With an ongoing global health pandemic, economic uncertainty, civil rights changes underway, heavily contested political elections, and returning children to school, few times in history have been as thoroughly stressful day to day. We all find stress challenging to manage. How can we relax in an easy yet lasting way? By tapping into our innate goodness.
The First Step to True Relaxation
The effects of stress include fatigue, sleeplessness, easily triggered emotions of irritability and anger, anxiety, depression, headaches, restlessness, difficulty focusing, excessive withdrawal, to name a few.
Among the ways people cope with stress is by turning toward one or more forms of avoidance to numb their stress. By “numbing,” I mean dulling our senses, our awareness of the stress that is ever present. Common numbing strategies are overconsumption of drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships, entertainment, social media, news, or food.
While these strategies may distract us from our momentary discomfort, confusion, or pain, they have little lasting benefit. Recognizing the reality of our stress and the limitations of our numbing strategies is the first step towards truly relaxing. Yet, we need to also recognize the largest block to resting with ease: ourselves.
Our Largest Block to Relaxation
Our inner conviction that we deserve to suffer keeps us mired in our discomfort and internal suffering. We often believe that we are inherently unworthy, unlovable, perhaps even an abject failure. It can be challenging to make contact, and truly be with, more than the idea of our poor self-worth.
To relax, we need to turn toward this deeply held conviction of our unworthiness and learn to be present to this moment.
Removing the Block
This journey’s first step is to meet our present uncertainty. Being with uncertainty means recognizing where we are in this moment, not where we want to be.
Where is your attention, your thoughts right now? Are you really present, or are you remembering the past or planning for the future?
If you bring your attention to this very moment, what is your actual experience right now? How are you feeling internally? What is your mood like? Are you happy, sad, angry, ashamed, or something else?
Once you are more present to this moment, you can more easily make contact with your innate goodness because your innate goodness is not in the past as a memory or in the future as something to gain. It is already present in you, right now.
Our Innate Goodness
What do I mean by “innate goodness”? I’m not referring to goodness based on actions taken, like being good in school, a valued employee, or a helpful person. Your innate goodness emanates from your being.
Remember a time when you were with a puppy or a baby. Being with them, holding them, you could see their value, their beauty, the goodness they emanated without doing anything. You have the same innate goodness.
Your innate goodness is part of your deepest nature and is inherent, unconditional, and unchanging. Because this goodness is inherent, you don’t need to search for it outside yourself. Because it’s unconditional, you don’t need to do anything to receive it. And because it’s unchanging, this goodness is always present. Despite the unexpected changing landscape of life today, you can take refuge in your own innate goodness.
Relaxing through Our Innate Goodness
Turn toward your innate goodness for a moment:
- Start by taking a nice deep belly breath.
- Feel your feet on the ground.
- Let yourself be rooted right where you are.
- Release whatever is on your mind in this moment.
Now let’s explore how to have sustained contact with our innate goodness.
The Innate Goodness meditation encourages you to be with your inherent unconditional goodness, to make contact with and cultivate it. One reason you cultivate your innate goodness is to nurture and accumulate self-love. Love is a powerful quality. It can soften the rough edges of your personality, bolster your sense of contentment, and support deep inner exploration.
Innate Goodness Meditation
- Seat yourself comfortably, either on a meditation cushion or comfortable chair.
- Sit upright with your spine straight, while maintaining the natural S curve of the spine. Try to have your hips higher than your legs.
- Feel your balance and posture.
- Place your hands high on your lap or on your thighs. Placing them high avoids straining your neck.
- Take five to ten slow, deep belly breaths.
- Intentionally relax your body.
- Rest your awareness in your heart.
- While being aware of your heart area, picture yourself at a time in your life when you can connect with your innate goodness. For some people, innate goodness is easier to see at a younger age.
- Take the time to find a picture of yourself when you have direct contact with your innate goodness.
- Continue the meditation by taking deep belly breaths, relaxing while feeling or sensing your heart.
- Be with your innate goodness.
- Let your goodness radiate in your heart.
- Use your breath to draw the innate goodness closer to your heart.
- Continue to breathe goodness into your heart’s center.
- Let the goodness radiate fully within your consciousness, your awareness. Accept its presence, letting it affect you as it will.
You have just completed an Innate Goodness meditation session!
Practice the Innate Goodness meditation at least twice a day for five to twenty minutes. You will likely feel calmer and more centered after a few days. You may notice your mood lightening and feeling happier. Being with others can feel more satisfying. Your sleep should be improving too.
You can learn more about the Innate Goodness meditation from Stephen’s book Stress Reduction for Lawyers, Law Students, and Legal Professionals: Learning to Relax.