Softening in MIDL refers to turning the experience of mental hardness associated with resistance into the experience of mental softness associated with acceptance through relaxing all resistance. The foundation of the MIDL Softening skill is diaphragmatic breathing which is trained in MIDL Mindfulness Training 3/52: Retraining Autonomous Breathing. Submit Your Question
Your Question: Could you explain what softening breathing is, how do I do this breathing and if there any discernable movement of my body with each breath?
Stephen Procter: The breathing associated with Softening is focussed on using slow, deep diaphragmatic breaths in order to bring about deep physical and mental relaxation. While intentionally breathing with your diaphragm you will experience some movement associated with the inflation and deflation of your body with each breath.
When training your Softening skill it is helpful to picture your breath coming in from below your belly button, then moving it upwards towards the base of your ribs and into the top of your chest. As you let the breath out, do so slowly. Like you are deflating; allowing your whole body to relax.
As your skill develops the movement of your body with each breath will become more refined until it is barely discernible. You will no longer need to control your breathing and will be able to relax deeply just by observing the expansion and deflation of the natural breath within your body.
You can now use your skill in Softening with your breath any time you experience attraction or aversion to any experience within seated meditation and daily life. You will have developed the skill of Softening all resistance with each natural out-breath.
Your Question: I don't understand the concept of my body feeling "heavy.". I don't understand how that should feel. You always refer to it in your meditations. Can you help me understand what it should feel like?
Stephen Procter: Heaviness is the experience that arises when we fully relax, it is the experience of gravity pulling our body down. If you are holding tension in your body and not giving up the effort to hold your posture then the experience of heaviness will not appear to you. To fully experience heaviness during meditation it is important to have a balanced posture.
If you do not experience heaviness this is also ok, you do not need to. Just acknowledge whatever your experience of your body sitting in meditation is, this is all you ever need to do. To develop your understanding of 'heaviness' do this exercise:
Hold your arm straight out in front of you now.
Relax the muscles in your arm.
The drawing downward feeling is the experience of heaviness.