Relax (It’s a Skill)

by | Aug 28, 2021 | Inner Work | 3 comments

Relax.

It often sounds like overly simplistic advice.

Depending on your current circumstances and emotional state, it can even feel patronizing to hear.

The more experience I get with this work however, the more I realize that it is both a choice and a skill to relax.

I’d like to talk about how powerful and important it is to deliberately, consciously relax into what you are experiencing.

If you are interested in inner work, processing emotions and moving through life more peacefully, this is a key practice.

Because of its seeming simplicity, it is a practice that can easily be overlooked.

I don’t mean that it isn’t talked about. I hear Michael Singer often emphasize this as a primary practice in life – “relax and release.” He is a major source of inspiration on this subject for me, and he knows what he is talking about.

Easily Dismissed

I find that “relax” is often dismissed by our minds.

It is not interpreted as a conscious, deliberate action or skill that is important to practice.

There are two big reasons I see for this:

#1 – it is associated with those rare days where you have time off, a vacation, or when everything seems to line up. “Now I can relax” – or, “when this time arrives, I will finally be able to relax.”

#2 – It often gets lost in the interpretation of ‘allowing what is,’ acceptance.

More times than I can count, I have seen this interpreted as taking on a totally passive role with whatever shows up in your life.

And that SOUNDS like such a deeply spiritual thing to do. Just ‘allow it to be.’

There’s a rub in that, however.

Your default state is probably NOT relaxed

A huge amount of the tension you are holding – physically, emotionally and beyond is unconscious. You don’t realize you are holding it.

Even in your most seemingly neutral state, sitting on the couch, going for a walk, reading this article – you might describe yourself as fairly relaxed.

It may not actually be the case.

Human beings are enormously adaptable. After a while, almost anything can begin to feel normal. In fact, even with a lot of body awareness training, the level of subtlety of what is happening in the body, and how little of it we might be aware of, continues to amaze me.

This is even before you encounter those moments in life that bother you

When life doesn’t behave exactly the way we want it to, which is pretty often for most of us, there is a lot of unconscious reaction. The tension, grasping, and reacting to situations is happening so quickly that we likely don’t even perceive 

So the odds are very good that if you do nothing, or have the thought (which is after the body response) ‘I’ll just allow it to be,’ you are sitting in a universe of largely unconscious tension, fears, and deep held beliefs about life.

I harp on this a lot, because it is one of the biggest ways I see people make no changes and see no progress  while believing they are doing something spiritual or advanced.

Choose to proactively relax

This is more about proactively making an attempt to relax into the moment.

Consciously, intentionally relaxing into what you are experiencing feels like a proactive movement. It will feel like something you DO, at least until it becomes an unconscious habit.

Take a moment and feel into your shoulders. See if you can let them relax, drop further than they are now. See how that impacts your neck and connecting muscles. Take a deep breath as you relax these muscles up into your jaw.

Some tension there, right?

Now, what do you think happens when something in life triggers you?

Unless you are a very rare case, there’s quite a lot going on, and a lot of it is tension and resistance.

How-to. Simple. Not always easy.

We just did it physically. If I tell you to take a deep breath, become aware of your shoulders and relax some of the tension you are holding there, odds are good that you intuitively know how to do that.

It was simply a matter of being guided to do that, then deciding to do so. You don’t need to take a course on the action of relaxing itself, it’s more the intention to do it. 

Now, think of something that is upsetting you. Notice the tension in your body and the internal ‘no’ you feel about the whole thing.

Try relaxing a little bit. Just like you did with your shoulders.

I’m not saying pretend to like it. I’m not saying have a philosophy or spiritual stance about it.

Just literally try to relax the tension a little bit, just like you allowed your shoulders to drop. Experiment with the internal equivalent of this feeling. Relax the inner fight, even if it’s a fraction of an ounce. 

You may not want to

You may hear your mind arguing, not wanting it to simply ‘relax’ about something like this.

Here’s my take on it.

Whatever you are reacting to has already happened, or is happening.

Your body and emotions have already reacted.

You can think about it a million different ways, argue with it, continue holding the conscious and unconscious tension. On a close examination of it, it’s hard to find any upside to doing this.

(I know some of the arguments for it, such as you need it to take action or be effective or right the wrong. See if it really holds up.)

OR you can address the reaction directly and relax into the experience, so your body and emotions can better do what they know how to do, and process the experience.

Try it

This is something to simply try for yourself and see how it goes for you. You’re going to have to try it more than a few times to give it a proper test.

It’s very unlikely to be your default state, and some of our philosophies may actually be supporting the unconscious desire to hold tension and resist life.

It’s one of those things that can benefit from consistent reminders, consistent practice.

I’m not saying this is the entire picture

There certainly are deeply held beliefs, traumas and other things going on inside us that benefit from focused, pointed inner work to address.

In the rubber-meets-the-road aspect of day to day living however, this is a very valuable skill to have in your toolbox. I emphasize skill and not philosophical approach.

Let me know how it goes 😊

 

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Shunyata

It’s so easy to miss this as something you need to do if you don’t have any tension driving activities. A lot of times, I have to consciously think to relax to get into the groove when doing cold calls or talking on the phone, even with people I like. This really is a skill, and there is a noticeable difference when actively relax into a situation. It’s like getting a groove going on a bean bag. You have to push a little, then it gives, then you sit.

Kerryleegh

Well said Evan! Indeed a conversation that requires been discussed at the grassroots level. It’s a skill that can be shared with others and the children in our lives, for what they see – they can repeat. Taking a moment to relax or learning how to chill, rather than focusing on the negative side of a ‘time out’ would be educating self awareness. Self Regulation can be taught, yet more effectively in maturity. practice…practice…practice… Kids require a form of co-regulation which means that we as adults require first to put this skill in to action before asking or expecting the… Read more »

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