When the spiritual disciplines are named, I never see relaxation among the list. But, it should be. The closest we come to the idea of relaxation is contentment, but they are slightly different. Contentment is a state of mind which can be created by relaxing, taking it easy, and by letting life unfold on its own. Relaxing is a prerequisite to a time of contentment and meditation.
Until I started the practice of yoga, I didn’t realize how tense I was. I struggled with the yoga positions until eventually I could do the full routine, and then I discovered the beauty of the practice when we got to the end. Most of my yoga practice is performed with the use of an instructional DVD, and near the end she instructs the follower to lie prostrate on the floor facing the sky with arms and legs slightly spread and to the side like a gingerbread man.
Then we are encouraged to relax, one part of the body at a time, beginning with the feet and working our way to the head. When she instructs us to relax our chin, our eyes, and our temples, I realize how tight I am. Deep natural breaths, and the gentle prompting to relax and let go, create a state of calm serenity in which we can center ourselves.
Carrying the idea of relaxation forward into our daily existence becomes an extension of our centeredness. Once we appreciate the value of relaxing and returning to a state of silence, we can then use this to ground us when things around us seem to rage for attention. There is a balance to be struck between relaxation and busyness. They work together to make us the most productive we can be. They also work together to provide meaning behind the busyness we undertake.
Longer periods of relaxation combined with meditation can aid us in deciding our personal and professional values. It can also help us decide the things we believe are important to us and the things we can release and allow another to control.
As a writer, I have at times been committed to work on a daily basis in order to accomplish a goal. And, at times during those processes I’ve taken time to reevaluate the goals to see if the work is achieving the ends I had hoped for, or if I would be better off releasing the project and starting another. Sometimes I let the project go, at other times I saw it through to completion. Relaxation can help us correct our course when we feel we’ve gotten off on a detour.
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