Introduction to the Blue State of Stillness

10. Soften your muscles

Option 1: Shorter Silences

Option 2: Longer Silences

Welcome back.

Until now, you have learned to facilitate restful stillness by broadening your breathing experience, following it, calming your mind, and counting your pulse and/or breath. In this practice, the focus shifts to softening your muscles, a crucial step to deepen your rest during stillness.

State of muscle

The state of your muscles is regulated by your nervous system. Sympathetic mobilization, which facilitates movement, involves the tensing of muscles. Conversely, Parasympathetic Rest, which promotes stillness and rest, facilitates muscle relaxation and softness. You tighten muscles to move, and relax them for stillness and rest.

This practice centers on relaxing your muscles, gently reversing any Sympathetic Mobilization, and encouraging Parasympathetic Rest. It focuses on softening your muscles as an initial technique for releasing contracted muscles.

As you soften your muscles, you invite the reduction of Sympathetic Mobilization and deep your Parasympathetic Rest. This, in turn, encourages the softness to deepen and spread across your body. However, achieving complete softness in all muscles requires skill and practice. When attempting to relax and soften your muscles, you may notice some residual muscle tension due to chronic Sympathetic Mobilization. Expect the spread of softness to be gradual, occurring alongside some persistent tension.

Deep breaths and muscle softness

When you take a deep breath, you naturally contract some muscles and release them as you exhale. This practice takes advantage of this natural process of tensing and releasing breath-related muscles to encourage the release and relaxation of all movement-related muscles in the body.

Persistent muscle tension

While suspending movement and remaining still may be easier to control, softening your muscles and deepening restfulness is a more challenging task. With repeated attempts to release your muscles, you may find that your chronic Sympathetic Mobilization continues to tense them.

Avoid trying to soften the most tensed muscles in your body. Instead, identify areas that are more receptive to softening and be mindful of areas where muscle tension persists. Forcing muscle relaxation is counterproductive. Be patient and continually invite your body to rest, supporting this process by gradually releasing your muscles.

Posture and softness

The goal of this practice is to engage in attentive stillness, not to invite sleep. Therefore, soften your muscles without allowing them to become completely lax. The aim is to achieve a level of muscle softness that supports the practice of stillness while maintaining enough muscle tone to sustain a restful yet alert posture, whether sitting or standing.

If you practice rest while lying down, your muscles might soften to the point of complete laxity. This can be helpful in supporting your ability to soften your muscles. However, you may also find that you fall asleep more easily when practicing in a lying position. If you happen to fall asleep during the practice, enjoy your rest. However, once you awaken, engage in another practice of wakeful stillness.

Facial softness

This practice places an emphasis on softening the muscles of your face since it is often easier to relax compared to other areas of your body. Furthermore, when facial muscles relax, it tends to naturally invite the softening of muscles in other areas of your body.

PROGRESS CHECKLIST

  • Can I take a few deep breaths to release and relax muscles with my exhale?
  • Can I soften my face to facilitate the relaxation of muscles across my body?
  • Can I sense muscles softening in certain areas of my body, even while tension may persist elsewhere?
  • Can I focus on softening areas in my body that are most receptive to relaxation, rather than attempting to release the most tensed muscles in my body?
  • Can I experience muscles softness that supports my resting posture?
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