Archive for January, 2008

Vitamin R: Getting Your Daily Dose of Relaxation

January 28, 2008

I often feel as if society is moving frantically all around me, like those small tin spinning tops we played with when we were little. I remember those colorful tops well, spinning faster and faster until they whipped out of control and toppled over on their sides, exhausted with their own efforts. Interestingly, when I feel as if I am a bit scattered it seems as if I encounter others who are equally hurried and pressed for time. Curiously, I ask myself, is it them or is it me? In other words, is the chaos happening around me or within me? If like attracts like, then am I vibrating with chaos and thus attracting the same to me, or is the world spinning wildly and causing me to go too fast?

Sometimes it is hard to tell. But actually I think it is a bit of both. For if we accept that there is a collective consciousness, then we agree that each individual’s personal energy influences the larger good (or the “not so good,” as the case may be!). Thus, when a few people feel frantic, it causes more people to feel the same, and so on and so on, until things seem to build into a whirling mess. That’s when we come home and collapse on the sofa, uptight and upset from the energies we have experienced in the world, glad to be back in our little enclave that feels so safe and calm. The good news is that this dance of energy can flow in the opposite manner too. That is, when one or more people feel peaceful, then their serenity contributes to the greater good. Therefore, if each person makes a concerted effort to find a space of relaxation during his or her day, not only does that person benefit, but so does the world. So the question becomes how can we access more tranquillity? How can we schedule relaxation into our day? And if we have to schedule it, is it really relaxation?

I have a beautiful cat who never seems to forget to relax. One moment she is dozing in the sun and the next moment she is carefully washing each paw, a study in serene focus. When I watch her, it is as if I can hear her absence of thought. This sound is quiet but palpable. I observe the joy of her breath coming in and her breath going out, the sun shining on her fur and in turn her taking in its warmth. In her gentle state of relaxed living, it really seems as if she is in some sort of divine allignment with the innate tempo of the planet. I am not referring to the manmade planet of chaos, but rather the real planet, the one that we call home everyday, the one that supports our every movement and does not waiver underneath us, even when we forget to thank or honor her. This planet, Mother Earth, beats below all of the human madness, existing as Nature itself and all things that we love about life. If we listen, we can hear her presence; if we slow down we can connect with her; and if we connect with her, we can touch our own souls.

I have noticed that the busier people get, the more difficult they think it is to relax. But really relaxation is not so hard. It should be a part of our daily routines, just as we wash our faces and brush our teeth in the morning. Instead of running to check email in the morning, we might consider making meditation the most natural thing we do upon rising. In the ancient Indian tradition of ayurveda (literally “the science of life”), relaxation is as important and inherent to our wellbeing as is eating well or getting enough sleep. In fact, ayurveda encourages us to brilliantly take our cues from Nature, following the rhythm of the day–rising as the sun rises, easing into our day with a little meditation or a walk; eating and performing the most activities when the sun is high in the sky and our energies are the strongest; and winding down our routines at night as the planet also goes to sleep. But instead, we are not only wound up but also wound up all wrong! Everything we do in our “developed” society seems to be, in fact, not just fast but also all backwards. I know many people who skip eating breakfast and sometimes even lunch because they are too busy, but then they consume a heavy meal at night followed by a good helping of icecream. It is also common for people to go to the gym after a long work day, waking up the body by running on the treadmill when they should be settling down their energies. I always feel it is a little odd and sad when I drive by a gym in the evening and see people working out on a sundry of fancy machines, like little frantic rats caught in a strange maze. “Go home! Relax! Your timing is all mixed up!” I want to shout to them through the glass windows, but then for sure, I would appear crazier than they do.

In our society, bodywork (such as massage, Reiki, chiropractic, acupuncture) is usually considered a luxury, and anyone who meditates daily must have just a little too much time on her hands. I don’t care if people call me lazy or self-indulgent, for I have never felt guilty about claiming my share of personal calm or inner peace. Rather, I have learned that bodywork and meditation are integral to my wellbeing, and without such opportunities for relaxation, I am lost and not very nice to be around. In fact, more and more, I sense, but do not take in, the whirling energies around me for my meditation and bodywork attune my being to be peaceful, no matter what. And that is a very good feeling. The combination of daily meditation and regular bodywork also makes me more intuitive, so that when I do feel things getting just a little too frantic, I can easily say to myself “Stop! You need to chill out!” And not only that, but I can truthfully say that I know what my being needs, so that when chiropractic is called for, I am on my way to my wonderful Network chiropractor; when Reiki energy work is what I crave, then I find myself on the table for a Reiki session; and when I just need to be alone and breath or chant, I am there, at my altar, enjoying a private date with the gods.

Actually, the New Year is a wonderful creation, because it gives us the opportunity to take a step back, review what we did or did not do last year, and then reinvent ourselves. My personal mission is not only to keep balance a priority in my own life, but also to educate anyone I can about the importance of integrating relaxation into our lives. It seems that I encounter too many people who are simply moving too fast and forgetting to make their inner space a priority. Just as we eat well, exercise, and take nutritional supplements, so too must we factor in relaxation, in what ever form most appeals to us. A bath a night with candles, weekly bodywork of some sort, walks after dinner, or daily meditation–all represent subtle ways that we can create calming results within ourselves. And when we are calm, we affect our neighbors positively and in the end the greater good of all who live here.

This year I am being even more aware to be kinder and gentler with myself, not as a luxury or some self-absorbed oddity, but as an important part of my own health and healing. May all who read these words make the same commitment.