Relaxation is how most traditional practices start. As you can see even our dog practices it. Yoga, most martial arts, meditation, prayer, are amongst those that start with relaxation. Yet at the same time in most advanced cultures, relaxation tends to be an afterthought. So what is relaxation and why focus on it?
The Apple Dictionary App defines relaxation as follows:
1) the state of being free from tension and anxiety.
2) the action of making a rule or restriction less strict.
3) the restoration of equilibrium following disturbance.
So relaxation is defined as relief from its opposites: tensions, anxieties, rules, restrictions, disturbances. In relaxation we let go of these in order to return to an easier, open state of being. We are more able to appreciate life by being conscious and present—if we aren’t so tired we just fall asleep.
So simply relax. Why not? Easy to do in a hot tub. Yet perhaps not so much if we are stuck waiting in a traffic jam, a grocery checkout line, the DMV or other government offices, or waiting to board a delayed flight. Modern life seems to have a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ opportunities. What a treasure trove of anxiety, fear, irritation and grumbling! Even if I start out patient, when others around me start to grumble and express anxiety I quickly feel them arise in me.
Years ago I discovered that when I became aware of my tension in times of frustration or anxiety, I could release it by shifting into a meditative pose of mind and body. I would focus on deep flowing breathing as in mediation, and relax muscles. Sometimes when standing, I would shift my weight slowly from right foot to left foot and back, a practice I learned in T’ai Chi. Thus through relaxation, ‘wasted’ waiting time would transform into practice time, and I felt much better.
The body is a great help in relaxation, since most tensions are held in different body parts. I get tight in my shoulders and jaws when tense, some fairly common reactions. My dentist informed me a few years ago that I had developed cracks in some teeth from grinding. Grinding teeth is a tension reaction. And me, Mr. Meditation, had not even been aware of it!
“Let go and let God,” is a useful phrase that reminds me to relax. I haven’t been able to find its origins. It speaks of faith that at times, we are better served by releasing the need to act or ‘do.’ Instead we can simply ‘be,’ having faith that some good will emerge. In a way this is prayer and meditation. We relax the mental and physical muscles, we get out of our own protective urgency to do something, in order to know the truth of a situation.
While I have always owned Apple computers, on rare occasions I need to use a PC. In running a class series at Unity San Francisco, I was using Power Point on a PC. I had a lot of trouble getting things to work. Someone even guided me via video calling—so she could see what I was doing—but it didn’t help.
Over the weeks of the class several people tried to figure out what might be going wrong. For the last class I gave up and had someone else get it started. It felt a bit absurd and foolish. I sensed something basic was missing but what?
The night following the last class, I woke up relaxed from a comfortable dream. My mind wandered to the computer issue. I suddenly remembered a basic difference between a PC and a Mac. No longer under time pressure to fix it, I found the elusive answer. Mac mice are simply clicked, no right or left choice. I had been right clicking instead of left clicking on the PC, hence nothing would opened.
There is a Bible quote about seeking the kingdom of God first in all things.(Matthew 6:33) In practice for me, this means relaxing and turning inward, ‘Letting go and letting God,’ prayer and meditation. I had been so focused on the doing, fixing the situation that I never fully ‘Let go and let God.’
Once again I have re-discovered the importance of taking time to relax, of relaxing and ‘first seeking the kingdom of God.’ ‘Letting go and letting God’ eases and clarifies what is in front of me here-and-now. If naming God is difficult for you, simply add the letter ‘o’, and you have ‘Let go and let Good.’ Finding God is finding Good. With either term life becomes easier and more enjoyable.