We all respond to stress in different ways. Tightening the muscles in the belly is a perfectly natural short-term response to stress; it dulls our ability to feel pain while protecting us physically and emotionally. For most of us, however, this has become our habitual response to the day-to-day stress in our lives.
The soft belly practice changes all this.
Taking a few deep breaths, feel your body as you breathe in.
Feel your body expanding and contracting with each breath.
Focus on the rising and falling of your abdomen.
Become aware of the beginning, the middle, and the end of each inbreath, and of each outbreath.
Become aware of the expanding and contracting of your belly.
Note the constantly changing flow of sensation as you inhale and exhale.
Begin to soften all around these sensations.
Now, allow the breath to breathe itself as you soften your belly.
Soften the belly to receive the breath, to receive sensations, to experience life in your body.
Soften the grief, the distrust, and the anger held so hard in the belly.
Soften the muscles that have held on to all this fear for all these years.
Soften the tissues, the blood vessels, the flesh.
Let go of a lifetime of holding on.
Let go into soft belly, merciful belly, slipping through level after level of softening, level after level of letting go.
Moment to moment, allow each breath its full expression in your gentle, soft belly.
Let go of the hardness, allowing it to float in something somehow softer and kinder.
Let your thoughts come and let them go, floating like clouds in the spaciousness of your gentle, soft belly.
Hold on to nothing, softening, softening, softening.
Let the pain dissolve, let the healing begin.
Have mercy on yourself, softening your belly, and opening the passageway to your heart.
In this gentle, soft belly, there is room to be born, and room to die when the moment comes.
In this gentle, soft belly, there is room to breathe, and room to heal.
In this gentle, soft belly, there is room to forgive, and room to be forgiven.
In this gentle, soft belly, we discover our original unwounded nature.
Letting go into the softness, our fears float in the sweet, gentle vastness we call the heart.
Stephen Levine, "A Year to Live"