“True peace cannot be achieved by force or by merely invoking the word ‘peace.’ It can only be attained by training the mind and learning to cultivate inner peace. Peace is a calm and gentle state of mind.”
– H.H. Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje
What is relaxation, really? We all seem to like the idea of it, and many books, courses, and disciplines talk about it. While we might easily imagine the state itself, something like blissfully lying in a hammock, there is a road to get there that often isn’t as easy as simply buying the hammock, tying it between two trees, and letting nature take its course.
The courses and disciplines all address the tensions we notice inside and our challenges in releasing them. These tensions are built up out of many different causes. While we can address them in the body where they all come together, often we notice that we can’t release them as deeply as we long to. Some of these tensions are ancient, some feel far more emotional than physical, and some are continually retightened by our everyday activities and thoughts. Many of them are so far below our conscious knowing that we might not be able to release them alone or with simple methods.
Whoever practices meditation, yoga, or something similar for some time has likely discovered that we live in cycles of tension and relaxation. We might feel agitated, busy, and nervous on one day and the next day feel calm and spacious. The more we integrate an authentic and deep body-mind hygiene on a daily basis, the more we might be able to access the next deeper layers of our tensions and learn to understand and release them. This spiritual practice continues during our lifetime. New layers continue to show up and ask for our awareness and care. In this process we learn a great deal.
Noticing and accepting, a compassionate response and “relaxing with it” can be very helpful when we are discovering a tension or a new layer of tension. The more we can really allow for a tension to be there and gently touch upon it, get to know it, the easier it might reveal to us its root and slowly and spontaneously unravel. The more we are motivated by a wish to get rid of whatever is there the more difficult it can be. This can take time, but we can know that where there is tension, there is a way this tension wants to be released.
Often I’ve found that the elements in my life that have disturbed me the most were actually holding what was most helpful to me. As soon as I was able to live with them, get curious about them and learn from them, they started softening and adding the energy they were holding in tension back into my life. This point is so important to understand: that, though we might experience our tension as negative, actually there is energy there—energy waiting to be liberated and re-integrated into our being.
In the beginning this is a vulnerable process that might need a lot of gentleness, support and carefulness. Remember, we typically think the tension is bad, so all the ways we react to “bad things” will be in our response. But the experience of tension dissolving is not only restful and relaxing, but allows us to free new energies, gain more capacities and qualities. With time, newly discovered tension can show itself more fully as newborn additions to our life experience.
Having incorporated different elements into my life that at first showed up as tension or challenge have left me with more confidence, readiness, and even fearlessness (sometimes!). A way of life that does not fear difficulties as much as it did before feels softer, broader, and happier.
Seeing it this way can help us to make use of whatever method we like best. If we cultivate the inner openness and kindness to be ready to meet what is stuck, this allows us to get to know ourselves so much better, to find an authentic continuation of our development and to bring our energy more and more into the light of our life.
We don’t need to think of an “endpoint of tension” if for us, tension gradually loses its sting. Then relaxing can be a process that never really relaxes all of the tensions, but that allows us to release layer by layer of more and more subtle (and in some ways, more powerful) encapsulations of energy, allowing that energy back into the fullness of our lives.
I feel that the winter is always a good time to prepare our inner “home” for a wonderful new arising of freedom, activities, and energy in spring.
Enjoy your experience and the process of revelation and relaxation,