Pressure. As you release tension or tightness in different parts of the body, it can often
give rise to unusually strong or unbalanced energies or sensations. This is normal, and these
energies, if left alone, can often work themselves out. However, there are two cases where
they can become a problem.
1. The first is when the release is not complete—when energy released from one area
gets stuck in another, creating a strong sense of pressure. Two common areas where
pressure tends to build up are in the head and around the heart. If the pressure is in the
head, check to see whether the energy needs to drain down the front of the throat or down
the spine. First focus on opening the energy channel down the front of your throat, and
place your attention in the middle of the chest. Think of the energy draining down the
channel in the throat to the area where you’re focused, both during the in-breath and
during the out.
If that doesn’t work, consciously trace the energy channels down either side of the
spine to see if there’s a point of blockage at any point. If you find one, think of it relaxing.
Do this all the way down the spine. Focus your attention at your tailbone. Then visualize
the breath going down the spine—again, both during the in-breath and during the out—
and then flowing through your tailbone into the air.
If the pressure is in the middle of the chest, visualize opening the energy channels going
out your arms through the palms of your hands. Focus your attention at the palms of your
hands and think of breath energy radiating out from your chest—both during the in-breath
and during the out—and going out through your palms.
You can also try a similar visualization with energy channels going down your legs and
out through the soles of your feet.
As you open these channels, don’t think of pushing the energy into them. In particular,
don’t think that you’re trying to push air into them. The breath you’re working with is
energy, not air. And energy flows best when it’s not pressured. Simply think, “Allow.” And
be patient. Try to distinguish between the flow of the blood—which, because it’s liquid,
can build up pressure when it runs up against something solid—and the flow of the breath,
which as an energy doesn’t need to build up pressure, as it can flow right through solids.
If you feel excess pressure in other parts of the body, try connecting those parts, in
your imagination, with the energy channels going out the arms or legs.
2. The other main cause of excess pressure in different parts of the body is when, in an
effort to speed up the movement of the breath energy in the body, you push it too much.
Here again, the key word is “allow.” Allow the energy to flow. Don’t push it. A
comfortable energy, when pushed, becomes uncomfortable. Be patient. Visualize a subtle
breath energy that, as soon as you’re aware that you’ve started breathing in, has already
spread throughout the body. After a while, you’ll sense that it really is there.
A tightness that doesn’t respond to the breath. If there are islands of tightness in the
body that won’t dissolve no matter how comfortable the breath, you have to work around
them. The more directly you focus on them, the worse they may get. So breathe gently
around their edges and give them some space. They often represent members of your inner
committee who don’t trust your good intentions, so you simply have to let them be. Be
patient with them. At some point they’ll dissolve on their own.51
Bands of tension running through the body. Check first to see if the bands of
tension really are bands, or if the mind is playing connect-the-dots with them. In other
words, there are occasions when the mind notices spots of tension in different parts of the
body and connects them under a single perception of tension. This creates the sensation
that the isolated spots are part of a single sensation.
To test if this is the case, imagine that your awareness is a set of buzz-saw blades,
quickly and repeatedly cutting the bands of tension into isolated pieces wherever it notices
them. If this lightens the sense of tension, then hold that perception in mind. The problem
is not with the tension as much as it was with the perception that labeled the spots of
tension as bands. Keep refusing to believe in that band-perception, replacing it with the
perception of saw blades as long as necessary.
If the bands of tension are in the head and seem to surround the head, an alternative
way of shifting the perception is to hold in mind the image that your head is larger than the
bands of tension, and that the larger part of the head is filled with soft energy that allows
the bands to dissipate.
If the sense of a band of tension remains in spite of the new perceptions, then it’s a sign
the band corresponds to an area of the body that’s starved of breath energy. As you breathe
in, think of the breath energy going immediately to that part of the body. Allow the in-
breath to be as long as it needs to be to give that area a sense of being nourished.
If, after several minutes of trying this approach, the bands of tension don’t respond,
then ignore them for a while. Try these various approaches again later when your
concentration has improved.