What does it mean to relax?… Really relax.
Times have changed, and people are in need of proper rest now more than ever. In the age of technology people carry higher stress levels, diets are poor and they do not get enough adequate rest. When I say rest here, I don’t just mean sleep. The rest I’m talking about here is a process that induces deep relaxation, allowing one’s life-force to properly recover from the stresses of the modern world.
Most people, even though they sleep, it is not of a depth or quality to really allow the life-force to renew itself.
Why is it worse now than in the past? If we look back a hundred years and more the majority of the world’s population were much more in touch with nature than nowadays. They worked on the land, grew their own food and had none of the modern conveniences of technology, such as artificial light, computers and television. The result of this being that their life-force was much more in touch with the rhythms and life-force of nature. It also means that when people of the past would sleep, their body naturally knew how to recover.
In the current times we are far more mental than we were in the past. Even though medicine has put an end to the great plagues of the past, we are now inundated with a wide range of stress related diseases, and disorders stemming from a sedentary life, sitting at a desk or computer all day. For most people, the tension that builds up over time is simply not released during sleep.
When we talk about the body and mind connection, what does it really mean?
Thoughts, emotions and stress have an effect on our body because they grasp and restrict the flow of life-force. Through the practice of meditation you can quickly start to perceive the grasping quality of thoughts and emotions. Whenever there is a thought there is a grasping taking place. The more intense the thoughts and emotions, the more intense the grasping and restriction of our life-force. Over time this restriction of life-force eventually translates into physical symptoms including sickness and disease.
If we wish to have a healthy life or an effective spiritual life, then proper rest, where our life-force can recover from the effects of the modern world, is essential.
So, what can we do to achieve this deep recovery?… We need real relaxation. Many people think relaxation is easy, you just recline in a chair or lie down on a bed and close your eyes. Although this brings a degree of relaxation, it is usually superficial at best. Unless you are free from mental fluctuations and emotional tensions then you are never truly relaxed.
Two practices that can bring about deep relaxation and letting go are meditation and yoga nidra.
Through the practice of meditation we cultivate a relationship to stillness by learning to let go of thoughts and emotions. This stillness is always there, in the background of our consciousness, however, we do not usually experience it because our mind is too busy with ongoing thoughts. When we let go of the thoughts, we let go of their grasping effects on our life-force, therefore allowing our life-force to be more free to carry on the natural processes that it should be doing. Meditation allows us to change the way our mind interfaces with our life-force and our body.
The experience of stillness is an evolving one, and the more we become familiar with it, the more we can experience its deeply nurturing effects. There is nothing more restful than total silence.
Technically, the purpose of meditation is not relaxation, it is stillness. Profound stillness. Relaxation is a by-product.
Yoga nidra is a deeply rejuvenating process that also works on this interface between the mind and the life-force, but in a different way. Often described as yogic conscious sleep, it is not sleep, but a process that unlocks deep layers of our life-force, and again freeing it from the restrictive effects of thoughts and emotions, inducing deep relaxation and letting go. Layers of the subconscious and unconscious mind are accessed and creativity is awakened.