In the early 1990′s I read “Healing Into Life and Death” by Stephen Levine and I was riveted. Stephen was one of the first people who woke me up to seeing that healing didn’t always mean making the body well, although this would be the goal if possible. But through Stephen’s work I came to understand that even when a complete and total healing of the body is not possible, one can still always heal the soul. We like to believe, and indeed it would be the best possibility, that by healing the soul, the body would follow suit, but I have also come to see that we don’t always get what we want.
This was indeed a valuable lesson especially for me, because as a healer, it was easy to think that I had failed if a patient did not recover; as if life and death were in my hands! So Stephen helped me to take a big step back from this false sense of responsibility enabling me to take heart in just being there for people, whether they recovered physically or not. Thank you Stephen!
But that’s not all that I learned from Stephen’s sane and gentle teachings. He also taught a way of approaching pain that I had not considered before. Stephen said to “soften around the pain”. SOFTEN?
All I knew was that I had spent a lifetime armoring myself against pain of any kind, be it physical or emotional. Not to mention my body’s automatic response to fear which was to tighten my gut as if it were a shield! No wonder that by my 16th birthday it had become a battle ground!
So, when I first read about soft belly, again a Stephen Levine teaching, I couldn’t even imagine it. I began focusing my attention on that part of my body, my abdomen and sure enough, it was being held in a tight grip, so to speak. I tried to just let it go. I found that it was next to impossible. I decided that this was worth pursuing and so I began to add soft belly work to my daily meditation practice. I would lie down flat on my back so that I could really access the feeling of my belly. As I inhaled I thought the word soften, as I exhaled, I did the same,
In, soften—out, soften.
I would feel my belly begin to relax a little and then I’d think a thought about something and wham! I’d instantly snap back into tight gut. I could see it was a well ingrained habit to wear, what I began to call, my “spiritual girdle”. It was almost how I held myself up. I couldn’t imagine being able to really let that go, but I was determined to work on it because I believed that it would help me in many ways, but especially in the Crohn’s department.
So, for years now I have worked with softening my belly and not armoring myself against pain. I understand that all things that must come, will come. To resist that is throw pain on top of pain, for the resistance, in and of itself, causes great pain and undue stress to the body.
To learn my simple and useful breathing/meditation program go to www.sheriperl.com and read “Breathing Exercise”. After you have familiarized yourself with it, add to it the word “soften” on the inhale and on the exhale, do the same, in order to fine tune the meditation to a soft belly meditation.
I have found that regular use of the soft belly meditation helps me enormously with keeping Crohn’s symptoms at bay. There are many other benefits on the emotional end, but I will save that for another time. Please add anything helpful ideas you may have on how to live with chronic illness and still feel good! I believe that we can all learn from each other!
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