One might think that relaxation is an easy task. You just sit down and do nothing, it doesn't sound difficult at all. Yet, to Relax is one of the hardest skills to master.
To be able to relax means that we have to come to the conclusion that we can relax. That there is nothing else to take care of. That we can let go of control, because we were never in control to begin with. Most of the time, we don't allow ourselves to completely relax.
Some people try very hard to relax, but they never can. I was one of those people a couple of years ago, and sometimes, I still am.
Being able to relax and be Calm had become one of my priorities. If we're calm then nothing else can go too wrong. And if something does happen, there is no place better to deal with it than from a calm state of mind. That's why I say, one can never be too calm.
First, it is important to understand that in order for us to be able to relax, we have to allow ourselves to relax. The only reason we can't relax is that we don't let ourselves. Because we feel like something more important requires our attention, so we don't let ourselves let go of that something and just calm down.
That something we hold on to can be a feeling and its accompanying thought. For example, we think we cannot relax as long as we feel anxious or angry or uncomfortable, because these feelings don't allow us to calm down--they are the opposites of calm after all.
But that's like thinking we can only be happy in the future. When we have money or achieve our goals or something of the sort. But the problem with this kind of mindset is that it is exactly that--a mindset. And mindsets don't magically change just because something happens. They stay the same, no matter what happens outside of us.
That's why one's feelings don't change when their circumstances change, or at least not for long. The mind always falls back to its usual patterns until we step in and make an effort to react to ourselves differently. Until we start to practice.
It's the same with allowing ourselves to relax--our minds can always find a reason not to. There's always something to worry about, something to be angry about. But honestly, the energy we spend on worry, anger, self-loathing or image is a waste. It accomplishes nothing. It doesn't represent what's important to us. If we don't like a situation, we should act to change it. If we can't act, then it's best if we let it go. Otherwise, we just waste our energies on nothing.
I've had my troubles with anxiety and panic, and there was a time when I was glad to be not panicking. I couldn't even imagine what it was like being calm. But one day I understood that I could react to my own feelings any way I wanted to. I don't have to follow my thoughts and panic or worry all the time.
I can react to my thoughts with calm, knowing that they are just thoughts, not reality. I can react to my feelings with calm, knowing that they are just visitors, not me.
And so the practice started.
Of course, it was not easy. It's still not. That's why it's called a practice. But the realization itself did take a huge weight off my shoulders. And since then, for years and years, I practiced being calm through it all. I still do. Because I understood the fundamental essence of calmness. You have to allow yourself to relax.
And you can only do that when you understand that you don't need to keep your guard up. That nothing will happen if you let yourself be calm. The only thing that will happen is that you will be a relaxed human being with a clear mind, capable to act on what is truly important to them. And that doesn't sound wrong, if you ask me.
A guided meditation on the topic can be listened to here.
"It's not because you have the intention to relax that you can relax. You need insight in order to relax. Letting go is a practice; it's an art. One day, when you're strong enough and determined enough, you'll let go of the afflictions that make you suffer." - Thich Nhat Hanh