“Letting go of the resistance, of the fear, of the holding of hard belly. Letting go of the grief and distrust. Meeting them with mercy. With loving kindness in soft belly. Letting go. Letting go of the hardness, breathing it out.”
These are words from the heart and mouth of Stephen Levine as captured in his Soft Belly meditation.
In the late 1990’s I did some volunteer work at the Jacob Perlow Hospice at Beth Israel hospital in New York. My first girlfriend had recently died after a fifteen year battle with HIV and I was interested in exploring the world of the death and dying community.
Stephen Levine, and his wife Ondrea, are the author of numerous books including Who Dies which had a major impact on me. After reading Who Dies I attended a couple of weekend workshops and other lectures by Stephen and Ondrea.
These were fairly mind blowing experiences for me. Five hundred people gathered to share stories about loved ones lost anywhere from six months to 85 years old.
The events invariably found with Stephen and Ondrea sitting on a stage as people related their stories. To almost each and every person Stephen said, “Five yourself, Have mercy on yourself” like a mantra.
Every time I was with them Stephen started things off with a guided soft belly meditation.
The first time I was put through this I couldn’t wait for it to end (At that point I was still fairly cool to oming in yoga classes). I would sit eyes half closed wondering what I had got myself into.
“Have mercy on you. Softening to the pain. Softening the holding. Breathing it out. Breathing in mercy. Breathing in healing. In soft belly. In merciful belly.”
Really??? This is what I came for.
By the end of that first weekend I couldn’t get enough of the soft belly. Give me some more of that soft belly.
I don’t use the words or phrase soft belly much but I feel that what I teach in yoga, as hard as the work might be, is to help people cultivate some concept of the soft belly.
Here is a link to a copy of the Soft Belly Meditation from Stephen Levine.