balanced mindstate:
- Because it is easier for the mind to open, equalize, and balance when your body is relaxed, take a few deep and easy breaths and release any tensions you may become aware of. To help you with this, imagine that your breath is like a warm and gentle wind. As you breathe, allow your inhalations to focus your awareness and breath into regions of tension or pain. Allow this warm and gentle breeze of the breath to melt any of the ice fields of tension or to soothe any pain.
- As you exhale, allow the flow of the breath to help you to dissolve the tension, and to leave those areas feeling more internally spacious and open. Allow the natural flow of the breath to help you to focus as you inhale and to flow as you exhale. Take a few minutes to scan through your whole body and to let the breath help you to draw your awareness into any regions in your body that are calling for your loving attention.
- Deepen this same technique to help you focus your awareness into any sticking points of tension in your mind. Breathing in, focus in a deep and spacious way within the center of any thoughts. Breathing out, let the energy of that thought flow or dissolve like a cloud melting into the deep clear sky.As you continue now, remember to smile to yourself so that you don't take this too seriously or try too hard to get this right. Also, let your eyes remain soft and relaxed. Everything up to this point is preparation.
- Next, sense and feel your whole body like a big balloon that is completely open, unobstructed, and hollow inside.
- Now, as you sit here, sense yourself sitting right at the very center of your universe. Consciously open and expand the field of your awareness to become aware of your unique place in space. Sitting here, allow the internal sense of openness and spaciousness to expand. Allow your attention to reach out now in an expansive way like a broad beam of panoramic awareness to see, sense, or feel everything that is in front of you, behind you, to your left, to your right, and above you.
- Now allow yourself to effortlessly maintain this evenly hovering, open awareness that attends equally to the flow of both inner and outer experiences. Find the balance of mind necessary to equally attend both to the things or people around you, as well as to the spaces between these things. Delight in dwelling within the equalizing spaciousness of balanced awareness. As your spatial acuity deepens and expands, regard space itself as a medium of communication.
- As you deepen and expand this quality of panoramic attention, effortlessly include the resonance of all the sounds filling the space within and around you. Balance this by including in your experience how these sounds emerge from silence ... how they fill and move throughspace ... and then how sounds dissolve again back into silence.
- Sense everything within and around you that is in motion ... and balance this with the mindful awareness of everything that is still and unmoving. Rest in this balanced awareness, allowing the flow of each breath to remind you to find a fluid, dynamic balance between focus and flow, forms and space, motion and stillness, silence and sound. Let this awareness extend equally to include all the experiences within and around you.
This deceptively simple stress relief exercise requires little or no effort. With panoramic attention, you simply rest at ease in the flow of experience while remaining lucidly aware. The benefits of using it, however, are far reaching, profound, and extensively documented. One key finding of studies shows that while ordinary focal attention is commonly associated with tension and fixation, this effortless quality of "panoramic awareness" shifts your mind-body/brain into a state that is often described as being transparent to stress.
After completing this stress relief exercise, when you are balanced in this quality of mindbrain function, stress and tension don't "stick to you." Instead, the intensity of your experience and the flow of information is smoothly processed in an easy and effortless way, free of tension, fixation, and the accumulation of distress.
Though the tendency of most people when under stress is to tense, narrow, or constrict their focus of awareness and to "try harder," you will find extra clarity, strength, efficiency, and endurance by shifting into this more panoramic state of effortless awareness.
Many people when faced with new information shut down or become more stressed and effortful. Those who know how to shift into a more openly focused mindset by using this stress relief exercise are better able to accelerate learning, integrate more information, and access intuition more easily.
[Adapted from the book "Living in Balance" by Joel Levey
Return from Stress Relief Exercise to Stress Reduction
and Michelle Levey]