Tuesday, August 16, 2011
How Do YOU Relax?
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Wisdom Shine / Chisho, 2011
Hanging out with Friends
Beer / Vodka / Bar-Pub
[“What’s Your Best Relaxation Strategy,” from “On The Street,”
Juice / Des Moines Register, July 6, 2011]
“RELAXATION” is deemed to be important to most everyone, even for core health. However, relaxation is popularly described as a process that is an exception to everyday life. It is described as almost an opposite of most of the hours of our lives.
Dawn comes when the sun lifts over the horizon. No doubt. Not so, not for either birds who seem to know more and begin to chatter “in the dark,” or for scientific observation. Birds begin to sing before it is “popularly” dawn. There is astronomical dawn that occurs well before sunrise, when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon. And there is nautical dawn when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon (when the horizon and some objects become invisible). And there is civil dawn when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon—an hour before sunrise when objects begin to be clarified and the sky lightens. There is even rooster dawn, still “twilight” (4.5 hours past midnight in the “3rd watch” of the early Roman calendar, consisting of sixteen pieces of 1.5 hours). And then there is, finally, “sunrise.” [summarized in Diane Ackerman, Dawn Light, pp. 1-2]
So too, relaxation. Not finally that easy. “Couch potato,” gardening, hanging out with friends: yes and no. Dawn seems obvious and so too relaxation. But relaxation is far more deeper and, finally, easy rather than a difficult mental stretch.
Most of our consciousness is devoted to non-relaxation. On the couch, we imagine what has happened and what we need to do rather than relax. We eat, and/or we surf TV or play games to “chill.” When we manage to “get away” or vacation, we are likely to carry tension from the fact that our “away” will not be long enough. Even within yoga, even the “relaxation” offered by savasana may hold the tension of knowing that we are about to return to everyday life’s fast pace. Further, an intensive program of asanas [poses] can mirror everyday life’s fast pace, then crash. Even in yoga, while we may end feeling more balanced and relaxed, we are likely to have been chasing after some gain, such as flexibility or strength, or even relaxation itself. In trying to be healthy or to relax, we may be focusing on that which we believe to be wrong rather than on what is not wrong. And health may be something that we imagine to be absent or weak/limited, rather than something that is inherent and powerfully present, that we are chasing after in order to “survive.”
How, really, do we relax? What are our bodies saying to us with regard to relaxation? And beyond our bodies, what might the winds and rivers and hills be saying to us? Is ias all inner? In body-mind work, are we doing something to our bodies or are we listening to our bodies?
In relaxing, we enter. We do not simply crash or recover. We go softly deeper and we open. We touch some place inside of us that is the same as every place inside of everyone else and every thing else. We let loose of gender, race, age, occupation, social roles, and we are offered an opportunity to taste new aspects of ourselves—“rooms” in the mansion of ourselves that we have never really entered. We do the same to events and experiences, opening meaningfulness in events that we heretofore missed. In relaxing events and objects might open to entryways. This loosening is not unlike the relaxing moment of loosening a necktie. In calming, more than intentionally trying to relax, we begin to open. Stupidly [in a good way], our breath begins to soften, which is really to say, to lengthen. Without our thinking, our physiology begins to immediately change: new neurochemistry, lowering BP and HR, endocrine stimulation.
Stimuli that were, heretofore, insignificant begin to flower. We begin to simply enjoy little things that tend to go unnoticed. Events that seem too simple when compared to our post-industrial, cybernetic technology, begin to be sensed as complex beyond our most advanced technology and beyond our capacity to begin to replicate. Our experience begins to fill with a sense of meaningfulness rather than meaning. The fall of a leaf or rain might begin to reveal an eternal circle and, concretely, a simple kindness. Perhaps we begin to taste just a little [or a lot] of Rachel Carson’s “sense of wonder” or of Thoreau’s sense of solitude as companionship and immersion rather than isolation.
We enter—softening routine, outspreading, and the miracles that we begin to find ourselves immersed in, as well as operant in the very fiber of our bodies, might offer us a profound sense of transformation. And we might celebrate it from this day forward with tiny, obscure—lost deeply in the cosmos—physical twitches in our gut, accompanied by a daily, deep sense of gratitude for simply being alive. Then, out breath, our heartbeats, our heart pulse felt in our lips and hands and event teeth—even, at times, a sense of our hands becoming a big as watermelons, while our mind, wildly awake, streams forward into the future. This, then, is the penultimate of relaxation—immersion, inseparability, cosmic-deep support into which we fall like an arrow never finally striking a target.
We look at a leaf in summer, and we might put 2 and 2 together to imagine the way that this leaf is a sun-catcher. Ninety-three million miles away, the leaf becomes a new sun on Earth. And in August, the leaf opens a new gate: Drought and the roll of the Earth toward winter in the Northern Hemisphere dehisces the veil of green to reveal astonishing bursts to color. “Green” is revealed to be that which innumerable leaves have cast off, not the true colors of the leaf. It is like sky-blue not really, finally being true. Every night, black night truth presses in, but when sky blue returns, we embrace this bluing as reality.
Relaxing, we have an opportunity to open gateways where before there appeared to be a wall. That which we thought we saw—the green leaf, the blue sky, our body and your body as separate—offer us an entryway into more thane—with all of our sophistication—we can ever begin to imagine. Relaxation offers us not only physiological health, but a deep way forward beyond our limitations.
Restorative-yin yoga offers a gateway to authentic relaxation. It is a state of being that can be felt to be qualitatively different. Breath is different. “Brain” is different. Eyelids are different. Heartbeat can be felt, and with practice (or just on an amazing day) even in lips, even in teeth! With practice, neuro-respiratory-vascular-endocrine events form a symphony of sorts, and thoughts, and subsequent verbal communication are likely to be remarkably different. There might even be a neuro-linkeage between practitioners, with active areas of the brain being in some degree of synchronization.