Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Some hints on relaxing

Telling someone to relax is never a good idea. I don't think anyone, in recorded history, ever relaxed on command. If you tell someone to relax the usual result is that they stiffen defensively and hiss at you, through gritted teeth, "I AM RELAXED!!" This is true even if you tell yourself to relax.

Instead of the simple imperative, here are three suggestions.


1. Feel
Try this experiment. Sit somewhere comfortably for a few moments with your eyes closed. I want you to direct your attention to your lips. Whatever you feel there, pay close attention. If you get distracted, bring your attention back to your lips. Stay like this for at least two minutes.

I guarantee you a few things will happen. Firstly, you might not feel much at first but as the seconds go by, you will notice more and more sensations. You become more sensitive.

Secondly, you will notice some muscular tension in your lips. Unless you are highly unusual, you are probably pursing your lips harder than is strictly necessary to keep your mouth closed. I mean slightly harder, this is probably a very subtle tension, but still more than necessary.

Thirdly, as you notice this, your lips automatically start to relax somewhat.

You may repeat this experiment with any part of the body. Some areas will be more sensitive than others but the results will otherwise be similar.

2. Don't make choices
Combine this with the feeling experiment. The invitation is simple: don't have any idea in mind about how your body should be right now. Don't try to copy what you think "proper posture" or "relaxed posture" looks like. Don't try to produce any particular feeling. Making volitional effort takes energy; relaxation means letting go of effort. Simply be. Take your will-power out of it.

3. Allow
When you start to notice unnecessary tension, the body will naturally want to let go of it. This doesn't require any volitional choice, it happens by itself. All you need to supply is attention and patience.

As you relax, your body may start to rearrange itself. The shoulders want to open and sink. If you're lying down you may notice a tense arch in your lower back, and your hips now want to reposition themselves. Let this happen. There might be some gentle swaying, even some shaking, some sighing and yawning. You don't choose any of this. But don't try to stop it either.

Try this regularly. For two minutes at a time, or for an hour. You can't over-do it, and even little amounts add up.

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Some upcoming events:
- There will be a meditation morning on Saturday 23 September, 10am to 1pm.
- Our residential retreat takes 28 to 30 October, a chance to experience deep practice in the beautiful countryside.
- Weekly group meditation on Mondays at 8pm.
All are welcome.