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Soft Belly

May 17, 2013

Given that we’re all raised to hold in that belly, my title sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it!?

I’ve spent a few blogs talking about your breath.  I guess my redundancy indicates how important I think it is.  Judith Lief calls the breath  “our simplest and possibly most profound connection with life…”.

My experience is that when I’m triggered—and I know I’m triggered when I’m lost in either the past or the future and my body is tight and contracted—I can almost immediately reconnect with the here and now by putting my attention on my next few breaths.  Lately I’ve been playing with how quickly I can catch myself getting triggered.  (I find all this stuff sits more easily if I don’t take myself too seriously—so PLAYING really is the operative word for how I work much of the time.)

My newest discovery is that once I’ve noticed my amygdala’s been hijacked—i.e. my primitive brain is in charge and I’m ready to fight or flee—if I bring my attention to my breath there’s a second step I can take that seems to open up another doorway for me.  And that’s to soften my belly.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve trained myself to walk around holding in my belly, which also sometimes results in holding my breath.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I even hold in my belly when I’m sleeping because it’s so ingrained!

When I soften my belly I seem to much more quickly get in touch not only with my body, but with my emotional life.  And not the high drama, acting out, ‘I’ll never stop crying’ emotional life, but rather the richness and warmth of the basic goodness that the Tibetan Buddhists talk about which resides at our core.

The moment I remember to soften my belly a door seems to open and I experience a warmth and a sense of coming home to myself that I don’t experience in exactly the same way at any other time.

So throughout your day when you remember to put your attention on your breathing, play around with softening your belly at the same time.  Because you can never get enough of your own basic goodness.


  1. Susie Coultis says:

    I love this blogpost Robyn! I am a fairly new yogi and in fact need to leave in a few minutes for my class. I really connected with your message but also never thought of alternate doorways to relieve stress or what I’m fighting as I soften my belly. I will definitely try this and see what happens. Thank you.

    • Robyn says:

      Thank you – so glad you liked it. I looked up ‘yogi’ and if I go with this definition, ‘a markedly reflective or mystical person’, I think I’m a fairly new yogi too! Love, Robyn

  2. Sandy F says:

    This reminds me of a guided meditation that I very much like. It’s by Stephen Levine and is part of an old Sounds True recording entitled “In the Heart Lies the Deathless”. The recording is of a talk he gave about grieving and it opens with a meditation on softening the belly.

    • Robyn says:

      I love everything Stephen Levine writes. So hearing that anything I write resonates with his work is a lovely compliment. Thanks, Sandy. Robyn

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