For whatever reasons
I have had a lot of issues with my belly
My body
Don’t we all?

My mom used to tell me to suck it in — for photos or simply for the benefit of herself and others who do not want to look at my protruding stomach.

A boy on the playground used to tease me with the taunt, Shelly belly full of jelly!

It’s assumed I’m pregnant, though I am not. I carry extra weight in my belly. I used to despise its shape and size and wish it away, especially after gaining weight in my late twenties. Then I carried a baby in there. My daughter,  who emerged from my womb healthy, happy and miraculous. My belly became a temple.

Reading through A Year to Live by Stephen Levine, I came across this soft belly meditation and immediately adored it and plan to take it on as a part of my practice (formal and informal, constantly threaded into my life, not a separate “spiritual ritual” or anything). Without further ado… May it be of benefit!

Taking a few deep breaths, feel the body you breathe in.
Feel the body expanding and contracting with each breath.
Focus on the rising and falling of the abdomen.
Let awareness receive the beginning, middle, and end
of each inbreath, of each outbreath
expanding and contracting the belly.
Note the constantly changing flow of sensation
in each inhalation, in each exhalation.
And begin to soften all around these sensations.
Let the breath breathe itself in a softening belly.
Soften the belly to receive the breath,
to receive sensation, to experience life in the body.
Soften the muscles that have held the fear for so long.
Soften the tissue, the blood vessels, the flesh.
Letting go of the holding of a lifetime.
Letting go into soft-belly, merciful belly.
Soften the grief, the distrust, the anger
held so hard in the belly.
Levels and levels of softening, levels and levels of letting go.
Moment to moment allow each breath its full expression
in soft-belly.
Let go of the hardness. Let it float
in something softer and kinder.
Let thoughts come and let them go,
floating like bubbles in the spaciousness of soft-belly.
Holding to nothing, softening, softening.
Let the healing in.
Let the pain go.
Have mercy on yourself, soften the belly,
open passageway to the heart.
In soft-belly there is room to be born at last,
and room to die when the moment comes.
In soft-belly the vast spaciousness in which to heal,
in which to discover our unbounded nature.
Letting go into the softness,
fear floats in the gentle vastness we call the heart.
Soft-belly is the practice that accompanies us throughout the day
and finds us at day’s end still alive and well.

Isn’t it lovely?

Hard belly, pulled-in belly is so ingrained in me that I know softening will take practice
Lifetimes of practice.

Soften the muscles that have held the fear for so long. Let go of the holding of a lifetime.

I’m so grateful this came into my awareness today. Cheerful Full Moon!

“Soft-belly is a trigger for our letting go. Softening melts the armoring over the heart, experienced as hardness in the belly. Each time we remember to be present, to be mindful, we soften into the moment. Softening becomes a call to the heart that it is safe to be alive in the body once again. Soft-belly brings an end to our fear of fear.” ~ Stephen Levine