Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Painting Symbolism - Lynx Relaxing

Not all of nature has a purpose. Taking a nap in a sunbeam is valid.

I think it’s important to start with a discussion of the merits of relaxing. Often it is thought about as something external, as something you do. It is considered a little self indulgent and only justifiable after several days of hard work. Most people have favourite ways to ‘switch off’ and that is a sort of forgetting about the situations you’re dealing with, for a while. All these ideas, I’m afraid to say, are mistaken. Relaxing is internal, like the deep breath you take just before you fall asleep.

Rather than being indulgent or unjustified, it is the only way you can take responsibility for your actions. If you are relaxed inside, you will not be reactive to the people around you or events that happen. Furthermore, the quality of the people and events that show up will improve too.

The real route to wellbeing therefore is to switch on rather than switch off. Become conscious of what is happening inside you and if that is stress, address it head on. Do not let it manifest instead as heartburn, a headache or irritability. If you have ever experienced someone ‘rubbing you up the wrong way’ it is only because, inside, you are stressed. Probably all arguments, fights and accidents are aggravated stress.

When we find ourselves thinking about something a lot we tend to think that there really is something there that needs to be thought about. When we think someone has done wrong, be it our own guilt or blame, we carry it around with accompanying bad feelings. If we worry, we assume there is something to worry about. If we are stressed, we assume that something genuinely stressful is happening and if we are tired, we suppose that things are tiring. 

However, thinking, blaming, stress and exhaustion are all different forms of hardened resistance. Our energy is not flowing, our minds are not open and tolerant; our hearts are heavy and ignored. You will notice that thoughts go down the same roads every day. You will hopefully also now notice how your thoughts depress your emotions and bring a sort of permanent fatigue into the physical body too. So, if you have ever felt demotivated, that is what is going on.

A direct experience of this I had was with the social welfare. I had always been sure that they were waiting for people to slip up, say the wrong thing, tick the wrong box or declare something in good faith that they can use to justify taking you off their register, of people needing assistance. I had made just such a declaration and they had said that my ‘earnings weren’t from self employment’, they were from a ‘change of circumstance’ which I had not heard of before. That first night, I contemplated what might happen and I could not sleep. The anxiety took shape in my chest as a feeling of rigidity and in my mind as a sort of paralysis. When you can’t do anything practical, it is a real opportunity to practice working on the underlying dynamics that are what are really hurting you anyway. I closed my eyes and said ‘this is neither good nor bad’ and ‘I am so grateful that things always work out alright’. I couldn’t be sure either of these statements were true. Saying them, though, is like a training in talking yourself down from the ledge of self destruction. What would your friends say? ‘Don’t worry, we’ll deal with it’. Soon you will be able to say to yourself, ‘Right here right now, everything is okay. I’m warm, I’m safe, I’m having a good rest before looking at what I need to do next’. You are literally telling yourself what you’re doing, why and how it’s going to turn out. That way, sleep comes easily. When feeling particularly feisty, cultivate the determination to let nothing and no one disturb your peace of mind…especially anyone that is making your life difficult.

I started my working life as a social worker and laboured under the illusion that if I took time off from caring, there would be no one caring what happened to the people on the streets. More recently, I learnt that a human being needs to conserve their energy by responding effectively and authentically to the world around you but when you’re on your own? Return to being happy and contented. It is a replenishing choice.  

The first steps towards relaxation are usually experienced as a softening of the intellect and a relaxing of the ego’s hold (which in simple terms is a vice grip that people are held in that tells them ‘I think this so it must be true’ and ‘I am nothing more than I think I am). Relaxation is therefore crucial to allow you to realize and become conscious that you are so much more than a sum of your parts and the sum of your past.

Naps are a good place to start and moving to the side of the house where the sun shines in the window, over the course of the day. For sustainable relief from stress, start clearing it. Identify one mental, one emotional, one physical and one environmental stress that you are dealing with. An example of mental stress, could be an upcoming test or interview; emotional stress could be a critical partner or even critical inner voice; a physical stress could be an old injury or a demanding lifestyle with children to lift, animals to feed, blocks to be carried or whatever; an environmental stress could be damp accommodation or a smoky fire.

The majority of stresses though are unseen and so not considered. Take the power nap opportunity to set a general intention to clear all the stresses you are under. Let your sleeping, dreaming mind unwind the stresses it comes across, while you are out for the count. R&R provides vital perspective.

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